The “experts” seem to be in agreement on the cancer risk associated with eating farmed salmon. If you eat a thousand pounds of farmed salmon a week, you have a slightly higher risk of contracting cancer than a person who eats only salmon “caught in the wild.”
I love salmon, but the word cancer always gets my attention. So, for some time now, I’ve been searching for a package that says “Salmon Caught in the Wild.” And the other day, I finally found one. Perusing the seafood section at Whole Foods, the following wording caught my eye: “Cold Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon.” At long last, wild salmon!
But a funny thing happened on the way to my salmon fix: When I got home, I started reading the small print on the back of the package. To my amazement, it explained that the salmon I was about to devour was raised in a tightly controlled farmed environment. Farmed? Huh?
I checked and, sure enough, the word “wild” definitely was on the front of the package in large letters. I then read the small print further, and there it was: “Retains the deep red color and natural flavors characteristic of wild salmon.” Doh! Fooled again by words purposely intended to mislead consumers.
Pouting, I turned on the TV and, wouldn’t you know it, there she was — none other than Kim Kardashian, giving her insights into life. It was at that moment that it occurred to me there is a striking similarity between Kim Kardashian and the “Cold Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon” I had bought earlier in the day: The success of both relies on naïve souls like you and me continuing to buy into their fakery.
And, giving us our due credit, we’re very good at it. In fact, we buy into lots of fakery every day. Why? Because we set our brains on autopilot too often. We are not fools caught in the wild, mind you, but farmed fools. And those who make a living with fakery need farmed fools in order to survive.
Most people, of course, make light of the fakeries that surround them. Which, in my view, is a mistake. When fake people babble on about everything from spirituality to formulas, systems, and secrets that lead to success, they are helping us see the worst in ourselves. They remind us to look in the mirror and ask tough questions like:
Why am I so gullible? Why do I allow myself to be so easily manipulated by the media? Why am I so insecure that I would even listen to the opinions of knucklehead celebrities? Why am I so bored that I would watch idiots pontificating on subjects they know nothing about?
The underlying problem is that we live in a wild-salmon world — a world that is phony and contrived. All the wrong things impress us — things like money, status, and puffery. When we allow ourselves to be awed by those who are perceived to be rich and powerful (and, more often than not, there is a great difference between the perception and the reality), deep down inside it makes us feel unclean. But we are careful not to allow our true feelings to bubble to the surface, lest our peers look upon us with scorn.
When we watch someone rise, virtually overnight, from being a nonentity to a celebrity blowing kisses to an adoring army of paparazzi — without producing anything of value — our intellect tells us that what we are witnessing is not real. The part of our brain that isn’t in a reality-TV mode twenty-four hours a day fully understands that the phenomenon we are observing is nothing more than manufactured nonsense.
Of course, once the morphing into a celebrity transformation takes place, the agog media jump in with both feet and help the newly minted celeb take on a life of her own. All of which sounds very exciting, but for one thing: It’s all manufactured. And I suspect that the manufactured celebrity knows, deep down inside, that nothing about her celebrity is real. For all we know, a voice inside keeps screaming: “I’m a fake! I’m a fake!”
Which is why, more often than not, that newly created identity ends up in a deep, deep hole. And we all know what the Rule of Holes says: If you’ve dug a deep hole for yourself, the first step toward getting out of it is to stop digging. And if you make the mistake of continuing to dig, at least have the good sense to ask a responsible person for directions.
And so it goes … people who make a living by calling themselves body-language experts … psychics who are wrong more often than you and I, but who go on captivating audiences year after year … extremist politicians who pretend to be middle-of-the-roaders in an effort to get elected … TV anchors with political agendas who pretend to be reporting the news … crooks and terrorists who are anointed Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Look around you and ask yourself how much of this fakery you buy into. Thomas Friedman has it wrong. The world is not flat; the world is fake!
But enough of this sobering reality. It’s time to put on my fool’s cap once again and enjoy the fake world of plenty. I have a luncheon date with a package of Cold Smoked “Wild” Sockeye Salmon, and I’m going to pretend that it really was caught in the wild. And while I enjoy my fake lunch, perhaps I can catch Kim Kardashian on TV, parceling out some helpful insights on how to get ahead in life without really trying.
As they used to say back in the good old days, what a great country.