by Ittai Orr
Co-writer, The Master Cleanse
The specter of intentional communities haunts us everywhere. It is an eternal otherwise to the ills of egoistic anarchy, climate disaster, fiscal ruthlessness and pregnant teenagers who look like they went to their high school prom in Passaic last week but who are now on a sidewalk in midtown holding a cardboard sign and fighting heat exhaustion.
People have always sought remedies to the mess, and their solutions have diverged greatly in content and in effect. Today, for better or perhaps much worse, our go-to is the cult of self-improvement.
Journey to the heart of New York and you will find there before the statue of Christopher Columbus an escalator, as if to hell, conveying ever downward a steady stream of artfully scruffed paleo-businessmen and overworked Gap-fitness soul-cycle moms embarking bravely on their pilgrimage to the font of naturey goodness, health and global betterment: Whole Foods.
This is the heart of the hive where, swarming and swerving to avoid one another, naked man seeks his sustenance.
It’s as if the escalator brought him not to an overcrowded, overpriced snake-oil stand, but closer to the earth, closer in fact to his primeval past.
Here he will buy green, organic things and will singlehandedly shift the entire world, by the aid of the mighty Free Market, onto pears and peanuts untainted by chemical poison, and also he will avert climate change and host a great barbecue.
Several hours in a vaguely Soviet checkout line and he is released back into the world, equipped with crucial, long-forgotten enzymes and ready for his evening workout.
Whole Foods is the intentional community we have been handed, and The Master Cleanse is meant, I think in some way, to represent that turn.
But remember that the Dark Ages were also organic: all of those Europeans were contented with their corner of the world, diligent in their responsibilities to superiors and holding onto the promise of redemption after their wind-worn, meager lives were mercifully extinguished.
It was not until the peasant uprisings in the 14th century that the truth was acknowledged: the machinery of hunger, precariousness and indifference cannot be undone with prayers, spells and hard work alone.
Today’s culture of self-improvement often takes us so far backwards that we forget even this fundamental truth. That’s the culture at which The Master Cleanse’s satire is squarely aimed.
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