Dec 11

The Pluralist Paradox

Deep down inside of me, there is a swing voter waiting to get out.

A true British I-don’t-really-know-what-I-think voter, someone who could go both ways. Hell, I could go three or four ways.

I know, dear imaginary reader, you are thinking, “but how can someone so … so – political – how can you not be true and loyal to a single party?”

Don’t get me wrong. The swinger inside of me is not the typical British non-thinker. Not the common man on the street who waits until there is a critical mass of others to think on their behalf so they can chime in at the last minute and back the winning party. Not the fickle man on the street who just loves to complain about whichever party is in power and backs the opposition because, “there’s no possible way we could have four more years of the same old [insert current governing party here]”.

No, my swinging tendencies come from much, much deeper within me. My struggle is thus:

On the one hand, surely our socio-economic outlook looks far prettiest when people are allowed to do what they want whilst not harming others; a liberal, pluralist society? What is wrong for you might not be wrong for me, and therefore we should agree not to legislate for what you consider to be wrong, because it would be unfair for me. Instead we should just hang out / do business with people who have similar views to our own.

Of course we should have high taxes and good quality public services. This isn’t a matter of politics, it’s a matter of economies of scale: pooling resources allows us to reduce overheads. (I’m talking theoretically, of course.)

But on the other hand – and please excuse my Newtonian worldview (blame my Christian parents) – given that humanity, if left unchecked, tends towards selfish and greedy behaviour, perhaps after all it doesn’t look that fabulous when people are allowed to do what they want.

Here I cite the global financial crisis as being caused by unfettered or poorly-regulated capitalism.

Or what about society and the family? It is horribly non-liberal to interfere with matters of the family: married couple tax breaks between man and woman, making it legally difficult and expensive to get a divorce, reducing benefits to single mothers and punishing walk-away fathers who don’t take responsibility.

Whilst the above may offend our sense of social liberalism, let us hypothesise what their long-term effect on society might be, and therefore the effect on our economy and, eventually, our wealth as a nation of individuals. In economic terms, those societies defined by people pulling together (be this around the traditional unit of the family, or otherwise) are the ones that generate wealth for their futures. Those societies that are fragmented and socially disorganised are the ones that get poorer.

Given humanity tends towards greed and ultimately destruction (we agree on this, do we not?), and given in my example of the family above this would mean men will love women then walk away from them unless there is a compelling financial reason not to, perhaps a liberal society with fewer rules is a less successful, inferior one?

I used the construct of family to make my point, but this could equally apply to other constructs.

And this is the crux of my indecision. Conservative rule is too socially prescriptive. Labour rule causes too much fragmentation of society to allow for growth or progress. Liberal Democrat rule… well, our party just gets laughed-out or shouted-at most of the time.

What is my problem with political loyalty? Why do I mistrust staunch Labour party members, staunch Conservative party members, or staunch Any party members?

Is it that my world view espoused above is essentially flawed? Is it that I’m merely a liberal mind trying to get out of a conservative body? Or is it because my politics derive too directly from the existential questions in my head? Or is this a common Paradox of Pluralism?

Dec 11

Qype: Chipotle in London

LondonEating & DrinkingRestaurantsMexican

Tucked away on a corner of Baker Street usually inhabited by (infested with?) large packs of spotty teenage tourists with matching yellow rucksacks of a Saturday morning, or suited office types of a weekday lunchtime, lies London’s newest addition to the fast-growing world of _quality fast food_.

As one who has always believed the phrase _”quality” fast food_ to be completely incongruous in itself, and therefore who usually shuns fast food (fast), Chipotle is, admittedly, a place that on any other day I might pass-by without giving it a thought. It’s unique to this country; sadly the idea of quality fast food has passed us poor Brits by, yet every time I visit the US – a deli in NYC or a burger joint in Portland, I am bowled-over by how decent the food is. On the other hand, your average UK sandwich shop or independent burger shop (Chicken Cottage, anyone? Subway? EW!) fill me with The Fear.

Enter: Chipotle.

By _”quality” fast food_, I mean that the ingredients are sourced by the restaurant directly, all food is created from scratch onsite and on the same day – even the tortilla chips – and more importantly, a great deal of care and love is pumped into all aspects of food creation.

Chipotle is an American-Mexican restaurant which I dearly hope will play a small part in changing the game with UK fast food. Even *I* can bring myself to use the R word (rather than calling it a “joint” or mere “outlet”), especially when I know my quick-grab lunch is the product of about 6 hours of preparation by real cooks.

It has a rather beautiful and quirky history; a chain with a soul, if you will. Despite its brief foray into some form of partnership with the proprietors of the Big Golden Arches (eeeevil), Chipotle has stayed true to its roots and sources its ingredients locally, where possible. Essentially that means: meats and vegetables from the UK. Of course there are exceptions: avocados are seasonal and they are mostly imported from far-off warm lands.

To give you a quick idea of the level of care and knowledge that goes into the food here, our guide Jacob talked about the difference in flavour of avocados from various different countries and at different times of the year. We were moving into the time of the year where the Hass avocados are sourced from Chilli, which meant they wouldn’t be perfect for another few weeks. Or what about the difference in flavour profile of guacamole depending on what kind of salt is used? Enough said, right? They know their stuff!

The proof was in the pudding, though. The pork burrito with black bean and mild chilli and guac was absolutely superb.

I’m all about a good burrito, it used to be difficult picking one up anywhere in London – especially to go – but it’s getting easier these days.

Don’t be fooled: although Chipotle serves your lunch in 3 minutes flat, this is some seriously brilliant food.

Check out my review of Chipotle – I am hazymat – on Qype