Friday, September 14, 2007

Why McDonald's?

The latest McDonald's to open in Berlin is attracting more attention than usual. John Ward, in his SPIEGEL ONLINE report, explains why:

This is the first McDonald's in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, and expectations were high that the denizens of the famously left-wing district would act to resist the incursion of the Golden Arches. There was a time here when protesters would throw excrement-filled care packages and plastic bags of paint into fine-dining establishments in the neighborhood, until someone decided to outdo the others by lobbing a hand grenade into one expensive restaurant in the early 1990s.

But that wasn't the scene Friday -- far from it. There were reportedly a few protesters in attendance in the morning, but by noon they were gone.

One possible explanation might be that economic resistance would have more impact than physical protest. However, one paragraph from Mr. Ward's report makes one wonder if the Kreuzberg community will deal with McDonald's by shunning it:

Nadine R., a 23-year-old student running to get to class, admitted between slurps of her beverage that she was happy to have a fast-food place across from her school. "I usually like to eat something healthier," she said. "But you get so little time in your break. It's just so much easier to come here," she added, as a friend dragged her away.

This is the same story we hear in the United States: convenience trumps health, whatever the longer-term consequences may be. Given the pressures of life, whether as a student or as a worker, one can at least understand, if not sympathize with, Nadine's decision. So it is likely to be that McDonald's will become a fact of life in yet another community that knows, in its heart, that it would be better off without it.

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