Politicians Eating Things.

This might just be because I’m currently in the midst of what can only be described as an atrociously potent hangover, where my sole purpose in life is to consume as many carbohydrates as humanly possible (for those of you playing at home, I’m doing a bloody good job of it thus far. This guacamole is delicious). But this has got to be more than a coincidence. I keep seeing photos of politicians eating things.

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It all started when the Guardian applauded Hillary Clinton’s “flawless” choice of a chicken burrito bowl from Mexican chain Chipotle while out on the campaign trail in Ohio. “It’s a fairly perfect order, when you think about it,” the article quoted. “You’re opting for chicken instead of beef, and don’t want that calorie-loaded flour tortilla, but you’re not so overly zealous as to get a salad.”

Upon Googling the topic further (it was clearly a very busy day for me), I soon discovered that not only had the Guardian considered the significance of Clinton’s burrito choice, but the Wall Street Journal too had commented on the “gastronomical symbolism” of Chipotle (deeming Taco Bell “more electorally savvy”), the New York Times analysed the calorie content of the meal, and CNN Money labelled the incognito lunchtime dash a “hip” symbol of her desire to “shed that outdated 1990s stigma.”

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Somewhat creepy CCTV footage of Hil ordering her burrito bowl.

Do we really need to read that much into what a politician decides to shove down their gob for lunch? No. Unless you’re the next potential leader of the free world, perhaps, but even still, the discussion of Chipotle semiotics is surely about as useful to society as the release of Kris Jenner’s cookbook (aka, not at all. One of the reviewers on Amazon said they’d rather buy a book from ISIS). From that moment forth, photos of politicians smacking their lips seem to be everywhere.

Take, for example, the news that British Prime Minister David Cameron ate a hotdog with a knife and fork while schmoozing with supporters at a voter barbecue. As the Huffington Post observed, the “‘I’m just like you’ campaign trail stunt backfired somewhat predictably, with Twitter exploding in a cacophony of piss-taking after noting the Prime Minister’s choice of dining implements.” Poor ol’ Dave became a posh lamb to the social media slaughter.

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But that was nothing compared to when incredibly unflattering photos of his opposition, Labour leader Ed Miliband, chomping on a bacon sandwich last year went viral. The image was so horrifically off-putting apparently even his advisors had to intervene after a few bites. Yes, Sandwich Gate is now so famous in his home country that the bacon sandwich incident has its own Wikipedia page. Apparently people do care what’s going into their guts (or at least what they look like when it happens).

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There is something to be said for leading by example, which is why another group of people definitely care about what politicians munch on when out in the public eye. In May 2012, the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a petition to stop President Obama, his family, and members of his Cabinet, from eating unhealthy foods while staging official photo ops after seeing him with a burger one too many times. Yes, a quick search uncovered many an image of Obama chowing down on treats, be it a hot dog at the basketball with David Cameron (man, that dude loves his hot dogs), cheeseburgers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, or a cheeky ice cream on the sly. Indeed, it appears Obama is pictured eating burgers so often there’s even a blog dedicated to it. In defence of the petition, posing with a Big Mac does seem to go against everything Michelle Obama has worked for as part of her “Let’s Move!” health and fitness initiative (even if POTUS maintains his favourite food is broccoli). But is it really that enormous an issue for him to eat it in public?

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As much as many of us implore such fluffy stories polluting our media outlets, the reality is that with so many ready to pounce on and scrutinise a politician’s every move, you just can’t please everyone. People are always going to talk, particularly at a photo op. No doubt if Clinton was pictured sipping raw kale and chia seed smoothies everyday while out campaigning she’d be accused of being too healthy, or giving into the Paleo fad. But on the other hand, if Tony Abbott made a deal of ducking into Pizza Hut every couple of weeks (or, as he was recently, skolling beer in a pub), he’d be accused of making bad choices and promoting obesity. Still, it appears our political leaders would be wise to make a safe choice when in the presence of worldwide media, or at least save their junk food binge for the privacy of their own home. Oh, and perhaps steer clear of grotty bacon sandwiches, overly greasy burgers, or phallic-like foods, in the fear of viral internet memes or worse, sexual innuendo.

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I think that image probably speaks for itself. *Drops mic*

North Korea: For Dummies

Newsflash: it seems Kim Jong-un can’t get no satisfaction. Right this moment, national news programs are self-combusting with Pyongyang’s tantalizing threats of nuclear warfare. We all know Kim Jong-Il liked to look at things. But when struggling with the bona fide prospect of getting our pants nuked off, the world is surely in need of factual information a little more, well, explosive. So what, in the name of khaki uniforms, is the deal with North Korea?

Today, U.N. sanctions appear as common as coughs. State propaganda threatens to turn foes “into a sea of fire,” while missiles stay “mounted on launch pads, aimed at the windpipe of our enemies.” This permanent state of war is all the isolated Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has ever known. Once tumultuously ruled by both Japan and the Soviet Union, North Korea has always remained in conflict with its Southern counterpart- even though a hostile armistice ended the Korean War in 1953. As of March 13 this year, the Republic terminated this olive branch of peacekeeping- clearly, a source of much anxiety for nations alike (and not exactly chicken soup for the Seoul).

But there’s a crux within this politically fiery landscape. Even if neighbouring allies China and Russia suggest the contrary, North Korea is no longer communist. Since 1972, the Republic has worshipped Juche, which, according to North Korea’s official webpage, means “that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masse of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction.” Okay… what? Was that an ideological explanation or a power tool instruction manual? Essentially, Juche allows the Republic to be totalitarian to the core by justifying their despotic ways under themes of self-sufficiency and passionate state supremacy. Oh, and by maintaining murderous political prison camps. Lovely.

The fact is, Juche works. North Koreans are crippled by crisis- hunger is rife, poverty prevalent, hospitals disastrous and propaganda spoon-fed from birth. Yet whispered reports of inconsequential rebellions are few and far between, mostly because the population appears genuinely brainwashed into loving their leaders, fighting for their state (with the fourth largest army in the world), and fearing foreign powers like the U.S or South Korea will invade at any time.

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This might explain the defining characteristic of North Korea’s international persona- its kooky choice of leaders; alongside a cult of personality that ensures their militarized population trust the “Kims” to watch over like loving fathers. First up was Kim Il Sung- the Communist creator of the guerrilla Korean People’s Army who reigned the Republic for forty-six years, initiated the current regime and is forever known to North Korea as the “Eternal President”. Next came the seventeen-year wrath of Kim Jong-il, who, according to a 2004 Human Rights Watch report, ran one of the world’s most repressive governments- restricting press, religion, education and political opposition, prolonging famine, and producing nuclear weapons. This was all pretty violent for a guy who was born mountaintop beneath a double rainbow. Nowadays, Kim Jong Un reigns the Republic, the chubby-cheeked, new-generation son with a penchant for NBA, crew cuts, and international fear-mongering. 

Now for the million-won question. Is it time to turn the basement into a bomb shelter? While we have reasons to be alert, experts warn these nuclear threats are magnified by internal politics.  The North Korean government often manipulates the international community’s fear of nuclear war so they can feast upon much-needed aid and donations. For example, the early 1990s saw a nuclear weapons program swapped for $5 billion in fuel and two reactors, with a similar scenario reoccurring in 2006. Christopher Voss, past FBI hostage negotiator, asserted, “From the outside, it makes no sense. From the inside, it makes all the sense in the world…. You keep playing the game as long as it works.”

We are encouraged to downplay these fanatical taunts as a way of thwarting Kim Jong Un’s tactic of using unpredictability as a crippling power-solidification tool. And we should, because in the face of increasing exposure to the outside world, this desperate tyrant has got a lot to lose. So long story short: there’s no need on the horizon to diarise being nuked. Regardless, I’m not sure I’d fancy a holiday to Pyongyang anytime soon. Then again, I’m not Dennis Rodman.

*First published in Farrago Magazine, Edition Four*

Hillary: A Love Letter.

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The White House comprises of the toughest advisors,

And Hillary stands tall as first rate.

So in renouncing her acclaim, Clinton soon became

Secretary of my Emotional State.

Obama may be the man that shows that we can,

George Bush might still act with “God’s will”.

Citizens also like a nice man called Ike,

But I’ll never get over The Hill.

Condi Rice’s fine looks are in dictators’ scrapbooks,

Still, they’re no match for when Hil works a suit.

But this boner’s pure political for a mind so analytical,

Wonder woman with diplomatic pursuit.

From France to Namibia, from Japan to Bolivia,

113 countries ain’t no feat for the weak.

She endorsed same-sex love and extended white doves,

While turning the Arab Spring into a creek.

Kerry knows that post-Hill, he’s got big heels to fill

From Benghazi, to NATO pacts signed.

Don’t put no embargo on this girl from Chicago

Her strip is the Gaza-kind.

Sure, life can turn shady when you’re a First Lady,

So why turn to the cameras and whine?

He had improper relations; as revenge Hill meets nations

And Bill’s the one seeing her texts online.

But stop being silly, she’s not defined by HillBilly,

Clint’s a negotiator, inspiring, filled with vigour.

And what kind of mammy has her own Grammy?

Give this gal her own action figure.

There’s just no better muse than a woman with views

Empowering all as she leads.

Scrunchies aside, she fills me with pride

To think one day I too can succeed.

Hill deserves Queen Bee- the Pope’s post is now free-

But it seems ‘16 could be the year to run.

So I long for the day that a voter may say

“President Clinton? Ah yes, which one?”

 *First published in Farrago Magazine, Edition Three*