My late father-in-law used to recall how when he was a youth in Hungary, farmers would come to purchase chocolate candy at his uncle's store in Budapest. The shiny wrapping paper is what captured their hearts. They peeled the paper off carefully, and preserved it, and tossed aside the dark stuff that was inside the paper. "The Hungarian farmer is a nitwit" - that was the conclusion that was drawn. But now the tides have turned: We have turned into the idiotic farmers who are mesmerized by the slick logo on the wrapping paper.
High-quality chocolate proliferates in markets in dizzying amounts, and its price is so low that a consumer has to wonder why a store owner even finds it worthwhile to offer it for sale, given that he has to pay his employees and make a profit. There is one heavenly chocolate emporium at the corner of Bialik and Jabotinsky streets in Ramat Gan, part of what has become a big chain called Little Switzerland. I came across this taste of heaven thanks to my young grandson; more accurately, he came across the store thanks to me, and it frequently happens that instead of walking to the local playground, we go off and stare at the delectable wares in the store window.
I acknowledge that I am blatantly transgressing the norms of journalistic ethics when I proffer this free advertisement for a chain of stores. But, you can find in them bars of the finest Belgian or Swiss chocolate for NIS 2 or NIS 3, or five bars of exquisite marzipan for NIS 10. These are items that are two or even four times more expensive when they are sold in the large supermarket chains.
Similar prices can be found at two big stands at the end of the Carmel shuk in Tel Aviv, and I imagine that the same is true of other open-air markets. True, these sweets frequently do not carry the kashrut certification required by the believers among us, and for this reason they do not find their way to the big retail chains, which hold the Almighty in deep reverence, and which, owing to this piety, stick the consumer with lofty prices, including for candy. And since most food purchasers in Israel are lazy and do not drag themselves out to buy what they need in small stores, preferring instead to drive over to the outlets run by the large commercial chains - the big chains feel free to transmit the following message back to them: Considering how slothful you are, you must also be imbeciles.
The fact is that you are tempted into purchasing Pesek Zman (Time-out) bars manufactured by Strauss, because the brand name is written on the label - although the dark and sweet substance known as chocolate can be purchased at the store across the street for a fifth of the price, and it's usually of much higher quality.
Lo and behold, an industrious consumer looked into these matters and discovered that in New Jersey or London, the same Israel-manufactured candy is sold for half the price of that demanded in the Holy Land. As in the case of the heart-warming, tent-camp rebellion of Rothschild Boulevard and its aftermath, a public protest arose and called for a boycott of Strauss products.
This turn of events would seem to indicate that the people have risen up out of their imbecility. The truth, however, is the opposite: The people are bogged down yet deeper in the morass of idiocy. You don't have to go all the way to New Jersey to learn that you're a nincompoop. Just go into the bathroom and look in the mirror.
In other words, nobody really needs all of the learned tables and graphs presented to readers and viewers of consumer news reports. Nobody compels the Israeli consumer to buy expensive chocolate; if he does so, he does this because he has chosen freely to act like an idiot. Nor is there a need to erect a protest tent camp to express one's desire to stop acting like a jackass. All you need to do is to stop acting this way, and imbibe the lesson that consumers in properly countries learned long ago: namely, that responsibility for acting as an idiot or a wise shopper rests with you alone.
The problem is that the road leading to this gem of wisdom is not short. And what keeps the prize of prudent consumerism so distant from us is the foolish cult of food and of its preparation which has come to govern us under the guise of "culture." Of course, there is a culture of fine food in France and Italy and other gourmet provinces, to which Israel deludes itself into thinking it belongs. But the culture of fine food starts with shoppers not purchasing food products at large chains, and instead buying items at small, local stores.
Needless to say, people who belong to such a culture do not go off as in a trance to purchase industrial food brands simply because they have names like "Time-out" - gimmicky monikers that remind them of the care packages they received from Israel Defense Forces support groups when they did their army service.
With this in mind, each of us ought to erect a small protest tent compound in our own living rooms, and paste upon it the slogan: "I swear not to act like an idiot." Each day when we leave the house, and each evening when we return to it, we should remind ourselves that the only force that keeps us confined to this tempest of recurring protests and despair is the gray matter stored within our heads, and until nothing enhances its activity, reality will remain the same.
In any event, they say that eating a few chocolate squares stimulates the mind. So, dear idiots, go out and buy chocolate at whatever price the market demands, and perhaps that will make you smart.
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