Crispier Than Thou

Orange_Beer Thoughts_2012-08-17

2015-03-26 – I don’t eat a lot of potato chips. I did once and I have fond memories of their potato-ey goodness. But I try (often unsuccessfully) to avoid empty calories and, if I fail in that aim, I usually choose ice cream as my Plan B. Once in a while, though, I buy a bag of chips. Yesterday was one of those days.

The bag I chose professed fealty to my childhood ideal. They espoused no particular flavor—other than sea salt. And they have ridges.

I’ve noticed, in recent years, that when I do slip into potato-chippery, I frequently find the chips unusually crispy. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “unusual.” I assume that this excessive crispiness (compared to my nostalgic ideal) is totally usual these days. People who have eaten chips all their lives may not notice because the change must have been gradual. I notice because I don’t eat chips much.

I am not saying that chips in the old days were soggy or limp. They were delightfully crisp. Full of crunch. But today’s chips are seismically crisp. They make me want to take shelter under a heavy table or a fortified doorway!

It’s back to ice cream for me! (Until the next craving for a salty snack overwhelms me, I guess. Then maybe I’ll break my teeth on some future crispy snack.)

Sunday, I wrote about an historical growth in piety that parallels the growth in crispiness. Some call that “holier than thou.” I suppose the potato chip trend can be called “crispier than thou,” because it probably comes from the same hyper-competitive urge.

Of course, the escalation of holiness and the escalation of crispness are not the only areas of modern life affected. Everyone, these days, wants to be seen as the best or the greatest at something.

Even if they are not.

We’ve heard a lot in the past several months about police brutality. People on the left attribute this to racism. People on the right either deny that anything special is going on or lay the blame on the victims of the brutality. I don’t deny that racism is a factor. I also don’t deny that police work dangerous territory.

But I want to add another theory: hyper-competition.

Many of the stories we’ve heard over these last several months would have come out differently if police had exhibited patience. If they’d called in back-up. If they had de-escalated. But de-escalation might expose them as soggy or limp chips. If a cop is nothing else, he has to be seismically crispy. Snap decisions—even if they are lethal (and irreversible).

And it’s not just cops. The political dysfunction we see in Washington and across the country is all about competition, not policy. A politician who is not brittle is lost. But we are the ones who are hurt when the chip snaps.

I’m going back to ice cream. And not some exotic flavor. Give me chocolate.

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