kebab for the common man

kebab for the common man December 12, 2018

(“down with caviar, long live kebab”)

There is something incredibly populist about the kebab. It’s a symbol of the immigrant, of the working class, and because it is literally just a hunk of minced and spiced meat, it can become the canvas upon which any culture can draw.

Consider the “We will deep-fry your kebab” sign in The Avengers: Infinity War. This sign, and this kebab shop, do not actually exist in the real world. But it is somehow iconic as a perfectly Scottish thing to do. Of course the Scots deep fry their kebabs.

The four freedoms of the European Union are the key here: free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. The right-wing movements of Trumpism in the US, of Brexit in the UK, and Hindutva in India are all related and founded on the same antipathy towards the fourth freedom: the free movement of people. The fact that these reactionary movements do not object to the other three freedoms shows to what degree the right wing mind has been colonized by capitalism. But arguably, freedom of movement is the most essential freedom of them all – because the other three all depend upon it. Goods can be shipped, services outsourced, and capital wired – but without people to spend the capital, provide the services, and make the goods, these are moot.

And where people move, they bring their food with them. In a sense, then, the kebab is the symbol of the fourth freedom and the world which the far right hates with all their passion. Given a choice between hating caviar or the kebab, they choose the kebab for their ire. A true populism is exactly the opposite.

Browse Our Archives