Getting Inside Jamie Oliver’s Head

Every few months, I link to an article that makes me deeply happy, and this new Guardian profile of Jamie Oliver is one such piece. It does a superb job of providing insights into Oliver’s motivations, and to how he selects his campaigns.

To deliberately oversimplify just a bit: I think society is divided into three groups. You’ve got perhaps ninety percent who are clueless and/or part of the problem. Then you’ve got another nine percent who confuse real activism with attacking the motivations and strategies of the one percent who are actually working to create change.

Unfortunately, the way the human psyche is wired, it’s incredibly painful to be constantly subjected to the critiques of pseudo activists. While it should be a simple matter to understand that their opinions don’t matter, at a deep level we’re hardwired to be extraordinarily sensitive misguided and vicious appraisals of our work when these critiques are made by fellow members of our tribe. So you shrug your shoulders and keep doing what you see is working, even though it seems like you’re surrounded by people who deliberately misunderstand your efforts. Oliver says:

No one understands me. No one. My wife doesn’t even understand me in terms of what I want to do. Everyone thinks everything’s about money. You think I’m going to America to make money? That is probably the worst financial use of my time in the world, going to America next year, cos there’s no money in TV, and they don’t buy books. I don’t want to break America, I don’t want to move there, I’ll be there for three months next year but I don’t want to be making that show, I want Americans to be making that fucking show. I’m not pleased I got the Emmy cos I got the Emmy; I’m pleased because it will get other people to make these shows, and get the public active, and get McDonald’s to start doing some other shit instead of the shit they are doing.

More thoughts on McD0nald’s here:

Although they don’t know it, the public is still king. So what I try and do is shit-stir. In America, what hasn’t happened yet is the public haven’t really told business what they want. For instance, McDonald’s America and McDonald’s UK are totally different. You’ve got one public that’s fairly well informed, which is here, so you know you’ve got organic milk, 100% free-range eggs; they do a huge amount of salads, they’ve done a huge amount of inward thinking in the last five years. So although they’ve been the enemy for many years, you’ve got to take your hat off and say well done, and carry on. America hasn’t even done that, they’ve done nothing in comparison. The only difference is the public ask for more.

Oliver’s absolutely right. He shouldn’t be in the United States, but the fact that he needs to be here attests to the unbelievably severe shortage of Americans willing to take on the thankless task of food activism. The food politics and animal rights movements are largely made up of backseat drivers, and I’ve never seen this fact so clearly illustrated as I have in this Guardian profile.

This article is among the most important activist pieces I’ve featured all year. If you care about animal advocacy it’s a must-read. Link.


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