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Excerpt: "Wherever one lives in the world right now I wouldn't feel too comfortable about the rise of authoritarianism. I think it's a global trend, and one that should be of concern to everyone."

Anthony Bourdain. (photo: CNN)
Anthony Bourdain. (photo: CNN)


Anthony Bourdain: The Rise of Authoritarianism Across the World Should Concern Everyone

By Alexander Bisley, Reason

30 December 16

 

An exclusive post-election interview with the culinary celebrity host of Parts Unknown.

rom Iran to to Hanoi to rural New England: Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown on CNN has covered a lot of territory, like No Reservations before it. More than 15 years since his best-selling memoir Kitchen Confidential gutted New York's culinary underbelly, the former junkie and chef continues not to give any fucks. Bourdain has also just published Appetites (Ecco), his first cookbook in over a decade, co-authored with longtime collaborator Laurie Woolever.

New Zealand–based writer Alexander Bisley reached the traveler and chef by phone the day after the Electoral College confirmed Donald Trump as president of the United States, and Bourdain talked about how Sichuan peppers are like sex, whether animal-rights activists have any sense of humor, and how the "utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes" is a problem.

Bisley: What concerns you about Trump?

Bourdain: What I am not concerned about with Trump? Wherever one lives in the world right now I wouldn't feel too comfortable about the rise of authoritarianism. I think it's a global trend, and one that should be of concern to everyone.

Bisley: You're a liberal. What should liberals be critiquing their own side for?

Bourdain: There's just so much. I hate the term political correctness, the way in which speech that is found to be unpleasant or offensive is often banned from universities. Which is exactly where speech that is potentially hurtful and offensive should be heard.

The way we demonize comedians for use of language or terminology is unspeakable. Because that's exactly what comedians should be doing, offending and upsetting people, and being offensive. Comedy is there, like art, to make people uncomfortable, and challenge their views, and hopefully have a spirited yet civil argument. If you're a comedian whose bread and butter seems to be language, situations, and jokes that I find racist and offensive, I won't buy tickets to your show or watch you on TV. I will not support you. If people ask me what I think, I will say you suck, and that I think you are racist and offensive. But I'm not going to try to put you out of work. I'm not going to start a boycott, or a hashtag, looking to get you driven out of the business.

The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we're seeing now.

I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. Nothing nauseates me more than preaching to the converted. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left—just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition—this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn't change anyone's opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done.

Bisley: In your Brexit episode of Parts Unknown, Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Appetites eye-catching cover, said "I think human beings are still stupid." Does that explain Trump's election?

Bourdain: I don't think we've got the [exclusive] franchise on that. If you look around the world (in the Philippines, in England), the rise of nationalism, the fear of the Other. When people are afraid and feel that their government has failed them they do things that seem completely mad and unreasonable to those of who are perhaps under less pressure. As unhappy and surprised as I am with the outcome, I'm empathetic to the forces that push people towards what I see as an ultimately self-destructive act. Berlusconi, Putin, Duterte, the world is filled with bad choices, made in pressured times.

Bisley: A few years back you were on Real Time with Bill Maher and part of the discussion was about people living inside their own bubbles. What do you think of Bill Maher?

Bourdain: Insufferably smug. Really the worst of the smug, self-congratulatory left. I have a low opinion of him. I did not have an enjoyable experience on his show. Not a show I plan to do again. He's a classic example of the smirking, contemptuous, privileged guy who lives in a bubble. And he is in no way looking to reach outside, or even look outside, of that bubble, in an empathetic way.

Bisley: In your new cookbook, Appetites, you have a section called "Big Fucking Steak." In Kitchen Confidential, you wrote this about vegetarians: "To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food."

Bourdain: I can certainly eat vegetarian food in India for a considerable period of time. They actually make good vegetarian dishes. Appetites is a representation of how I cook at home, and my personal preferences, and doesn't pretend to be anything other than that.

That line's the old-school French tradition I came out of. To live without any of those things would be very, very difficult for me. They're all fundamental ingredients. I equate them with joy, pleasure: that's the business chefs are in! We are in the pleasure business. I'm not your doctor, or your therapist.

Bisley: The food-sex connection is enduringly lively in your oeuvre. You recently met that old Chinese guy in Sichuan. Eyes red, clearly in pain, begging for more chili. That was the first time you understood S&M?

Bourdain: Yes. I use a lot of sexual metaphors in describing the food. I don't think you should have food and sex at the same time. I have a limited vocabulary perhaps.

Bisley: You recently gave a feisty response to a long-winded San Francisco animal-rights protester who was going after you about eating meat. You said, "I like dogs. But how much worse can they be than, like, kale?"

Bourdain: At least she had the courage of her convictions. I thought her malice was misplaced. I've never eaten dog. She went on a little long. A sense of humor is a terrible thing to waste. And I think that's the problem with a lot of animal activists, with whom I share a shocking amount of overlap actually. I mean, I'm against shark-finning, I take no pleasure in seeing animals hurt or suffer, I like humanely raised animals. I'm against fast food. I'm against fur, animal testing for cosmetics. What annoys me is these people are so devoid of any sense of humor or irony. And their priorities are so fucked! I mean Aleppo is happening right now. They also threaten to murder humans who piss them off with a regularity I find disturbing.

Bisley: I remember the outer islands of French Polynesia; including meeting lovely indigenous people for whom dog-eating is an occasional traditional practice.

Bourdain: Let's call this criticism what it is: racism. There are a lot of practices from the developing world that I find personally repellent, from my privileged Western point of view. But I don't feel like I have such a moral high ground that I can walk around lecturing people in developing nations on how they should live their lives.

I like to help where I can. If I can minimize the market for shark fin, that would be great. If I could help find a solution for traditional Chinese medicine that values Rhino horn over Viagra I would. I would donate to a fund to distribute Viagra for free in places where they think rhino horn is gonna give you a boner.

The way in which people dismiss whole centuries-old cultures--often older than their own and usually non-white--with just utter contempt aggravates me. People who suggest I shouldn't go to a country like China, look at or film it, because some people eat dog there, I find that racist, frankly. Understand people first: their economic, living situation. I've spent time in the not-so-Democratic Republic of the Congo. The forests there are denuded of any living thing. It's not because they particularly like to eat bush meat, it's because they're incredibly hungry, and seeking to survive.

One thing I constantly found in my travels, which is ignored by animal activism, is that where people live close to the edge, they are struggling to feed their families, and are living under all varieties of pressures that are largely unknown to these activists personally. Where people are suffering, animals who live in their orbit are suffering terribly. In cultures where people don't have the luxury of considering the feelings of a chicken, they tend to treat them rather poorly. Dogs do not live good lives in countries where people are starving and oppressed. Maybe if we spent a little of [our] attention on how humans live, I think as a consequence many of these people would have the luxury to think beyond their immediate needs, like water to drink and wash, and food to live. A little more empathy for human beings to balance out this overweening concern for puppies would be a more moral and effective strategy.

Bisley: That Parts Unknown about the Congo from 2013, on Belgian King Leopold's legacy, gains resonance with references to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now.

Bourdain: This was a genocide that's largely unknown and overlooked! Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are obsessions of mine.

Bisley: Another great episode was set in Iran.

Bourdain: It is a beautiful country, with an ancient and very rich culture that seems often to be at odds with its religious leadership. Iran is deeply conflicted, exhilarating, heartbreaking. One of the exhilarations is Iranians' eagerness to communicate, to express themselves, to show the world more about themselves than what we see on the news. The hospitality from strangers is extraordinary.

Bisley: With all the delicious food on Parts Unknown, people often wonder how you keep in shape. Did those days slogging in uber-hot kitchens give you a speedy metabolism?

Bourdain: No, actually. You look back at those later episodes of No Reservations and The Layover, I was getting bloated with food and alcohol. I train Brazilian ju-jitsu nearly every day. I spend a lot of my time, nearly every day and around the world, working very hard trying not to let some 23-year-old former college wrestler choke me unconscious. That's how I'm in shape.

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-8 # savagem13 2016-12-30 15:20
Anthony Bourdain? LOL
 
 
-10 # Ralph 2016-12-30 17:02
"I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love."

There's a lot of hateful, racist bastards out there as well. You go ahead and break bread with them. I'll continue to mock and chastise them. We all know that Klansmen have mortgages and bills to pay, just like the rest of us. That doesn't mean we shouldn't point out that they are knuckle-draggin g vermin.

"I train Brazilian ju-jitsu nearly every day."

Hahaha! Talk about living in a neoliberal bubble.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2017-01-01 12:35
Quoting Ralph:
"I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love."

There's a lot of hateful, racist bastards out there as well. You go ahead and break bread with them. I'll continue to mock and chastise them. We all know that Klansmen have mortgages and bills to pay, just like the rest of us. That doesn't mean we shouldn't point out that they are knuckle-dragging vermin.

"I train Brazilian ju-jitsu nearly every day."

Hahaha! Talk about living in a neoliberal bubble.


Unlike your cowardly ilk who live in a "everybody should be conformist" bubble.
 
 
-21 # heartofnests 2016-12-30 18:39
He doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor either. He reminds me of the asshole in "Manhattan" who expounds on Marshall McLuhan—so full of himself. And his cookbooks suck. Italians are the true geniuses in the kitchen. No, not Mario Batali, but the grandmothers who leave their recipes at the tobacconist. He's so pretentious. Typically French.
 
 
+4 # goodsensecynic 2016-12-31 14:15
I much preferred Marshall McLuhan expounding on Marshall McLuhan in "Annie Hall".

As for Bourdain, I think he's untypically New Jersey ... and funny and increasingly wise (if not exactly "politically correct").
 
 
-5 # heartofnests 2017-01-01 06:58
I love having minuses from all the tacky white neoliberals. It makes me laugh. Remember Freud said you're nobody unless you die with at least 5 good enemies!
 
 
+7 # reiverpacific 2017-01-01 12:39
Quoting heartofnests:
He doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor either. He reminds me of the asshole in "Manhattan" who expounds on Marshall McLuhan—so full of himself. And his cookbooks suck. Italians are the true geniuses in the kitchen. No, not Mario Batali, but the grandmothers who leave their recipes at the tobacconist. He's so pretentious. Typically French.


Stupid!
He's as American as apple-pie. He just had a French Father who took him over there early and gave him a good early grounding in many things French.
He's been around the world a lot (as have I), can see his own country from a open perspective and has an ironic sense of humor.
Why don't you try traveling outside y'r own bubble before spouting-off.
Y'r plug for Italians as the "True geniuses in the kitchen" shows a limited exposure to international cuisine (I like his comments on Indian food -one of my personal favorites and amazingly divers -and I did go without meat in Kerala but LOVED the fish)
 
 
+37 # Logic 2016-12-30 23:02
I enjoy Anthony Bourdain’s cavalcade of multicultural food. You really get to see places up close, and often in a very informal way.

And it Is great that he has the nerve to mention King Leopold II and what he did to the Africans in the Congo. Leopold was the King of Belgium who caused the deaths of about 10 million of his Congolese subjects in the 1890s.
 
 
-4 # LionMousePudding 2016-12-31 04:24
This is for the people who hate foodstamps and Blacks, and think that's one topic. For the people who force women to give birth to children of rape. Who beat people up because they are Muslim, or gay:

"When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good."

This is for the people who don't eat meat:

"Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food."

Oh but this guy, he has his priorities straight. He'll break bread with you as long as you don't threaten his own smug bubble of meat as a religion.

Glad to see he's got his priorities straight.
 
 
-8 # Ralph 2016-12-31 09:24
As Trump rolls into office, it's unbelievable Bourdain could say/type such a screed. Or perhaps his personal assistant typed/dictated it for him. What a disgrace Bourdain is.
 
 
-2 # LionMousePudding 2016-12-31 13:24
You didn't mean this as a response to me, right?
 
 
-4 # Ralph 2016-12-31 13:41
Absolutely. Your quotes highlight the depravity of neoliberals and how they kowtow to right wing hate. I've updated my initial post in case you aren't clear on my intent.
 
 
-4 # zach 2016-12-31 08:09
He should stick to food, which he does moderately badly.
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2017-01-02 10:55
Quoting zach:
He should stick to food, which he does moderately badly.


Have you EVER tasted his food o' monosaibo (wise-monkey)?
Unless you have, puke up y'r own and belt up!
As they say in Yorkshire "There's none as daft as them that wants t'be!"
 
 
-3 # John S. Browne 2017-01-02 17:22
#

The quote describes yourself and all such kind to a capital "T".

#
 
 
0 # Valerie 2016-12-31 08:55
Do you want passion and hot kisses? But you're in love with your freedom? skc.name/u?D7FF Come for an avalanche of emotions for one night
 
 
-5 # heartofnests 2017-01-01 05:36
Coincidentally, French men statistically have the highest rates of lung and intestinal cancers in the world! Bon appetit!
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2017-01-01 12:48
Quoting heartofnests:
Coincidentally, French men statistically have the highest rates of lung and intestinal cancers in the world! Bon appetit!


Bullshit!
There's a well known story about and American woman who was obese, tried every diet in the commercial stratosphere then went to France for six months and lost 60#+,still ate well and discovered new sources of energy.
Secret; French food is largely unprocessed, most French people still shop at markets and don't live at the frantic workaholic rate Americans do.
Food is a shared and treasured part of their lives and they take time to savor and enjoy it!
You need to pop y'r bubble and get out in the world a bit! Oh aye -and provide sources for yer petty, sour-grapes and utterly baseless statement.
 
 
-1 # Valerie 2017-01-01 09:39
Do you want passion and hot kisses? But you're in love with your freedom? u.to/IJOMDw Come for an avalanche of emotions for one night
 
 
-3 # John S. Browne 2017-01-01 14:59
#

Bourdain is insightful here, though I don't care for his apparent excusing of racists, though he claims to be anti-racism, as most racist Americans claim to be. Perhaps he is racist himself, most Americans are even though they adamantly deny it, so it would not be at all surprising if he is. He may be less so because of his exposure to so many cultures, and peoples, and their cuisines.

As to "privilege" and/or "privileged" attitudes, most people with success and money are tempted to feel and fall into feeling at least somewhat privileged, and it is very difficult for most Americans to break out of the unconscious "white privilege", "American exceptionalism" and/or "manifest destiny" that is such a long-time brainwashing of U.S. "culture". Very few people are completely successful at breaking with their bigotries and/or prejudices; and even with those who largely are successful in it, there is constant temptation to fall back into it.

(Continued below)
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2017-01-02 11:07
You obviously haven't read his book, starting with "Kitchen Confidential", "The Les Halles Cookbook" and many other well-written tomes on his food and life experiences, in which he states that the best cooks at Les Halles invariably come from Ecuador, San Salvador, Mexico and Latin American in general, starting as plunger (dishwasher) and working up the chain to full-blown chefs.
He fully confesses to a privileged childhood and his former drug-addled and addicted journey through the stinking underbelly of the restaurant business (something I've done a bit of myself), especially in New York sand Miami.
Pompous he aint -in fact, he's brutally frank and upfront, a quantity not very well accepted in the pretentious star-struck world of US life in general- and I'd lay good money that he'd rip a fresh arsehole in debating anybody who adjudged him thus.
 
 
-4 # John S. Browne 2017-01-02 17:12
#

You are pompous yourself as well, as you make more than obvious to anyone and everyone who isn't like you and your pompous ilk, so it is not at all surprising that you would defend a fellow-pompous, self-righteous, "superiority/in feriority-compl exed", aka self-superior, sold out to this world, etc., person like yourself.

You even write here on this site like you are trying to prove how pompous you are; and, as I have alluded to before, you believe that Scots and/or Europeans are better than other people in the world, which NO ONE is. But you're brainwashed so much by the self-righteous, so-called "liberal" mindset, and falsely think you're so "wise", that you can't really see the forest for the trees; though, of course, you believe you "do".

At least I'm one person here who sees right through you, and isn't fooled by or impressed with you and your pompous raising of yourself above others, such as myself as one example. Your typical self-superior ego is so big, in order to attempt to make up for your extreme inferiority complex, that you can't help but act like you're "better" than some, and probably a great deal of, other people, and pass unrighteous judgments of those, such as myself, who you falsely believe you're "wiser" than.

In summary, you're controlled by evil, though you put on such a pretentious persona of not being such, and of being such a supposedly "'good' (etc.) person", like most Godless, unrepentant and/or counterfeit-"Ch ristian" people are.

#
 
 
-2 # John S. Browne 2017-01-02 17:15
#

(Continued from above)

You won't understand most of what I'm saying, and will misinterpret (a great deal of?) it, because you're so blind.

#
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2017-01-02 19:02
Quoting John S. Browne:
#

(Continued from above)

You won't understand most of what I'm saying, and will misinterpret (a great deal of?) it, because you're so blind.

#


Guilty as charged.
Like all judgmental types who sweep with a broad brush without knowing the accused, you seem to be pretty clouded.
I'm chuffed that you disapprove of my 'umble offerings, give y'r limited understanding of the world, which I've traveled extensively in and thoroughly enjoyed, and seen how much of it has been fucked-up and usurped by tunnel-vision "Christians".
My own religion is based on Mother Earth and the "Great unknowable" and that's good enough for my simple mind.
Toodle-oo, and happy Hogmanay, me ould dahlin'!
 
 
0 # John S. Browne 2017-01-02 20:12
#

Everybody judges, fool. Lately I have had the displeasure of having a couple of extremely unrighteously-j udgmental people claim that they're supposedly "not judgmental". Just about everybody who claims to not be judgmental is at least somewhat, but usually very, judgmental. The key is the difference between UNRIGHTEOUS AND RIGHTEOUS judgment. Like constructive and un- constructive criticism, one is good, perfectly okay judgment, and the other is the exact opposite, evil judgment (John 7:24). I only judge righteous judgment, and you mostly judge unrighteous judgment. The latter is almost all that evil people like yourself can do. You can't help yourself(ves) because evil leads you around by the nose.

My understanding of the world is far from limited. I have understanding about what is really going on in the world that you wouldn't recognize, or come to know yourself, if it bit you on the arse. I don't need to have traveled all over the world to know it. All I need in order to know it is God the Father through His Word(s), the Lord Jesus the Christ, their Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of Prophecy. Unlike you, the truth has set me free (John 8:32).

(Continued below)
 
 
0 # John S. Browne 2017-01-02 20:15
#

You, on the other hand, believe that the truth is supposedly "fantasy", and fantasy is supposedly "the truth". As with all of the majority of unrighteous people, you're NOT set free by the truth, and have immersed yourself(ves), often for decades as in your case, in the opposites of truth that you falsely believe are "truth".

Thus, again, in most cases you wouldn't know the whole, real truth if it bit you on the derriere. But thank you for, with your ignorant response, further proving that you're a pompous windbag.

#
 
 
0 # John S. Browne 2017-01-06 04:40
#

So, Bourdain probably is at least somewhat pompous. Americans aren't the only ones, in fact it's probably most people the world-over, who feel superior to other people. I find it to be the case with almost everyone in the U.S., and I've observed it with many people in other parts of the world, though I'm not widely traveled. And it's not just with regards to their nationality and/or race, it's quite rampant on an individual basis as well, and/or with an attitude that their families are better than everybody else except perhaps their close friends. Most human beings are narcissists.

#
 
 
+3 # MaggieB 2017-01-02 12:16
Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for saying:

"The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we're seeing now."


And:
"The self-congratula tory tone of the privileged left—just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition—this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn't change anyone's opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done."

You make some excellent points here.
 
 
+2 # judithLA 2017-01-02 13:32
Smarter than almost any political commentator.
When you understand what and why people eat and you are on the street with them...it becomes a teacher if listening.
Thanks for sharing so much with the rest of us.
I have decided I know longer need to see much of the world. I can't do it as well.
 

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