Derrida has it right, this toy is not just a toy. Buddhists, too. This toy is composed of a whole bunch of non-toy things. This particular toy is a thing that is so many things.
It’s plastic. Its microplastics. It’s mass production. It’s pollution. It’s waste. It’s capitalism. It’s overproduction. It’s the gyre in the Pacific Ocean. It’s creepy. It’s positive psychology. It’s obesity. It’s a health crisis. It’s an agricultural crisis. It’s the algal bloom in the Gulf of Mexico. In no way is this toy just a toy.
Some say knowledge is power. But knowledge is crippling when you exist in the world with all the knowledge of what all a happy meal toy is. I feel no empowerment in boycotting McDonald’s or refusing the toy that comes with the happy meal. I know I’m a teeny insubstantial minority whose net effects are dwarfed by the rest of the kids meal toys that will outlive me and all the other humans for the next 400 years.
The hypocrisy is real. I succumb to the pressure of my son begging. I could say no. I could show him pictures of the gyre. But the gyre is made up almost entirely of non-Happy Meal toys, I can imagine him saying. I succumb to lots of pressures to live like those around me. Those living as if we aren’t on the conveyor belt that delivers us to the abyss.
How far we fall, however, and in what manner we fall, is still in our hands. Will we continue to send all the planet’s dispossessed peoples and sensitive species first? Do we reduce the height of the cliff? It’s possible to mitigate the damage. But we have to understand what we refuse to know or act on: Happy Meal toys have got to go (just as so many other things will have to go).