Mar 28, 2008

Unhappy seeds

I did not know that Bulgarians were big consumers of sunflower seeds. I came to know this by chance the other day, while discussing over breakfast with my classmate's girlfriend the other day. So I went on Internet and checked some data. Here is table of the top world producers.

The data are from wikipedia. I came to know that production originated along the Mississippi river, and were brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadores. Ok, what's special about the seeds? Well, apparently there is some problem associated with their production.

From the graph there seems to be a quite strong association between the percentage of people reporting unhappiness according to the World Value Survey, and the per capita production of Sunflower Seeds. Why do we find such a correlation? I thought about some possible explanations.
  1. Psychological: the first person that comes to my mind when I think about sunflower is the supreme genius of Vincent Van Gogh, who managed to create masterpieces out of this flower. As we know, Van Gogh was not extremely happy, and suffered from lot of hardships in his life. But is it that unhappy people love sunflowers, or the reverse is true?
  2. Botanical: any type of crop requires one period for plantation, one period for harvesting. In the period in between people may very well get bored, and if someone from the World Value Survey (WVS) asks the peasants "are you happy?" what do you expect the answer will be? "Let's wait for the f** harvests and see if I am happy!!" But this of course, implies we should find unhappiness also for other type of crops (corn, soybean..)
  3. Nutritional: sunflower seeds are extremely healthy, because they have many different vitamins, linoleic acids, fibers..but they are also extremely caloric: 576 calories per 100 grams, and 50% fats. So you start eating and enjoying them, then you finish a whole pack while watching a movie, you realize that you have eaten 800 calories, you are still hungry, your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wive complains you are getting fat then the guy from the WVS comes and asks you "are you happy?" and imagine what the answer will be...
  4. Globalization: sunflower seeds do not have the same consideration everywhere. What I also learnt from my flatmate is in fact that, when english people go to Bulgaria and see they eat sunflower seeds they start laughing: "Oh, do you that? For us, that is bird-food!" How would you then feel if somebody from another part of the world starts laughing about your own favourite food?Maybe it's a reason to be pissed, but if the guy from the WVS asks you "are you happy?" then you say "no I am pissed!" then he says "no, you have to tell me if you are happy" "no I am not, I am pissed!" and then you are classified as unhappiness a good proxy for being pissed anyway?
What can we say to sum up the discussion? I don't favourite explanation would be,that this is just a statistical fluke. But if you find my arguments convincing, or have some other theory...we can share some sunflower seeds together!

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