Sunday, August 1, 2010

This civil rights movement is "No picnic"

by Steve Green

The world is very familiar with the American civil rights movement and discrimination. It entailed a struggle by one race of people to stop being cut off by another race, from jobs and schooling and housing and public accommodations.

But a new form of discrimination occurring now has yet to be grasped even by those whose lives already are beginning to be impacted by it because it is so radically different in form, in timing, in victims, in losses, in abusers, in emotion.

The circumstances are hard to perceive as discriminatory:

1) all people in the country are being wronged - every color, every ethnic group, every religious denomination, every level of society, every age group.
2) around rights so primary they are taken for granted by all human beings,
3) and the government itself is the one doing the discriminating,
4) and the government is doing so on behalf not of bigoted, hating people but of emotionless, non-living entities (corporations),
5) while the government has laid the groundwork using fear and false threats,
6) to pose as the public's saving protector from precisely those non-living entities,
7) in order to accrue, legislatively, unlimited police state power (to discriminate, to wrong),
8) amassing that power incrementally, at every level (municipal, state, federal, international), and in dispersed form geographically,
9) and now beginning to use that power incrementally, at every level, and in dispersed form (boiling the frog slowly, and boiling only parts at a time),
10) taking away rights that have never been removed in the history of humankind,
11) and at a scope and scale that is unfathomable.

Absent the familiar racial shape (though using similar techniques) and given how immense and all encompassing this discrimination is, and how dressed in caring Orwellian language, and how unique historically - only descending now to exert its choking grip - it is understandable that "food safety" has been virtually impossible to discern as the removal of human beings' most fundamental rights.

"Food safety" laws are now descending rapidly around the country. Americans have not yet realized what is occurring to them. They do not yet see the government Swat team attacks on raw milk farmers or armed FBI raids on organic coops as the totemic of their own discrimination, just as Bull Connors using hoses on black students became the image for black civil rights movement. Most American are still trusting that the government is imposing "food safety" laws for their well-being, to protect them from contamination by the big meat packers or those large companies importing melamine-laced food from China.

But all Americans are slowly, piece by piece, law after law, and inexorably, being blocked from their own access to food. The government is removing rights to the fundamental of their existence: food, health ... and the greatest need of all human beings - connection with each other.

P.J. Huffstutter at the Los Angeles Times wrote of what is happening to public potlucks in "Raw food raid raises questions over existing milk laws — and the safety of potlucks. And Steve Green at Food Freedom indicated that much beyond potlucks are being shut down.

* Bringing home made foods to churches for bazaars;

* Selling at farmers markets home made goods (including distinctive (and ethnic) foods unavailable in any other way);

* Donating food to the homeless;

* Donating home made foods for school fundraisers;

* Selling excess food to neighbors which farmers made for their own families, a practice that is as old as agriculture.

But even in understanding that the rights being removed around food and health pose an imminent threat to people's lives, what is missed is that the government's abuse of its own people goes much deeper.

Human bonds

"Food safety" as wielded by the government, now threatens human bonds themselves.

Not only are they profoundly important to human development and survival, human bonds are intimately related to food. The most primary of all human bonds begin as a baby begins to nurse from its mother. Enduring human connections are formed and strengthened through producing of food, the preparation of food, the sharing of food, the selling and the purchasing of food. The baby becomes attached to its mother as it nurses, family bonds form around growing food and cooking together, community connections take shape around sharing of food at fairs and festivals, friendships are made at farmers markets, between buyers and sellers, just as they are made at neighborhood cafes, at local delis, and as they used to be made with neighborhood food vendors.

Social connection is so primary that it is considered as necessary for existence as food.

Sociality is at the heart of human existence, a fact that has been acknowledged as far back as Aristotle. Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs were among the first in the twentieth century to develop theoretical perspectives on the topic, but only in the last half-century has sociality been subject to vigorous theoretical and empirical study.

According to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, relational and belonging needs are superseded in importance only by survival and safety needs. Harry Harlow's study of infant rhesus monkeys did not deny the importance of survival needs (i.e, food), but showed that social contact is just as important for healthy growth and development. Prompted by Konrad Lorenz's studies of imprinting and the plight of infants and young children in Britain's post-World War II orphanages, John Bowlby (1973) showed that in humans, too, maternal-child attachment bonds are essential for healthy growth and development.

Across the lifespan, affiliative and attachment bonds have clear survival and reproductive advantages that may help explain why the motivation to form and maintain close social bonds is as potent as the drive to satisfyhunger or thirst. Just as hunger and thirst motivate the search for food and water, the pain of unmet social needs (i.e., felt social isolation) motivates a search for social reconnection.

The desire for connection is so irrepressible that people imagine relationships with important social others, or indulge in "social snacks" (e.g., photos of loved ones) and surrogates (e.g., parasocial attachments to television characters).

One can see in a couple examples of how industry has already inserted itself between human beings, via its control over certain foods, and the dangers it has posed by doing so. Baby formula companies are infamous for disrupting nursing in poor countries, and in the US, they are promoting formula to Hispanic mothers, and while government programs promote formula to the poor, running directly counter to medical advice and national goals.

And the advent of fast food establishments has ruptured a number of bonds, also impacting health. It has undermined cooking at home where the food is more nutritious, and it has almost ended the relationship between food vendor and customer, since speed of interaction has destroyed almost any chance for personal interaction, as people speak into microphones and are then handed a bag of processed food through a window, as customers and worker have barely enough time to say hello (though many try). The food is as degraded as the interaction, in both cases real value (adequate time, adequate nutrients) is squeezed out in the interest of profit. Yet in both cases, people are still straining to find something nourishing.

Potlucks, festivals, fairs

It is not incidental to bring up potlucks - a universally enjoyed cultural means of coming together around food.

Nor is it incidental to bring up church fairs or ethnic festivals, because "food safety" is poised to destroy religious communities, and to eradicate American subcultures - Western, Jewish, black, Indian, Hispanic, Scandanavian, coastal.... - because communities and cultures are intimately, historically and emotionally linked to food.

It is not incident to bring up home made food for school fund raisers, both traditional and a means of teaching children food skills, responsibility, generosity, and pride. This fabric of food interaction, all of it significant from raising children in a way in which they become active in their own community and home and community are directly linked, is being shredded. The benefit is to the commercial food companies who turn school fund raisers into mini-markets for themselves.

For those who might deny the homogenizing impact of laws that criminalize local use and customs around food, they need only look at what Walmart did to local businesses across the United States to appreciate the immense power of corporations to flatten human life. While the map is meant to show the stunning growth of a non-living entity (a corporation), it could be read as an image of a cancer taking hold, killing off American local businesses and true communities. And that non-living entity is one that would benefit hugely from the removal of Americans' rights over their own food.


A ban on public potlucks is a ban on picnics.

Above all, it is not incidental to speak of picnics. P
icnics are the very definition of human delight in food - a return to nature to enjoy friends and family through a shared bounty of food.

"Food safety" is n
ot a good fit with that glorious stuff Americans
have been intimate with since birth, that stuff which spells comfort and happiness, whose sauce runs down the chin from a luscious barbeque or that makes a creamy raw milk mustache on the upper lip or that babies get all over themselves, grinning in pleasure, or that lovers feed each other in front of the fire. It is the stuff which people believe with good reason, belongs to them by right of existence in the human race, by their simply being in the natural world with it.

Picnics are freedom, pulling us out of the control and commercialization imposed everywhere by industry. Picnics let us re-enter, however briefly, what we all came from, a time when we once used to live in nature. Formality is gone, children play, adults relax, we are in touch with the earth, sharing food from the earth. Picnics remind us that food is ours by natural right, an inseparable bond between earth, ourselves, and the divine. Picnics, at their heart, celebrate our belonging to life, to being in it.

Picnics give us joy.

For food corporations, even caring is canned

"Food safety" - using a caring sounding name - wrongs every person in the country, threatening their most essential human rights to food and to health. Though "food safety" threatens survival itself, it is packaged as "caring."

One of the largest and most reviled PR firms in the world urged their food industry clients to use "symbols that elicit hope, satisfaction and caring - not logic." "Caring" is thus a literal PR strategy. The CEO of that same firm was also the campaign strategist for the president who proposed the last major "food safety" effort and for the recent presidential candidate who proposed the creation of a giant, centralized "food safety" department. He also represents a corporation, now dealing in food, which is considered one of the worst, ethically, in the world.

The caring of "food safety" comes from such a background.

And it is in using "caring," that what is now befalling everyone breaks free of our previous notions of discrimination. For those wronging Americans are promoting the removal of the most crucial of all rights in life, as a good thing. While conservatives refer to government taking care of people as "nanny government," here is not the overzealous Mary Poppins who comes to mind, but a Mary Poppins costume disguising the likes of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

This radically new form of discrimination raises no red flags because it is naked of personal bias or negative feelings. It is very flat emotionally - no emotional bias, no bigotry, no hatred, no intolerance, no prejudice to react to. Instead, it is coldly calculated, long planned, intricately detailed power over all people in this country. It is an all inclusive, non-emotional "bias" as befits its source - a non-living thing. That thing seeks absolute control over food, at a level never before seen. While pumping out messages of caring for the public to respond to emotionally, behind the scenes, the "food safety" division of the government, run by an agent of a non-living entity, works to remove rights to food and denies that the public has even a right to their health.

From Primo Levi:

"In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities of impurities in the soil, too, as is known, if it is to be fertile. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are needed: Fascism does not want them, forbids them ..."

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