Volatility

February 13, 2012

Regressive Attitudes in the Food Movement

Filed under: Food and Farms, Reformism Can't Work, Relocalization — Russ @ 3:18 am

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Even among those who understand and care about the basic issues, there’s a common way of looking at things which combines reformism, appeasement, historical ignorance, and acceptance of Status Quo Lie brainwashing. Here’s a typical example.
 

From my experience in reading extensively about raw milk, visiting raw milk farms, and listening to a wide variety of viewpoints, I can see benefits to supporting at least two levels of raw milk accessibility.

1) The foundation should be small to medium sized farms that either operate herd shares or sell and distribute directly to consumers. These farms need little or no regulation in my opinion because if they want to stay in business, they have to please their customers and cannot afford to provide an inferior product. At this level, the scale of risk is small because each individual farm has a relatively small consumer base. Voluntary certification would likely work well for these operations and their customers.

2) I would also like to see support for medium to large operations that maintain pastured herds that are primarily or exclusively grass-fed and can potentially supply retail sales of clean raw milk for large markets. At this level, the scale of risk is large, certification is critical, and regulation is inevitable. However, the regulation needs to be realistic and efficient for the goal of minimizing health risk without incurring unnecessary burdensome costs.

I’m hoping that RAWMI will be able to support both of these levels of operation as much as possible. The political climate is different in every state, so the efforts need to be customized and optimized to seek the greatest benefit for the least expenditure. I believe both of these levels of operation are mutually beneficial and can work together well to satisfy the full range of customer demands.

I’m afraid we are stuck with the industrial food supply system that has been built over the last 50 years by consumers voting with their dollars to buy cheap convenient food that tastes good, even though it may not necessarily be healthy. The best we can hope is to maintain an alternative local and direct farm to family food supply, including raw milk, for those who want it. I’m encouraged that a lot more people seem to be voting with dollars to support farmers markets, raw milk, organic, non-GMO, and local food production. We need to encourage this trend, though I don’t ever expect it to return to what it was a 100 years ago. Too many people will continue to buy cheap convenient low-quality food for us ever to end the dominance of the now well established industrial food supply system. Our best hope is to carve and keep a strong and viable though likely niche market.

 
1. We already know that if you have (2), it will see itself as pro-corporate, pro-big operation, and will act as a weapon vs. (1). We already know this, yet everywhere you look you see people like this who want to keep trying the same thing which has already failed over and over, expecting a different result. Talk about the definition of insanity.
 
The fact is that a conservative (he may be a “progressive” conservative) who can think only of clinging to what little crumbs he has left completely fails to understand the situation. He thinks we can stand still where we are, gnawing those crumbs. But the fact, proven by all the events of the last 60 years, is that we’re on a vector here. What little is left of this center cannot hold. There’s only two possible outcomes, two “strange attractors”: total fascism, or full-scale revolution. Expressions like this comment end up supporting the pro-fascist vector.
 
2. There was never any such “consumer vote”. Our food system is the result of 60 years and more of aggressive top-down planned economic policy. Consumers never “voted” with dollars or anything else. There’s never been a real democratic election on this or any other aspect of neoliberalism any more than we ever really voted for the two-party sham system itself. Again we see the fundamental dishonesty and cowardice of the conservative and “progressive” conservative outlook.
 
They’re also completely ignorant about energy and economics, and how on both points the “growth” system is unsustainable and doomed to collapse. We may soon collapse to totalitarian feudalism, but the sort of “capitalism” these conservatives worship as a cargo cult will cease to exist. Only the simulation of it still exists even now.
 
The only solution is the full relocalization of our economies and polities, and therefore building a direct action movement toward this goal. Nothing else will suffice, nor is anything else worthy of us as democratic citizens and human beings.

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16 Comments

  1. Consumer or consumed?

    I just got to the hotel after a long flight to Asia, during which I had a chance to see a documentary called “The Lightbulb Conspiracy,” which used the example of a lightbulb cartel to demonstrate the rise of planned obsolescence and “consumerism.” The very term “consumer” collapses the political power and sovereignty of citizen labor and reforms the masses into passive acceptors of the few options the “market” chooses to provide. It also turns Marx’s rhetoric on its head by recasting the real producers as consumers, and the rentiers as producers. A truly brilliant bit of propaganda.

    One of the more interesting interviews was with an industrial engineer who fully understands that planned obsolescence is wasteful and not sustainable, but who replies, essentially, “but that’s what creates all the jobs.” And what are the jobs but an opportunity to make enough money so that you can get access to enough credit to rent an item during its designated useful life, which is what really happens when you buy a product that is designed to break? Who really benefits from this kind of system?

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — February 13, 2012 @ 4:19 am

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Tao.

      That’s exactly right, that the “consumer” notion of humanity is meant to replace any concept of a creative, active, consciously productive humanity with a passive, dependent, alienated mindset. I was just thinking also of Marx’s discussion of worker alienation, how the goal is to separate us from our work, to get us to see it as the rightful property of “owners” and “bosses”, and ourselves as passive, stupid cogs who don’t really produce anything except under this top-down direction. Instead, we’re merely there to “consume”. (And the system sees to it that we maximize our fear and stress that we won’t have enough money to qualify for the barest necessary consumption. This in turn maximizes our rat-race “productivity” and conformity at the workplace and in the political space.

      And then there’s the whole “employment” model itself. This too is meant to get us to see our rightful work as the property of elites, who portion it out to us in the form of “jobs”. As that lackey you mentioned says, this brainwashing into the lie that employment system is some law of nature, and even desirable, and that the best we can do is maximize “job creation”, is another purpose of it. This in turn is used to justify every crime, from trickle-down tax policy to environmental destruction to the obsolescence scam discussed here (massive consumer fraud and environmental crime).

      Comment by Russ — February 13, 2012 @ 6:20 am

  2. I don’t quite believe the large, pastured operation idea is really feasible, anyway. Isn’t the whole CAFO system based on the desire to produce large quantities with a minimum of effort? I’m certainly not a farmer, but it sounds as though while in some ways traditional farming along with nature is easier and less expensive (think skyrocketing grain prices), in other ways it is much more labor intensive and thus more costly. To do this on a large scale plus paying for all the resulting inspections, certifications,etc.sounds impractical to me.
    Of course, I may be overlooking something here.

    I don’t agree with the writer (of the comment, not the blog!) that this “cheap food”tastes good-generally, it’s rather tasteless until heavily seasoned, and the textures are unimpressive as well.

    Comment by DualPersonality — February 13, 2012 @ 6:06 am

    • I agree, it’s hard to picture this kind of hybrid, a large operation which adheres faithfully to sound farming practices. Industrial organic, for example, is a scam because even though it may use less fossil fuel directly and produce less direct pollution on the big farm, it makes up for that as soon as its produce enters the globalization network. Then it partakes of everything from fracking and tar sands extraction at one end to plane and truck pollution and big box store ravages at the other. Not very organic, is it?

      Meanwhile, CAFOs themselves, even with their massive government subsidies, are not in fact more cost-effective. They’re inferior in that sense to mid-size operations, and no better than small ones. Their economic viability is based mostly on vertical integration and market muscle. So it’s hard to see how larger-size pasture operations could be viable unless they too go the racketeering route.

      Comment by Russ — February 13, 2012 @ 6:29 am

  3. Yeah, this is obviously nonsense. DP makes a good point re: labour inputs. The entire history of American “scientific” agriculture has been an effort to render agriculture legible to the state while simultaneously minimising labour inputs by replacing them with oil (replace harvest workers with combines, replace cultivators with herbicides, etc). There’s no way to have a “large scale” labour intensive animal operation that doesn’t eventually collapse itself into a CAFO. Industrial food system “won” over local food production by virtue of enormous subsidies, financial, social, and environmental. Anyone who doesn’t recognise that is either dissembling or doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    Comment by paper mac — February 13, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    • render agriculture legible to the state

      Anyone who’s followed the controversies at the Complete Patient blog has seen how Mark McAfee, as part of his attempt to institutionalize his RAWMI certification organization (in itself a “legibility” gambit), appease the state, and legalize raw milk as part of the corporate system, has tried to cajole and bully small operators of herdshares into joining the process under their real names and addresses, agree to greater state licensing, etc. So there’s a perfect example of the larger producer wanting to make everything far more legible to the system.

      BTW, is “legible” jargon? I never heard that term before I saw you using it (from Scott?). Is it better than visible, transparent, etc.?

      Not off topic but not directly on topic, if I recall correctly it was you with whom I once had a mild difference of opinion on Chris Hedges. If so, what do you think of his recent performance?

      I’m not saying that to stick up for black bloc tactics, which I’ve always thought weren’t well suited to this context. But Hedges:

      1. Condemns them on principle, and not purely on practical grounds.

      2. Uses fascist language (“cancer”, etc.) to condemn fellow activists. But we should never condemn those on our own side, no matter how misguided. We should rationally criticize, always placing things in the right context.

      3. Is terrified by the exact same actions he applauded in Greece, once those actions come closer to home. That’s classic radical chic liberal behavior. The only novelty here is that it’s less racist than normal. Usually they defend “riots” and “violence” among non-whites overseas but condemn it within the West.

      If it wasn’t you with whom I had that exchange, then never mind if you don’t care about this.

      Comment by Russ — February 14, 2012 @ 6:33 am

      • Russ and gang, if you haven’t read any of John McMurty’s series, over at global research (dot) ca, I think you may find them of interest.
        I haven’t seen Hedges respond to Graeber or any of his other criticizers. At least Taibbi had the good sense to say he was mistaken on the worth fullness of the AG *settlement*.

        Comment by tawal — February 14, 2012 @ 11:03 am

      • “Legible” is Scott’s term, yeah.

        The back-and-forth about Hedges was with me, yeah. I don’t know what the comments you’re referring to are, but Hedges has been promoting peaceful, respectful behaviour at protests and condemning violence for a long time. The vast majority of the criticism I’ve seem levelled against him stems from a failure to detect nuance in his writing (I’m not accusing you of this, it’s just a pattern I’ve seen) which is exacerbated by the way those criticisms propagate out in the blogosphere (out of context quotes for the most part). I also see a lot of criticism that he’s insufficiently insurrectionary or whatever, forgetting that he’s a MLK Christian and a Landauer anarchist with extensive experience with actual violence both in the ghettos of America (he ran a church in a black ghetto I think in NYC) and in years spent in warzones around the world. I’m quite happy to give him a pass for condemning violent behaviour among privileged white anarchists in the West, he’s one of the few people I can think of offhand who I accept as having a principled anti-violence stand that rejects it as a tactical decision in all but the most dire cases. I’m not particularly invested in defending him, so I’ll leave it at that.

        Comment by paper mac — February 14, 2012 @ 11:36 am

      • Ok, I didn’t realise this was something that happened recently. I just saw the article and yeah, it’s pretty problematic. I get the feeling Hedges is responding to attacks on him and Jensen from those quarters in an emotional way, which is sort of weird, he should have just ignored that stuff. Hedges gave an interview about the piece here:

        http://www.truth-out.org/interview-chris-hedges-about-black-bloc/1328799148

        and I find a number of his responses totally inadequate. Although I agree with his overall sentiment (black bloc tactics are the security state’s wet dream and accomplish nothing), the execution of his article was journalistically inexcusable.

        Comment by paper mac — February 14, 2012 @ 11:52 am

      • I can reciprocate the unawareness of something by wondering what the Jensen thing is about. I saw a quote about that which I didn’t understand. The one thing about Endgame I found utterly tedious and stupid by the end was his insistence that individual acts of sabotage are the only truly worthwhile actions, while he relegated movement-building and most direct action to some picayune fellow-traveler “support” category.

        So I’d think Jensen would be more likely to be ranged among the “black bloc” and considered a “cancer” by the likes of Hedges. But it sounds Jensen’s position’s been reversed here. What’s it all about?

        As for Hedges, all I’ll add is that it’s absurd to say the Greeks are in a much more parlous situation than we are. Another year or two and there we’ll be. So the radically different (principled) point of view on such action is glaring.

        I didn’t know anyone was attacking him before he published his “cancer” piece.

        I’m sorry that I assumed you knew what I was talking about. I spend too much time reading blogs, and sometimes I assume others are similarly saturated. You were probably doing more worthwhile practical stuff. 🙂

        Comment by Russ — February 14, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

      • Thanks for the recommendation, tawal.

        I haven’t read Taibbi in ages. Still tending the liberal fences (very real fences, as far as what’s to be considered acceptable advocacy) as far as prescriptions, I see.

        That puts Hedges in a better perspective. I assume Hedges wouldn’t waste a word in the first place even wondering if an “AG settlement”, i.e. a settlement with gangsters, could be good even in principle, let alone in practice.

        (More like between two groups of gangsters.)

        Comment by Russ — February 14, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

      • “I can reciprocate the unawareness of something by wondering what the Jensen thing is about. I saw a quote about that which I didn’t understand. The one thing about Endgame I found utterly tedious and stupid by the end was his insistence that individual acts of sabotage are the only truly worthwhile actions, while he relegated movement-building and most direct action to some picayune fellow-traveler “support” category.

        So I’d think Jensen would be more likely to be ranged among the “black bloc” and considered a “cancer” by the likes of Hedges. But it sounds Jensen’s position’s been reversed here. What’s it all about?”

        This doesn’t make any sense to me either. I was really surprised to see Jensen, in Hedges’ original “Cancer” piece, argue that the movement couldn’t go violent yet because it hadn’t gone through the motions of system-reform yet, which is just absolutely baffling. The only thing I can conclude from this is that Jensen’s views on ideologically motivated violence are at best inconsistent. I think there was a video posted on here at one point in the comments of a talk he gave in which he basically said that peaceful activists have no right to condemn violent ones bombing cell phone towers, or something fairly strange along those lines (pipelines, mountaintop removal sites, ok, I can understand and even support under some circumstances, but cell phone towers?? And then he goes on to criticise the black bloc for not choosing their targets appropriately!). I don’t really know how you walk that back to “but only before we’ve exhausted peaceful reform activity first”.

        “As for Hedges, all I’ll add is that it’s absurd to say the Greeks are in a much more parlous situation than we are. Another year or two and there we’ll be. So the radically different (principled) point of view on such action is glaring.

        I didn’t know anyone was attacking him before he published his “cancer” piece.”

        Yeah, I think Hedges is on shaky ground here. As far as attacks on him, I’ve had arguments with various self-described insurrectionary communists/anarchists about Hedges, and it’s almost always over Hedges’ advocating for Gandhi-style peaceful non-resistance. So he’ll say things like “don’t be disrespectful to the police, because it makes it more difficult to peel them off from the security state” and people read that as obsequiousness to power. I guess I find it really galling to hear Western “revolutionaries” who have never handled a firearm in their lives and wouldn’t know what to do with one if they had to, criticise someone with a pretty bad case of PTSD from all the actual-factual armed conflict he’s been in for advocating strictly peaceful tactics. It’s almost always white men and I can’t read it as anything other than macho posturing of the declining bourgeois, really.

        I’m sorry that I assumed you knew what I was talking about. I spend too much time reading blogs, and sometimes I assume others are similarly saturated. You were probably doing more worthwhile practical stuff.

        Well, I should have been wrapping up my PhD but I’ve actually been spending most of my time lately reading Islamic/Sufi theology and jurisprudence, lol. One thing that it’s made me realise is that liberalism is so much a part of my mental thought patterns and of our collective language that it’s almost invisible until you’re presented with a value system that’s totally outside of that rubric. In any case, there are some really interesting ideas about legal pluralism and so on in Islamic jurisprudence that I think are worth taking a look at. If you have time I strongly recommend checking out Sherman Jackson:

        Comment by paper mac — February 14, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

      • That’s a good point. While there are plenty of worthwhile targets whose destruction or damage could inflict real pain on the system, cell phone towers sure ain’t it.

        Indeed, Jensen’s whole argument is the exact same one that’s been disproven a hundred times since the 1800s: that this kind of “symbolic” destruction of rather run-of-the-mill targets will somehow galvanize the people into rebellion.

        Meanwhile, obsessing on destroying cell towers is an almost perfect analogue for the most frivolous, self-indulgent window-smashing which is allegedly characteristic of the “black bloc” (although as the critics of Hedges’ shoddy journalism lost no time pointing out, the main window-smash incident he cited involved people who weren’t masked at all).

        Thanks for the video. I’ll check it out when I find time.

        Comment by Russ — February 15, 2012 @ 6:19 am

  4. Thanks Russ and paper Mac for the continual education. I find myself on the side of Debs whereby an imprisoned person is one whom societal injustice has been imposed upon. I don’t mind picking up a kali, but our betters would drop du on us even if we were squatting on nancis sidewalk so we best consider our winning tactics.

    Comment by tawal — February 15, 2012 @ 4:20 am

    • You’re welcome tawal. Is “picking up a kali” idiomatic? I’m familiar with the goddess, but not that term.

      Comment by Russ — February 15, 2012 @ 6:23 am

      • ak forti svn

        Comment by tawal — February 15, 2012 @ 10:01 am


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