March 30, 2012

What Is Organic? (2 of 2)


Earlier I wrote about how the term and concept organic applies to a network of relations and vectors, a holism, rather than to a discrete, stagnant item which can be removed from or plugged into any context at will.
In part 1 I focused on the use of the concept to describe food production and distribution. I emphasized that organic has to mean maximizing sustainability, resiliency, interdependency rather than dependency. This implies, even if it doesn’t directly demand, social and economic justice, since any extractive hierarchy reduces our sustainability. By definition any parasite reduces this. It definitely means minimizing dependency on fossil fuels as such (and not just fossil fuels in the direct farming inputs), which means that globalization and the organic are mutually exclusive. It excludes any significant environmental destructiveness (this too means it must minimize fossil fuels in general). 
I’ll add here that organic has to mean the abolition and transcendence of the artificial producer/consumer dichotomy. Even within the food sovereignty movement this dichotomy is often insensibly taken for granted. But in truth these concepts can never be separated. One way or another they meld and define one another. Any producer also consumes, and if she’s induced or forced to separate her production from her consumption, that actually removes her producer quality and renders her a system cog, a passive and dependent consumer only. Passive consumption in general is meant to render us stagnant, and this in turn makes possible the calcification of the entire economy and polity, under corporate control. The goal of all consumerism is to eradicate all that’s organic and human and replace it with sterile conformity to tyranny.
By contrast, where we stop being passive consumers and become full economic citizens, as much as possible democratically producing our own food, and at least being fully active in knowing our food and those who produce it, we regain control over our lives and render ourselves far more resilient and sustainable, and far less vulnerable to any threat. (I’ll add that this can help reclaim our political democracy.) The producer who is organically enmeshed in such a sovereign food network is himself more resilient and less vulnerable, since he’s now part of a natural network rather than being a fungible, replaceable, expendable cog. (I’ll add in passing for now that this applies to dependency on all system concepts – the corporate form, property, legality, contracts, anything which is fraudulently purported to be part of nature but is actually a tool and weapon of an artificial, hierarchical system based on Might Makes Right.) 
This leads to another general point, that the organic is mutually exclusive with corporatism. Corporatism, even leaving aside the subjective greed and malevolence of its cadres (although this too is dire), necessarily means the maintenance of large parasitic hierarchies (the corporations themselves, the corporations as extensions of government, the government as bagman and thug for these corporations). It also necessarily means globalization, since profit extraction (the absolute imperative for any corporation) cannot function other than within an infinitely expanding growth economy. The only limit* to this is the limits of the globe itself, so corporatism must if possible expand to completely fill out this limit.
[*Soon I’ll be writing about how GMOs, as an imperialist phenomenon, are intended to as it were generate a second globe for the corporate rampage.]
This leads us to a broader vision of the organic. I’ll just mention a few examples.
1. Time banking has to be seeking the holism of a system free of money. Time banks must be envisioned as seeds of a thriving forest, not as potted flowers to be put out in the harsh cold of the command money economy.
So organic time banking and organic co-production, since it can’t sit still amid this harsh environment, must be on a vector away from and against it. For example, anywhere there’s a time bank and an Occupy action, these must seek to complement one another. If there’s no local/regional Occupy, the time bank should try to help get one going.
2. I’ve written before about how the commons is an organic thing which depends upon its environment, and the basic intellectual fraud of plunking the concept in the midst of a predatory, mercenary world, as in the Big Lie of the “tragedy of the commons”.
Just as it proves nothing about the inherent sustainability of a commons where an artificially dominant corporatism assaults and destroys it, so anyone who wants to uphold and reclaim the commons must necessarily fight to eradicate corporatism, as the two are mutually exclusive. One or the other must perish completely.
3. In the modern world, the individual is ripped out of all context, atomized, dissolved within a mass, but is still called a “citizen”. He’s even lectured by the system about his “free will” and moral agency. But in truth an organic citizen must be a full political and economic participant, fully active and self-directing within the network of community relations and vectors, enjoying the full benefit of her labor and her political sovereignty. 
David Graeber wrote extensively about this in his book Debt. This is part of how money systems were first imposed on what were previously organic economies. As I wrote here:

First, and for the vast majority of humanity’s natural history, organic communities based themselves upon close social networks, moral relations, and the sense of community obligation, including in transactions among individual community members.

Then, nascent elites, previously basing their power on direct violence and plunder, saw how they could accelerate class stratification and magnify their power by sublimating this violence by formalizing exchange and debt. To do this, they came up with money, and began measuring transactions and recording debts based upon it.

Similarly, Hobbes took the modern “civilized” individual, i.e. one domesticated into fear and mercenary greed, pictured this monster in the absence of the overawing state power, how “nasty and brutish” such persons would be under those circumstances, and then fraudulently called this the state of nature, when in fact such an atomized, distorted hominid has nothing whatsoever in common with an organic human being living within a natural economy. This fraud is at the core of the bogus “competition” ideology, which is in fact 100% artificial, and indeed requires massive propaganda, bribery, threats, fear, and violence, in order for it to make any headway against our natural humanity at all. In nature, organic human beings are cooperative.
(This is another reason the organic is mutually exclusive with corporatism, capitalism, all fetishes of competition.) 
4. Voting within electoralism, even if you admire it, could make sense only within the holism of an active, self-educating, fully informed, participatory, vigilant citizenry. This was a core principle of the first stage of the American Revolution.
But to render the individual passive, ignorant, benighted (including by systematic top-down secrecy on the part of government and corporations), “participating” only on election day, and otherwise conformist and asleep, is to render him the political equivalent of a passive consumer. The voting ideology and consumerism go hand in hand. They are identical in concept, intention, and effect.
This lays bare the fraud of calling the members of neoliberal systems “citizens”. The term organic citizen would be redundant, while to call the atomized, passive individual a “citizen” because he technically has and sometimes exercises the franchise, is a typical lie of liberals and conservatives. This is one of the many ways they join to conspire against democracy and humanity, and on behalf of corporatism.
5. There’s lots of policy ideas like MMT, the VAT, renewable energy subsidies, cap and trade, which could in theory be constructive within a holistic reform environment, if such a thing were still possible. As parts of a vast and vigorous reform front these could be good ideas.
But for any of these, you can’t wrench it out of all context, synthesize a version to be enacted within a corporatized environment, and expect it to be anything but another extractive scam in practice. (During the “debate” over the health racket bailout, professional liars like Krugman liked to compare Obamacare to structures in Switzerland and the Netherlands. As if there can be any comparison between structures which gradually developed in welfare state environments, and tossing the same thing into a gangland shooting gallery, which is what Obama has done.)
This is true of most aspects of “progressive” prescriptions. They’re non-holistic, and therefore fruitless at best, more often fraudulent and collaborationist.
6. In the end, every kind of reformism is a version of the same mentality which would take apart a natural whole food, dismantle it into a few of its identifiable discrete nutrients, declare it to be the sum of these, and proceed to synthesize each, toward a regime of processed, enriched, fortified, synthetic “food”.
The result is corporate enclosure, malnutrition, obesity, toxification, disease, impoverishment, starvation, and death.
The same is true of the entire economic and political realm. It’s true of society itself. We need a truly organic polity, an organic economy, an organic society.


  1. […] human context. In part two I’ll expand upon this and extend it to other examples.   Part 2 here.     Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Comments […]

    Pingback by What Is Organic? (Part 1) « Volatility — March 30, 2012 @ 3:33 am

  2. I read this post because it is about a subject which interests me greatly : how we perceive “organic” at this point in time.
    Should I say… NATURALLY we are in the midst of fierce ideological battles to.. redefine the meaning of the word “nature”, and our relationship with.. HER ??
    These battles are inevitable to the extent that it is becoming increasingly apparent to most of us (at least confusedly…) that our current expansionist ideology intends to, ahem.. colonize the entire planet, and extend our dominion over every conceivable part and parcel of our surroundings.
    A while back.. we stuck up them thar fences. Now… well, we are busy planting flags, and selling ? allotting ? anything and everything that moves or doesn’t.
    The consequence of this is the elimination of a possible exteriority in nature. Something.. OUTSIDE of “us”.
    Eliminating nature as outside throws a kink in our ability to think, even, as no exteriority, well… means no differences, and no differences means no language, and no thinking, either. In my opinion.
    Now… can we possibly conceive of this rather catastrophic situation as being natural ?
    Indeed we can, since the very existence of cancer is natural. WE insist on calling it pathological, but who says that pathological phenomena are not natural ? The very idea of disease has subtle ideological underpinnings that we COULD be examining, if we chose to do so.

    On Toby’s blog, I just mentioned that I think we have not taken the full measure of the infinite variety of relationships possible within the NATURAL world.
    According to what we can observe… in nature, parasitic relations are natural. (The opposition between “natural” and “artificial” is perhaps… artificial ?)
    We may make moral judgments on them, but that does not stop them from being.. natural.
    I observe daily the myriad ways in which we actively (and not passively…) surrender our individual sovereignty ? to another human being, or more importantly, to a system, mostly due to our unwillingness to think, and make choices.
    This behavior is inevitable…
    That said, I agree with you that we can reclaim individual POWER and sovereignty, a first step, by paying attention to where our food comes from.
    I even think that this issue is “le nerf de la guerre” as we say in France, since WE ARE OUR FOOD. What we put inside. Can’t get more organic than that…
    We need to reinvest our food, through our recognition that we are our food, and that accepting to pay MORE MONEY FOR IT, in certain cases, and not sticking the food budget at the very bottom, underneath the high tech budget, means also recognizing its.. value ? in a world that is humming to the tune of idolatry of filthy lucre…

    To me, perceiving the organicity of our social structures ? the way we interact with the world ? entails recognizing how, in our thinking, we are constantly moving between the emotional imperative to incarnate our ideas in flesh and blood men and women (like you fustigate the bad guys…) in order to put something concrete before our eyes, and relate to it ? physically, and our need to find permanence in abstract ideas, in order to transmit continuity from one generation to the next.

    In short, our social systems are heavily determined to BE organic. We foster our alienation, however, through our failure to perceive this organicity.
    Perhaps we will cease behaving like a cancer on this planet when we can once again, perceive this organicity ?
    Dixit me, and.. Toby…

    One last thing : it has become fashionable to dump on competition these days. In fall, and spring, a little bird’s eye view observation of our natural world should allow us to see that competition has its place in our world, and that trying to label it “artificial” or “unnatural”, well, is another symptom of alienation.
    Competition is invigorating within certain limits. Like cooperation, maybe ??

    Comment by Debra — March 31, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  3. Not that you needed any more evidence but…. http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-state-of-michigan-stop-the-imminent-slaughter-of-heritage-pigs-on-small-farms-in-michigan?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=autopublish#

    There has to be a pigs slaughtering pigs joke in there somewhere. Seriously, how long before it’s illegal to have a potted plant on your front porch? Get your food at Walmartsanto or face the consequences.

    Comment by Pete — March 31, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    • I’ve never seen anyone say one’s own plants should actually be banned, but once in awhile someone slips up and is a little too honest about the system’s real intent. Thus once in awhile a politician will say that people should be taxed on their personal gardens.

      And why not? If you subscribe to the prevailing jurisprudence of the commerce clause, then it follows that personal gardens should be taxed, since they affect commerce in general.


      Anyone who supports the Obama* Stamp mandate, the health racket poll tax, can’t coherently oppose such a tax on gardens. It stems from the exact same logic.

      [*Now also owned by the Republicans, since they came back to power in 2011.]

      Comment by Russ — March 31, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

      • Fine with me. I’ve grown a number of vegetable plants where the cost of the inputs exceeds the value of the output. Let me write it off.

        Comment by tawal — March 31, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

      • That’s always been the case for me as well. 🙂

        Comment by Russ — April 1, 2012 @ 3:30 am

    • I signed and passed it on. Thanks Pete.

      Comment by tawal — March 31, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

      • You’re welcome. I signed it too. Every time I sign one of these I feel like I’m joining a “no fly list” but what the hell…we got nuthin’ to lose at this point.

        Comment by Pete — April 1, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  4. Get Ready, Get Ready, for the Big Payback:


    Comment by tawal — April 1, 2012 @ 3:59 am

    • Tawal, you might enjoy these “extremely important” short films about food (peas and wontons). These were created to lighten moods.

      Comment by Pete — April 1, 2012 @ 9:44 am

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