April 1, 2012

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (In the Broadest Sense)


Today in the West and wherever globalization prevails we as food “consumers” have been torn from our natural context as food producers and eaters. This triggers what Michael Pollan calls “the omnivore’s dilemma”. An omnivore, while having the widest range of foods to choose from, is also exposed to special food dangers. He must rely on culture and tradition to know what’s good to eat. But today we suffer from a tremendous “national eating disorder” (i.e., global; quotes are from Pollan’s book). Wrenched from all cultural context, as an intended effect of corporatism, we’ve lost our cultural markers for how to eat, along with how to do just about anything else. (At best some of us are “specialists”. This means that integral, sustainable, organic networks are destroyed and replaced by a system of atomized, specialized cogs, each cog synthetically carrying out one isolated function.)
Our response is to thrash about, embracing unhealthy eating habits here, going in for fad diets there. We’re brainwashed into believing a highly inefficient, dangerously vulnerable industrial food system is actually efficient and robust. Along the way we’re assaulted by a corporatized pseudo-culture which seeks to scare, confuse, mislead, and harm us, to “exacerbate our anxieties about what to eat”.
It’s the epitome of decadence:
1. Stop doing what we know works, and start doing what doesn’t work.
2. Obsess on what to substitute for what we threw away.
This applies not just to food, but to every aspect of modern civilization. (The definition of modern: The period of the availability of cheap, plentiful fossil fuels, and the profligate energy consumption they temporarily afforded.)
The most ominous form of the omnivore’s dilemma is what to substitute after throwing away the cooperation which has always worked and switching to the profiteering, enclosure, and “competition” which doesn’t. Too many go the route of substituting, not the will to democracy, but fascist attitudes. Whether humanity will prevail or perish depends upon which of these wills is stronger.



  1. Nice post, Russ 🙂

    Comment by DualPersonality — April 3, 2012 @ 8:37 am

    • Thanks DP. 🙂

      Comment by Russ — April 3, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  2. USDA considering meat inspection privatization

    There is a comment period (link at link) for those who think it’s worth objecting to.

    Comment by Lidia17 — April 3, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    • Thanks Lidia. No surprise there.

      Of course the likes of Dailykos are in the business of getting people to think there’s some fundamental difference between the USDA and Big Ag, when the former is really an extension of the latter. But occasions like this can be used to help educate about that fact, as long as people don’t really think in terms of “reclaiming” the people’s USDA or something.

      Comment by Russ — April 4, 2012 @ 5:39 am

  3. I think I’m detecting a shift in younger people away from store bought to home grown. My step son and his wife even mentioned the desire to do some small-scale farming complete with chickens and pigs. I can’t really do it here in suburbia, but lately I’ve been baking my own no-kneed bread and it’s so much better than anything store bought. No preservatives or sugar, either.

    Comment by antiks72 — April 5, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    • You might be able to do chickens and pigs in suburbia. Lots of towns already “allow” it, and one of the few good trends in legalism I’ve heard of is the growing number of towns which are liberalizing their laws regarding this. (I’ve always said that sometimes within-the-system stuff can achieve things at the local level.)

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  4. […] for regionally adapted agroecology. Centralized seed vaults like Svalbard represent in principle a crackpot “solution” of decadence, even leaving aside any likely corruption. . Participatory breeders can receive important […]

    Pingback by Food Sovereignty | Volatility — July 29, 2015 @ 2:27 am

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