An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Politics of Food




"The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are whole." - Ani de Franco.

The battle to gain control of world oil is directly connected to the battle for food.

"We now practice farming as an extractive industry supported by other extractive industries: mining topsoil and fossil water, growing only a handful of predetermined "high value" crops and discarding/exterminating all other cultivars, and seeking "best price" in markets regardless of distance and appropriateness (if it makes more money to grow palm trees for biofuel to ship to wealthy customers overseas, then by all means destroy peasant smallholdings that produced food for local people, or forest that maintained water circulation and climate stability, in order to establish massive monocrop palm oil plantations)." - Stan Goff, "The Politics of Food is Politics"

Work is one of creation's original joys. It's degradation into the capitalist work day, in which man's labor is distorted from one his deepest fulfillments into a tool of profit for a tiny ruling elite lies at the root of today's moral degradation. Modern agriculture is that portion of the system of global capitalism in which this degradation is most open and visible. Instead of a system that has as its primary goal feeding the earth's inhabitants with nourishing sustenance, the purpose of this system is to use food as an instrument of domination.

"We buy food at the supermarket; so we don't generally experience -- directly -- the association between fuel and food. The connection, however, is every bit as central in the current food production regime as the link between aircraft engines and their fuel. Industrial monocropping for global distribution is 'neither tooled nor organized for oil at $120-a-barrel.' It is not just the far-flung food transport network (much of it refrigerated and fuel-hungry) that creates the intimate dependency on oil; it is the whole scheme called industrial (or corporate, or 'modern') agriculture." - Stan Goff, "The Politics of Food is Politics"

Hunger is the ultimate weapon, a coercive force much more effective than bombs and guns. One of the unquestionable, almost unthinkable, assumptions underlying the discourse about the "food shortage" is that it's divinely ordained that human beings be controlled through abject dependence on money to obtain food.

"With the rise of industrial capitalism (itself built on intensive colonial extraction) these premises became definitive for all human activities in the dominant imperial culture -- including those where such premises would be more than merely dysfunctional, they would (eventually, if adhered to rigorously) be fatal for their practitioners. We now practice farming as an extractive industry supported by other extractive industries: mining topsoil and fossil water, growing only a handful of predetermined "high value" crops and discarding/exterminating all other cultivars, and seeking "best price" in markets regardless of distance and appropriateness (if it makes more money to grow palm trees for biofuel to ship to wealthy customers overseas, then by all means destroy peasant smallholdings that produced food for local people, or forest that maintained water circulation and climate stability, in order to establish massive monocrop palm oil plantations)." - Stan Goff, "The Politics of Food is Politics"

The hunger control mechanism of global agriculture has been knocked loose. Food riots throughout the world portend a new phase in which the pressure of sheer need must lead either to increased coercion through state terror or the beginning of ecological reform. The technocrats can't disguise hunger, though they can cordon off the hungry as "surplus humanity", an externality to be efficiently expended. "The capitalist/extractive/technomanagerial system can only prescribe more of the same medicine that is killing us... or new medicines to treat the symptoms of the last medicine. This is not a metaphorical treadmill, but a downward spiral... and there is a bottom." - Stan Goff, "The Politics of Food is Politics"

And on that bottom, hope resides. We can resist global hunger control through growing our own food and breaking our dependency on the money economy. To those who reply that this resistance appears quixotic and doomed, I reply in the words of Daniel Berrigan, "Human rights, honor, work, a human future, were as often as not denied them; they were the losers, defeated, brought down. Their refusal of violence was their undoing, the outcome was as simple it was brutal. The machine of the world crushed them. Or so it seemed.

That it only seemed so, that another outcome took place, is the theme of the psalm.
Which is to say: the just were (are) the seed of a new creation; the building blocks, indeed the builders, of the New Jerusalem." - Daniel Berrigan, Uncommon Prayer

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