Friday, November 20, 2009

One of My Patented Rants

This was originally an email, and I've revised it slightly to fit the context of a blog entry. I decided this might be a benefit to others beyond the intended recipient. I invite criticism and questions on it.
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I have been a skeptic of the organic food movement for as long as I've been aware of it, and am only now recently beginning to understand the dramatic shift that our food system has undergone in the past fifty years. My thinking on these matters is still not wholly formed, as I have not come to solid conclusions on many things yet.

But, what I am beginning to learn, that what may look crazy by the majority of people, may in fact be completely sane. Not only that, but it may also be likely that the 'sane majority' may actually be the crazy ones. I mean this quite honestly, I'm not just being cute. The older I get, the more I read, and the more I observe reality, the more apparent it becomes that what most people accept as the real world is really a construct of how those in power wish things to be. I'll grant you that this sounds conspiratorial and perhaps a bit looney, but hear me out.

Think about how companies try to get your money--our money. Think about something as simple as a cake mix. Betty Crocker wants you to buy their cake mix rather than buy flour, sugar, and whatever else separately to make a homemade cake. Stouffer's and countless other companies want you to buy prepared frozen meals rather than make your own meals. I'm not even merely picking on just food companies here. Ours is a consumerist culture where value is only derived and the GDP only goes up when money changes hands--particularly when it is recorded for tax purposes. Wall Street and Washington want America and the world to perceive the American economy as strong and robust. To accomplish this, money must be spent and recorded to be included in statistics that in turn will generate confidence in the stock market and thereby the economy as a whole.

I talked to one of my aunt's a while ago about how her family lived prior to the '60s. It is an interesting story to hear. For the longest time family farmer's like my dad's family lived by and large without cash and without municipal trash service. Family's were self-sufficient, and could barter for those things they couldn't provide for themselves. They bought few things with actual money--something that began to change in the '60s. What changed? I'm not entirely sure, but clearly the consumerist culture began to accelerate and make it increasingly difficult for families to live without money.

Society no longer rewards self-sufficiency, it in fact punishes it quite severely. Taxes and regulations continue to push it to the margins of our society because such people bring little value to what society desires--money, wealth, GDP, stock markets, and most importantly taxes. They do not serve the interests of major corporations. They have rejected the industrial and consumerist culture that wants all farms to use huge expensive machinery, that cages animals in inhumane conditions feeding them food that would kill them without antibiotic intervention.

Better health is a byproduct of the world view shift, but it is not the sole reason I've begun to push for change. This is a matter of a spiritual mandate for good stewardship of the earth, its resources, and those resources under my influence.

I believe it is immoral what the industrial farming models are doing to our land, our animals, and our bodies. I believe it is immoral that our government works in collusion with industrial agricultural companies to eliminate small farmers who take stewardship seriously and are working to provide an alternative food system. I believe it is immoral that chickens are kept in cages so crowded that they cannot sit, that their beaks are clipped so it is easier to eat corn mash, that they wallow in their own feces, that they must walk over their dead until they decompose and fall through the caged floor. I believe it is immoral that cows are fed a diet of chicken manure, cow fat, and corn--all which would kill them were vets not kept on staff with antibiotics. I believe it is immoral for pigs to be kept in small cages where they are unable to nurse from their mother and as a result would bite off the tail of the pig in front of them were the tail not cut off at birth to eliminate the issue altogether. I believe it is immoral for farmer's to not rotate their crops and give their field a rest. I believe it is immoral for farmers to so over fertilize their land that it runs off into our streams and rivers polluting them and killing animals and vegetation in its wake. I believe it is immoral for animal feedlots to turn manure into a pollutant rather than compost it and use it as fertilizer. I could probably go on and on given the time and the inclination.

I feel as though blinders have been removed from my eyes and I am only beginning to see the true state of affairs in this world. We let ourselves become blinded to that which we do not want to see. We want comfort, we want ease. We want cheap food, we want to amuse ourselves with things other than the matters of life.

I recently read a book by Wendell Berry called The Unsettling of America which I would suggest reading. It is a remarkable book with insights that few raise and even fewer contemplate. The industrialization of our nation has not been the blessing that most would have you think. Our once agrarian society was marked by community--an interconnectedness that is foreign to most Americans--particularly urban and suburban America. Husbands and wives would work together, in tandem where they lived and with their children. Industrialization fractured this once connected system. Husbands and fathers left the home for most of the day, leaving all domestic matters to the wife and mother. Children became the domain of women alone, surely leading to the feminization of men. Women became justifiably dissatisfied with their seemingly subservient and isolated role. And men became disenchanted with meaningless and unfulfilling drudgery either at the factory or the office.

I'm not yet sure what to do with this argument, as it is difficult for me to refute it. But I definitely sympathize and would like to mend it somehow. I know it wasn't a utopia before, and I don't mean to imply that it was. But life was at least whole. Families were together and wholesome food was the norm, not the exception.

Most people have lost the sense of what real life is. Real life is family working together, preparing food together, eating together, and playing together. There is no shame in any of those things, nor should one be valued over the other. There is a connectedness between all of them. If one is stressed over the other something will be lost.

We moderns want the pleasure without the work. We want the food without the preparation (and cleanup). We should not be surprised that life become dysfunctional when we neglect the work or preparation.

These are the things going through my mind right now, and you're welcome to think about them too. They are important issues that should not be easily dismissed. Don't let your biases dismiss them. Think critically and logically about them. I dismissed them for too long myself and am only beginning to open my mind to these truths. Just because our society tells you something is true, and you want to believe it is true, doesn't mean it is true. Think about how truth was abused and isolated with the Israelites. There was a mere remnant that knew and believed the truth. Think how few are Christians. Truth is not welcome to most. It should not surprise us that truth is hard to find and hard to hold fast to. Think on how the prophets were abused and rejected. Think how Jesus himself was abused and rejected. When you realize these things, you will begin to realize that much of what you believe is false--not merely about food, but about life.

I don't expect, plan, or care to force anyone to believe or do these things I say. The whole problem is that the force of society and government has been brought to bear upon truth to diminish its power. I want to see a fair fight. I want those opposed to these ideas to deal with them with intellectual and spiritual integrity.

I have decided to no longer uncritically accept things as they are. I will no longer compromise principle in favor of expediency. If there is a viable alternative to that opposed to truth and righteousness, I will endeavor to pursue it. I recognize the road will be difficult and will likely result in mocking, but this is the call of the Christian, is it not?

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