Sunday, February 26, 2012

Food and Capitalism - First Thoughts

I've been thinking about food and capitalism a lot lately. To be fair, I've thought a lot about them both in the past three years or so, but as of late my mind has been bursting. I've been hesitant to blog about this subject, however, knowing full well I'd never be able to get my thoughts out in a coherent and concise post. It was suggested I could write multiple posts on the subject, and so here I am, writing a rather meandering prelude to my thoughts on food and capitalism.

I hate labels like 'communist', 'socialist' and 'capitalist'. They serve only to associate us with limited, human-created systems and then, depending on one's opinion of such systems, to make conclusions about that person that are equally limited in scope and depth. I've had several people tell me I am a 'socialist'. Some have said it with a slight tinge of condensation, others in a matter-of-fact way, as if this was fact, rather than perception. I can understand how they'd come to such a conclusion, given my rather vocal distaste for capitalism, but the truth is, in a Venn diagram of 'isms' by which we might structure human activities - political and economic - I don't subscribe to any of the ones that most societies recognize.

If pressed to self-label, I suppose I'd call myself a 'Mother Naturist'. In my opinion, the most well-designed, generous, self-sustaining system for maintaining life on this planet is the one we call the ecosystem. Throughout much of human history, however, we have tried with impressive force to improve upon it, to subvert it, to exploit it for our own short-term benefits. Despite our great efforts we have been entirely unsuccessful in our attempts to improve up nature's systems. I'm sure there are plenty that will argue with me and point to particular instances where human ingenuity has triumphed over nature, such as eliminating the threat of certain diseases or increasing the output of food from an acreage of land. I am not going to argue that in some respects these could be called triumphs unto themselves, but they are hardly indicative of our capacity as a species to establish a way of living beyond the constraints of nature in a sustainable and healthy way. Some would argue that since humans are a part of the ecosystem, everything we choose to do is 'natural', but come on, that's a bit of a stretch isn't it? And yet we refuse to give up, we refuse to yield to the brilliant design of nature, we refuse to recognize our own inadequacies and limitations as a species. We must prevail. Is it our ego that insists on persevering even in the face of so many signs that we are failing miserably? Is it because that we fear relinquishing whatever facade of control we are clinging to so much that we are willing to go on believing we can control nature and the future?

While I believe all of the 'isms' created by humans have and/or are destined to implode on themselves, it is Capitalism which I am most familiar with and it is Capitalism which I believe holds the greatest threat to the current and future inhabitants of this planet. And when I speak of Capitalism, I am referring to the current incarnations of Capitalism. As I have already noted, I do not believe any human-created system can trump Mother Nature, but I do believe that if we embrace nature's self-sustaining systems, we can find ways to not only live in harmony but to also enhance these systems.

The flaws of capitalism are evident in various facets of life, but I think that it is the inter-relationship between capitalism and food that best illustrates the limitations of this human-created system and the unsustainable practices that capitalism encourages in its thirst for the almighty and immediate dollar.

No comments: