Food for politics

Every hierarchical society has depended on the labour of an underclass – slaves or peasants, or both. This tends to go with a reliance on cereal crops, or potatoes – cheap carbohydrates that will keep your underclass alive and productive, but won’t do much else for them. What it gives us is an approach to farming that does the land no good at all – diverse crops mixing trees, horticulture and animals clearly works best for the land, but it doesn’t give you a cheaply fed underclass. Diversity also makes food harder to control.

Brendan Myers pointed out in his excellent book – Reclaiming Civilization – that once you have a granary, you have an essential resource that can easily be controlled by a few armed men. Storing cereals allows some people to become the ‘protectors’ of the cereals, and by that means they get power over everyone else.

People who mostly depend on one crop are much more vulnerable. One bad harvest spells disaster. One hike in the price of the key foodstuff and many are pushed to, or over the edge. Frightened people living in scarcity are easier to manipulate and control than happy people who experience sufficiency.

What if we were able to eat more broadly, and more locally? What if food wasn’t traded internationally for the profits of those who only get their hands dirty playing the markets? What if we had more food security around the world, and less dependence on the big companies that control seed, pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers?

What if the food you eat is a key underpinning of capitalism? What would changing people’s diets do to the world’s political structures?

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Food for politics

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

  • Anima Monday

    Change the food system; save the world. Industrialized farming is the source of much of our pollution: herbicides, pesticides, excess nitrogen and carbon emissions. This is the source of soil of soil erosion and degradation. The source of deforestation in the global south. The loss of habitat for the base of the pyramid of life. Of the colonization of our diets. The displacement of peasants into migrant workers. And as you mention part of the military, industrial and financial complex. I mean, I know everything is connected but when it comes to food — this is one of the nexus points. Or a choke point in the system if a person is inclined to be hopeful.

  • Jessica Triepel

    I make suggestions like this all the time. Of course, there are enough people out there with their heads in the sand who have been brainwashed into thinking capitalism is the greatest and only way, that organic food cannot produce large enough yields for feeding the world’s population, and that somehow a community which can produce enough for themselves and maybe a little extra is unsustainable. This last one really defies all logic, but good luck reasoning with people of this persuasion. Honestly, I think what it all boils down to is a kind of laziness and selfishness, because to implement what you just described would require most people in a community to be more self sufficient, by gardening, for example, farming or hunting. These same people then convince themselves that it is so much more efficient to go work 40 hours a week, or maybe more, than it is to stay home with their friends and families and tend their gardens, or care for a few farm animals, and learn new, practical skills.
    But maybe we can’t bring others to our way of thinking, but we can find those already willing and start taking our power back. Great post. Will reblog.

  • jrose88

    I’m lucky to live in an area of California that has strong Go Local and Slow Food vibes. Lots of local produce, meat, and other things.

    One thing I have heard about organic farming though, at least on large scale… According to the vineyard manager at the winery where I work, they have a significant portion of one of the vineyards set aside to experiment with being organic. The rest of the vineyard is still pretty hands off — dry farmed, fertilized via a mixture of local sheep and cow poo with occasional sprinklings of shellfish, fungicide as sparingly as possible (really only if there’s a lot of rain at odd times in the growing/fruiting season) — but they’ve noticed that, with the organic patch, they have to run the tractor more often, which means more diesel burned.

    So I’m not sure pressuring larger producers to switch to organic farming would be a net win, exactly. It really would have to be more small farming, more backyard gardening, more of people producing what they need for themselves. Which would be awesome! Although I would have to put my husband in charge of that for our household, I am not very good at keeping plants alive.

  • ceponatia

    I wonder, though, how sustainable that is for a large population? I’ve heard that calorically dense, nutritionally deficient foods are easy to grow in mass quantities as opposed to more, well, healthy vegetables. I hope I don’t sound as though I’m disagreeing with your post here because I’m genuinely wondering. 🙂 I, personally, grow a lot of my own vegetables and buy my meats from a local Amish butcher.

    • Nimue Brown

      Not something I know enough about at this stage, although I do think that smaller scale and more local horticulture looks like the way to go, and when you’re growing locally, more diverse veg gives you more crop resilience – the odds of something surviving are better than with monocultures, so there’s that.

  • petersironwood

    Well said. This is a slightly different topic, but you might enjoy it since it relates food and politics, though in a different way. https://petersironwood.com/2017/02/11/parametric-recipes-and-american-democracy/

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