Supermarket shopping is uncomfortable and often depressing.
First, there’s attempting to park the car. Inevitably every man and his dog wants the same spot and half the time this has something to do with being in a hurry and some dickhead blocking another spot with a half baked diagonal. Just add tyre marks and you’ve got yourself a demolition derby. Secondly, there’s the entrance; glass doors with automatic sensors that shut in your face like you’re invisible. Thirdly, there’s trollies, which, even with the most considerate and skillful drivers involve more hit and runs than a speedway dominated by psychopathic speedfreaks and drunken pedestrians. Once that’s been survived, and the pointless turnstiles have been overcome, one enters a cavalcade of bright lights, not-so-subtle attempts at loudspeaker brainwashing (god-awful ‘music’ followed by jingoism and sales pitches), and the endless malaise of attempting to use a gatherer’s instincts when the actual smell of food has been replaced by body odour and hospital grade bleach.
Somewhere amongst all that cacophony, the time and money poor masses, along with the increasing sub-group called the ‘food sensitive, intolerant and allergic’ we’re supposed to read packets of over processed, sugar and fat saturated garbage to translate an incomprehensible number system into whether or not that food is poisonous. Sometimes a manufacturer will be friendly and say “might contain X” but knowing that unless it has 5% or more of a controlled ‘additive’, or the end-of-chain manufacturer actually put it in there (rather than the additive being a derivative of something they sourced from a supplier), they don’t have to tell us at all - makes this all the more disconcerting.
Purchasing raw fruit and veg sounds all the more appealing. So let’s go to that section. In addition to a lot of fruit and veg being imported from countries where worker’s rights are shat on, and even when it is “local” - it’s agribusiness local meaning “factory farmed and hand picked by people on 457 visas living in shanties at the expense of the local ecology and employment”. It’s fruit and veg that is over produced, radiated and transported long distance using fertilisers, crop sprays and sometimes even genetic modification. It boggles my mind that oranges are often naturally green skinned but you don’t ever see a green orange in the supermarket. Come to think of it, the last time I saw a green skinned orange was during the 1980s when that old couple who drove around delivering vegetables in a truck were still in business. You know, back when the milk man was more than just an urban legend for infidelity (and I was to young to know that he was actually, as far as my physiology is concerned, a heroin dealer, lol).
Supermarket shopping is mentally and physically unhealthy. It is often the case that the cashiers and stackers in the supermarket are not faring well- repetition, low pay, and copping customer frustration. That said, I have known a couple of outlet managers in my time and these individuals happen to be very nice people, so let’s not mistake the worker bee manager from the corporate machine they’re a cog within. These people do creative things and take their work with pride and mean no harm. But the conglomerate, the supermarket chain, the supply methods it uses, the cost cutting and price fixing, the overall destruction to the ecology of the world and mental and physical health of it’s people, point supermarkets in the general direction of oil and mining companies. The corporate entity of the “mass food people” (and other slogans) turns the glorious joy of discovering food into a tedious, irritating chore that, when consequentially reflected upon, has a spurious correlation with eating disorders. Eating ought not to be a shameful task - it is like it’s end product; part of the cycle of life. But shameful it is!
Subsequently, I’m a recent partial convert to the food cooperative alternatives. Not for profit single store front volunteer/member run food places selling local produce and/or ‘fair trade’ and ‘environmentally conscious’ products. I like walking inside one because although some people in these situations seem to think their farts actually smell nice (think South Park) I can actually smell the spinach. I can ask the people “does this X include Y exposure?” and whatever else. I don’t have to look at a packet and decipher anything, and maybe even call an out of service corporate hotline to get nowhere. Sometimes the fruit man is standing right next to me putting apples in the boxes under the window. I could ask him where his orchard is, but I haven’t done it yet. I’d be tempted to rock up there and knock off a few fruits instead, lol. But anyway, it all sounds very good, except I did say ‘partial’.
There’s a lot of politics involved in food and the cooperative system is no exception. It’s got that anarcho-communist feel (not a bad thing but not a good thing either) but mostly it’s the eco-anarchist lifestylist superiority complex with pseudo-religious overtones that bugs me. It bugs me out just as much as the closely related but so called conservative flip side called survivalism. On one side, if you’re not some Gandhi loving hippy who has ignored all the human and ecological abuses of Hinduism and Buddhism simply because you’re pissed off at white guys for killing black guys, it’s like you don’t give a fuck about the environment and you’re somehow a racist. On the other side, if you’re not some gun toting Jesus freak who is filling his basement with canned tomatoes and building a bug out bag for the inevitable collapse of civilisation due to stupid liberals and their statist agenda, then you’re well, an idiot who is probably going to die a horrible death when it’s time to G.O.O.D. Obviously these are dualist extremes that warrant closer inspection, but I think you see what I mean.
What is more similar about these “flip sides” far outweighs the differences. First of all, both survivalists and eco-anarchists (sometimes primitivists) share the same concerns. Big business, big government and banks are not our friends. This is a common perspective amongst all anarchist-like ideas (minarchist or ‘small government’ included). The bigger the organisation, the less it gives a shit about the working man and the environment, the more it controls pretty much everything and turns us into slaves and nature into a cesspool. Where they (and I) part ways is in how to identify the solutions. So called lefties (the eco-anarchists mostly) reckon this is a capitalism problem; share the resources/communal ownership and share the problem/responsibility - capitalism is the cause and communism/eco-socialism is the solution. So called survivalists blame the government for screwing around with the purpose of capitalism to the point where it’s become some corporatist cess pool and the working man finds it difficult to exercise his or her liberty in the pursuit of friendlier enterprise - the solution is to shrink the government and exercise ‘preparedness’ by keeping out of debt and storing canned tomatoes in your basement (etc). Both perspectives are extremes.
Capitalism leads to corporatism with or without government intervention. The corporation is not new. Capitalism is not new. It is connected to colonialism. Think East India Company as a very small start. The state itself is a corporate entity. The whole shebang relies on greater acquisition of capital and that seems to mean running around the world getting other people’s stuff whether they like it or not and then selling it elsewhere. The current manifestation - the globalisation of the corporate epoch - is occurring with state support, in part because the state is a corporation and other corporations support the state. It is still capitalism, but it’s capitalism mach three, and yes, it’s probably in it’s dying era - but not because of state intervention - but because of a lack of successful intervention by human, rather and institutional agents. Note: Communism didn’t work because it’s just another corporation! Call our current society individualistic - you lie - the whole is becoming independant of it’s parts, and we are subsumed within it. That’s what capitalists fear about communism and in that respect, both ideas are exactly the same. So we need to get OUT of that thinking (challenge the duelism!) and think of other ways of doing this. Thus sticking to an economic ideology is where I part ways with my winged food political counterparts.
But sticking canned tomatoes in the basement and only purchasing food grown locally are not entirely bad ideas at all. The shorter the transport distance of the product, the lower the ecological footprint. The more prepared we are the less likely we are to fail. The independence - the liberty - of just thinking for five seconds that one doesn’t have to always be subjugated by the machine, is five seconds of freedom that weren’t there before; and in moments of despair, those five seconds may even be life saving. So good stuff. But it’s not enough.
Money is still changing hands because rent still needs to be paid. Unless the person (“customer”) involved in the process gains personal control over food production, the person is still subjected to the whims of industry (ethics oriented or otherwise). And what about whether or not that species ought to be grown in any given location to begin with? There is a growing understanding that plants, whilst capable of being growing in any favourable climactic conditions, are actually part of ecosystems that took a millions of years of co-evolution to create. So basically growing tomatoes amongst the greviellas, even if it were to be permaculturally favourable (ie technique of using companion planting to avoid the use of pesticides), may not be environmentally friendly in the broadest sense of the term. The bird life, insects, fungi, bacteria and so on, all work together to produce that viny and often dangerous paradise Westerners call the Garden of Eden. Except there’s more than one garden, and tomatos and greviellas may not belong! Native cultivation for native regeneration, right?
It’s a bit of a mind fuck. How are we supposed to do anything right? Convince the farmers to stop farming rice and cotton in the desert - that’s a good idea…but is replacing these staples with bullrush harvesting really going to help? Isn’t land clearing leading to soil erosion and lowering the water table? Wouldn’t bullrush harvesting do the same thing? And why should we kill all the cows and pen up the kangaroos? Is that not unfair to both cows and kangaroos? Do we even have enough information to make these kinds of decisions?
Probably not. But it can be quite liberating just trying to do it. Recently I have been researching edible native Australian flora as a resurgence in my life long love of the bush and various pseudo-attempts at food self sufficiency. In other countries people might know what wild foods or bush foods they can eat, but probably less so if the person is urbane; and more so in Australia, where imported foods is the status quo. Before all this kind of stuff popped up on the internet, with Web 2.0 linking things up rapidly using search engines and pictures, it was pretty darn difficult to learn about edible Australian flora. I have a book on the plants, it’s all rather technical (latinate) and “can be cultivated here” but if you’re thinking more about wilderness survival rather than decentralised farming practices, it doesn’t quite help. But lo and behold, the internet is changing this, and I’ve learned some amazing things in a surprisingly short period of time - including that factoid about the utility of rushes!
Anyway, here’s an amusing ancedote. I had already tried lilly pilly jam a couple of years back and thought it rocked the proverbial casba but I didn’t know how to source or identify lilly pillies. I’ve even enjoyed eating macadamias for years and didn’t even know these were Australian native foods. How urbane I am. But then I found out, and just in the last 48 hours, I have discovered that my street is lined with edible, native plants like these, and it happens to be fruiting season. So now when I walk up the street, I don’t see these big trees that drop fuck knows what on the pavement - I literally see the most delicious sweet foods freely available and just waiting for me to stand under the branches and let that manna fall from the heavens into my lap. As someone allergic to milk, you may not know this, but it makes deserts, pastries and sweet foods almost impossible for me to enjoy - my diet has been bland and supermarket shopping as discussed is a chore. But now I have free deserts and it’s like all these people around the neighbourhood don’t even know it’s there. Muhahahahaha, lucky me. It’s very liberating.
Fucking awesome. Just the smallest thing, this tiny bit of knowledge, just two plants. I can’t wait to see what’s around the neighbourhood and what I learn next.
Call it what you want, try and label it as any political wing or not, but to me this is quite simple. Food is freedom and freedom is food.
Food, glorious food - please sir, I can haz some more!