Friday, January 22, 2010

The voice of dissent

I feel compelled to write something out of the usual vein because it has been so much on my mind the last two days. What I'm referring to is the Supreme Court decision that has just bestowed seemingly limitless power on corporations to control the outcomes of political elections, and therefore of legislative decisions.

All the talk on public radio and in the media has gotten me thinking: what, if anything, can we do?

Today I finally realized that all the discussion and declarations about what this ruling means for our country and its citizens is leaving out an important piece: that we ourselves have made these corporations wealthy, and thereby powerful. We have bought the billions of fast food burgers and the zillion cans of Coke and the gas-guzzling vehicles and in so doing have bought bondage in the name of freedom and convenience. WE HAVE DONE IT OURSELVES. This is the bad news, but it is also the good news, because it means that we can un-do it.

Realizing this has led to another enlightening realization about what has been at the heart of everything I do -- everything I write about on this blog, the values I am working to convey to Oliver even at this early stage, the efforts I go to to help people in our community to access good food, the decisions to buy certain things and not to buy others, the great lengths I go to in order to ensure that we are mainly supporting the local farm economy, the ideals I aspire to regarding self-sufficiency -- all this is not because I am a food fanatic, but because I believe in restoring the power of individuals, families, and communities to decide how they will live, and to have that decision be based in the ability to be self-sufficient, independent, dignified, and responsible. The first page of my website states the following: "We believe that total health for people and the environment can be achieved naturally, by gradually but dramatically transforming what we eat and consume, how we think about ourselves and the world, and what we choose to buy. This is an intricate and involved process, with the power to renew our health and our communities, and to sustain the earth." All along I have felt instinctively that these things are deeply connected, but I wasn't sure exactly how. Now I can see that perhaps what we buy and how we buy it, and who we are dependent on for these products, really is part of health and intricately bound up with the effort to eat locally.

It may be too late to change what this ruling means for the next election, or even the elections of the next five or ten years. But we have to start somewhere. The choice is in the hands of each of us. Depending on situation and location, many of us can make the decision to use public transportation, a bike, or carpooling instead of supporting energy corporations. We can choose to buy second-hand, consignment, and at mom-and-pop stores instead of shopping at places like the Gap, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Rite Aid. We can make the decision to mix up a batch of homemade toothpaste and use cloth diapers. The decision to make do with buying fewer goods of higher quality from responsible small companies rather than buying a lot from Wal-mart and Target. The decision to go out of our way to buy local food rather than hopping in line at the grocery store with products that will do nothing but make the food corporations wealthier. The decision to spend a few hours in the kitchen each week rather than rely on the McDonald's drive-thru and the take-out bar at Whole Foods. The decision to find clever ways to reuse and restore everything we can so we can at least put a delay in the cycle of buying and throwing away. The decision to pay attention to our bodies and care for ourselves so we decrease our dependence on expensive medical care. The decision to look reality in the face and stop hiding from the truth about where our food, consumer goods, and services really come from and who they really benefit. The decision to take the time to learn about the alternatives available to us, like fertility awareness, a way of banking locally, or switching to wind power, rather than staying in the same comfortable old routines that relinquish our control to others.

I think in many ways this is about two things: 1) taking some quiet moments to consider what we can do, and 2) learning to give up that brief feeling that finally, we have at last arrived! because of the purchase we just made.

This isn't about being perfect, or about anything close. And it's not about doing all this at once. For me it's about incremental change, within the limits of our family's ability and sanity (which I test constantly). I know that next week, or next month, or next year there will be something else we can do, another way we can decrease our dependence and begin to think more clearly. It happens slowly, but the effects are tremendous, and it starts with just taking a little time for contemplation. We still have the power to say no to the demand that we buy and consume, and for that I am very grateful.


  1. Hannah, what a great, insightful post! :)

  2. Very good observation- especially that we have done it ourselves- and what the options are to take steps toward breaking out of it.

  3. Nice rant! I have this image of a mob of protesters storming the Bastille and breaking down the walls of tyranny with carrot sticks, beating corporate executives over the head with organic sausages! ;) Just teasing-- I agree that what we do in our everyday lives matters: as the feminists say, "the personal is political."

  4. Ha ha -- well if you replace the carrot sticks with chicken bones you might have the right idea here. ;) I would really enjoy beating some corporate executives over the head with something perhaps a little more eye-opening than sausages. This reminds me of the dream I had some time ago about ranting at George Bush and trying to strangle him...hmmm