“Food Is a Weapon”

From theologian James Cone’s The Black Church and Marxism: What Do They Have to Say to Each Other? (paper delivered in 1980):

I have been convinced that the black church cannot remain silent regarding socialism, because such silence will be interpreted by our Third World brothers and sisters as support for the capitalistic system which exploits the poor all over this earth.

For example, between 25,000 and 50,000 people die each day from starvation, a cause that is directly related to the persistence of national and international economic orders that foster distorted development. The former secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, well known for his racial slurs, said it bluntly: “Food is a weapon. It is now one of the principal tools of our negotiating kit.”

From a Rolling Stone story covering the Republican National Convention in 76, while Earl Butz was still Secretary of Agriculture (content note for racist/sexist remarks):

Pat [Boone] posed a question: “John and I were just discussing the appeal of the Republican party. It seems to me that the party of Abraham Lincoln could and should attract more black people. Why can’t that be done?” This was a fair question for the secretary, who is also a very capable politician.

“I’ll tell you why you can’t attract coloreds,” the secretary proclaimed as his mischievous smile returned. “Because colored only wants three things. You know what they want?” he asked Pat.

Pat shook his head no; so did I.

“I’ll tell you what coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit. That’s all!”

Pat gulped twice.

Butz resigned a few days after calls were made for his head, but he claimed he did it on his own (that seems unlikely) and that he did nothing wrong.

A few thoughts on reading these:

  • Remember that Pat Boone was himself a nice racist, hired to whitewash the Race Music (as in, Rhythm & Blues and early Rock N Roll that sounded too black) for the innocent White Christian kids across America.
  • Butz clearly outlined his racial animosity, and did so to a reporter and a famous musician. In the open. At a national convention. In the post-Civil Rights era. Don’t think that it isn’t still happening. Paul Ryan may be more careful about his views now, but he’s still racially animositic; in large part because class warfare is his life.
  • Butz was in control of food and production as a kind of supermanager of agrarian companies. What does it mean to black and brown farmers and consumers to have a white racist in charge of food supply and farming justice in the Land of Plenty? Why did it take a directly racist comment to get him fired when he admitted elsewhere that he’d use food as a weapon?
  • Butz was hired by Nixon and stayed under Ford. Until this article spread, no one deemed it fit to question how he operated, only what he said when they were dirty jokes.
  • George W Bush, Reagan and Nixon had a lot of the same characteristics of the Illegitimate President of the United States, but with some charm and/or intelligence and, by degrees only, humility. Many of the safeguards that Trump has taken out or will take out were already proposed or committed by the earlier three. What now is different besides the degree and the speed to which he’s taking it? What sets “p*ssy grabber” apart from Reagan who defunded family planning globally and domestically? I’m convinced that language plays a big part of it. Language and bluster.
  • Like Butz, Trump has no shame. None. Don’t expect Trump to go willingly, either. And since he has no shame and is a blundering racist, sexist, classist idiot, he’s a perfect cover for Republicans who can always say that they were forced to follow Trump, even though they’re informing him and using his bluster as a cover. Expect Medicaid and Food Stamps to be cut, with or without Trump’s blessing. Because food is a weapon.

Eating Local – Present Solutions on the Path

We’ve talked about the problems inherent in the modern food machine – so much so that I don’t want to focus on that here. And we know things have got to change. Many people believe that we need to plant gardens, and my argument is – largely – that we need to bring agrarianism back to our center and establish a localized food democracy. But in any case, such phenomenal changes will take a long time – perhaps generations.

So I would like for this place to be a discussion (please, in the comments here or on Facebook. Tweet replies back if you must) for how to go about living healthier, less polluting and wasteful lives through our food practices. Some of the following are mere suggestions. While some are painfully obvious, I would assume, for many of the readers, we should keep in mind that a food revolution needs to be a populist movement by and for the people and we want to be able to include everyone into our target audience.

Having said that, please share your suggestions, ideas and even stories and fears in the comments here and on Facebook or to twitter.

Eat locally. Buy from little, local stores. This not only shapens the connect between the worker and the owner, but also the process of eating and the process’of raising and transporting our food. If you don’t think their food practices are’ethical, you may be able to suggest alternatives..

More veggies and fruits. Try to avoid bleached, enriched flours.

Cut out any product made with high fructose corn syrup.

Plant a garden in your property. If you can’t because, say, you live in the city, find a community garden. If you can’t find that, find the local community advocacy group and see who would like to start one (other avenues such as the local PTA may be good options). If no bite or if it turns out to be too expensive, no worries. Find an abandoned lot and start a peace garden and see what happens.The city or the owners might want to tear it down, but that’s bad PR for them I the area isn’t being used for anything else…

You got windows, a little ingenuity, some lights, water pumps, and a bunch of bottles? Try a hydro-window farm. It’s year ’round, and you’re reusing water.

Look at what others are doing. The People’s Grocery runs a greenhouse enterprise program in a low-income housing development in the under-served area of West Oakland.