Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's good, it's clean, but it is fair?

"The first Slow Food Nation partly fulfilled Waters's broad agenda. It earned high marks for the good and the clean but next time could do a hell of a lot better with the fair. At the moment, the majority of Americans--ordinary working people, the poor, people of color--do not have a seat at this table. The movement for sustainable agriculture has to reckon with the simple fact that it will never be sustainable without these people. Indeed, without them it runs the risk of degenerating into a hedonistic narcissism for the few. Wendell Berry--the great poet and novelist whose book The Unsettling of America, more than any other, inspired the current assault on the fast food mentality--says that "eating is an agricultural act." That means we are all co-producers, choosing a certain set of values with every bite. Does it matter whether an heirloom tomato is local and organic if it was harvested with slave labor? That was the question I asked the audience at Slow Food Nation. The answer is obvious, and it's one that this movement needs to address." (Thanks Marcy)

And this, in a nutshell, is Slow Food biggest problem. It is an issue they have been trying to address and they are still struggling with. I think Slow Food may not be radical enough to be able to do that, and their political "prise de position" is weak and at times simplistic. There is also a lot of ignorance of the complexities of politics in certain regions. Look for example at their "neutrality" around the Palestinian-Israeli issue: they have no position on Zionism, and they seem at times to believe that getting people together around a big dinner table or in a farmers' market will result in peace, while the struggle is basically one of justice and rights of the Palestinians. In this conflicts, there are no equals: Zionists are the aggressors and the oppressors and the Palestinians are the victims. Gaza is not like Sderot. There is no equivalence between the rockets on Sderot and 60 years of oppression and massacre of people parked as sheep in a refugee camp and dehumanized and murdered at will by a Zionist ideology that has the full support of the vast majority of the Israeli people. Slow Food does not appear to perceive this, while, at the same time, much less "engaged" organizations (like British academics) are calling for boycott of Israeli produce and divestment. But Slow Food will not take position on Israeli crimes: it is too "liberal" for that. Slow Food has to ralize that "fair" does not mean "equal distribution of responsibility", but that it means siding with the oppressed against the oppressor.

Full disclosure: I am a member of Slow Food Beirut and therefore of the Slow Food movement.

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