Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Money vs. Ethics

I talk alot with friends and family about the benefits of small organic farms vs. large agribusiness and their commercial extensions, your local co-op and Rainbow foods. I wanted to make a few points clear here about my thoughts on thses subjects.

First of all, it is ethically better to purchase an organic vegetable from your local farmer at a Farmers Market or co-op then it is to purchase a conventional vegetable from Chile at your so-called "local" Rainbow Foods. Why? Because of these reasons:

1. You are supporting your local economy and your neighbor
2. You are being a steward of your local watershed and your local land
3. The vegetable will be healthier and therefore more nutritious for you
4. You will be saving a ton of petroleum products and other energy sources that are used to get the vegetable from Chile
5. You will not be supporting a large multinational corporation that does not care for you or your family or your neighborhood or your local watershed, but only wants your dollar bill

Simple. Obviously the first thing people say is, "Well, it costs too much." And my first reaction is to be angry because what is "too much" when we are talking about the future of our planet, the future health of our soil and our communities? When you have huge government subsidies for all the commodities that are out there, such as corn, rice, and wheat, but very little financial aid to small organic vegetable farmers, what do you think is going to happen? You can go down to a Superamerica or Cub Food and get pressurized Cheez Whiz in a can for a couple bucks as opposed to a juicy ripe organic tomato for a buck. Which do you think will be better for you? Why do you choose poison over health? Think about it.

What I can't deny is that a lot of co-ops and trendy food stores are starting to attract a more wealthy crowd. This doesn't matter to me. You have to look at the essential nature of what the co-ops were created for. They were created so that poor people could pool their resources to obtain cheaper bulk foods. And they grew into more and more elaborate organizations until what we have now is little different then your average Byerlys or whay have you. But their essential nature is different. Essentially their is democratic co-operative power involved in the governance of the business as opposed to a centralized dictatorial power. What we need to do is create our own modes of purchasing. We can get together with friends and purchase a CSA share and get our vegetables every week, we can go down to the Farmers Market and talk directly to the farmer. We can organize buyers groups and purchase directly from the big companies that supply the co-ops and grocery stores. We can by in bulk and split up shares. Basically we can and should recreate the food co-op that we used to know and love.

Small farmers are not making any money. They are basically out there tilling and harvesting because of their passion and dedication to creating a better world, a healthier reality. I think the least we can do is pay them a few extra bucks for their labor and spirit. Organic farmers are real live Bodhiisatvas on tractors.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shadow boxing

There is definitely nothing worse in this world then pain. How can we avoid it? We can't, but we can take steps to minimize causing our own at least.

Today my step was to attend the Minnesota Zen Center for the first time. It is located on Lake Calhoun in a nice building. I decided that I have been essentially a Buddhist now for years so I may as well go see how they do things in their churches and so forth. It went well and I learned the basics of the zendo (the place where Zen Buddhists meditate). The only problem was that it was early in the morning and I had a late night last night, and I did have a number of liquid refreshments at the party that affected my stomach. Not to mention the coffee I gulped as I drove to the Center.

Everyone there was pleasant. I will try zazen (meditation) early tomorrow morning and see how that goes. Well it can't go too badly, I mean, what are a bunch of Bui\ddhists going to do to me? Kick my ass?

Tonight is movie night. I have a movie about the infamous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and a movie made in Tibet by some famous Lama. Whatever.

Well, life never stops

Strangely, life never stops. I went to a friend's housewarming party last night and it was good. It was nice to be around good people.

Sometimes though you wonder, what am I going to do next?

My friend is in Peru and I think that would be awesome.

I don't know, any ideas?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Your cat will make you crazy

Cat Parasite Affects Everything We Feel and Do
Research Shows That a Certain Cat Parasite Impacts Our Behavior and Mood

Researchers say a cat parasite could be responsible for all kinds of human behavior and qualities. (AP Photo )

Aug. 9, 2006 — Kevin Lafferty is a smart, cautious, thoughtful scientist who doesn't hate cats, but he has put forth a provocative theory that suggests that a clever cat parasite may alter human cultures on a massive scale.

His phone hasn't stopped ringing since he published one of the strangest research papers to come out of the mill in quite awhile.

The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, has been transmitted indirectly from cats to roughly half the people on the planet, and it has been shown to affect human personalities in different ways.

Research has shown that women who are infected with the parasite tend to be more warm, outgoing and attentive to others, while infected men tend to be less intelligent and probably a bit boring. But both men and women who are infected are more prone to feeling guilty and insecure.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The end of an era

Yesterday I quit my job. I feel great. You should too.

First a little background: I have been working there at the cafe since January of 2005. Almost every day my boss, Nathalie the Phsycologically Disturbed Progressive Democratic Nazi, would find something to complain about, somebody to ream. I felt that I would try to redirect her energies into more positive avenues, such as food. I don't even know why she has a restaurant, because to me it doesn't seem like she likes food. I love food. I love the farmer's market and the farmers, I love cooking for friends and family, I love the colors, textures, and flavors. I just dig edible stuff. So you'd think working at a small cafe right across from where I live would be a good thing, right? Wrong, man. Wrongo.

NPDPDN and her husband would constantly fight, even screaming at each other about ten feet away from paying eating customers. I honestly thought they were going to get a divorce, I don't even understand why they haven't gotten a divorce with all the pressure. Her husband doesn't even want to be there. He hates the customers.

And there was the heat and the filth and the grease and the mess and the mouse shit and the mice. Those were the physical things that bothered me, but that I thought could be fixed at some point. I also wanted to steer the food toward organic and vegetarian fare, and I didn't want to use bagged mashed potatoes and soup. What the hell is the point of convenience when the whole purpose of the business is to create good food? I wanted to cook, not dish up one more goddamn pot roast with fried potatoes for one more white-haired bitchy welfare sucking blue-brained sycophant debutante geezer. So I had my own problems.

The main mental strain came about because there were a few good things about the place, sort of. Pretty good wage. I had ample time off (not paid). Free food. That's about it, and I didn''t like the free food.

But NPDPDN would compliment me sometimes, make me feel she cared, then yell at me for some dumb thing that I messed up or wasn't even involved with. There were a number of times I came home ready to just quit. But I hung in there, because maybe things would get better.

NPDPDN: I was talking about how all my pets were tragically killed and she said, "You should not have pets. Wouldn't you get a clue after the first few were killed?" And she wasn't joking. That is probably the worst thing anybody has ever said to me. And she didn't apologize. And that same day I came home to find out that one of my best friends had killed herself. There is something about that connection that really stands out in my head.

She fed squirrels out the back door, and had names for them. She liked them more then her staff. I don't really like squirrels. In the city, they are fat indolent scavengers. She would alway tell me to come here so I could see one of them come into the building. I always smiled politely and tried to get back to work. I'm sick of being polite.

She would leave used paper towels everywhere. She would leave messes in my workspace. She and her husband and the staff ate soup and pot roast out of the container, dipping bread directly into the food. Not sanitary at all. They wouldn't clean the baskets for bread or fries ever, don't ask me why. Fish and meat were left out for hours. And so on. One man can only do so much to change the direction a ship is sailing. I tried, but it was like cleaning diaper, smelly and never ending.

The husband never yelled at me. He got mad and told her and she would yell at me or others. That was his way of staying uninvolved. He would storm around furiously for reasons I don't even know.

Every machine would break down every week. The new freezer broke down immediately. Coolers couldn't keep the food cool. And so forth. I could go on indefinitely but I will just tell you what happened at the end.

I went on break for fifteen minutes. I came back and they were both in the kitchen, facing away from me. I started to wash my hands and hear Nathalie say, "When that fucking dumbass comes back I'm going to give him a piece of my mind." I look at her and she turns around, somewhat startled to find me there, and she tells me I am in big trouble. And I say, "What?" I have no idea. The husband is sweeping and there is water on the floor, but the cooler had been doing that all summer so I thought nothing of it. And Nathalie says something like,"I can't believe you didn't notice the cooler was warm, I can't believe it, I just can't, never in my life, there is no excuse!" And I just don't even know what to say. She's picking up stuff and trying to make a point and I'm blanking out. In essence she's blaming me for a piece of eqiupment failure, at least for not noticing the failure of said piece of equipment. Fine. Maybe she has a point, maybe a should have noticed that a cooler was not working in a kitchen that is a hundred degrees without air conditioning, two loud fans on, and me being totally overworked every day, used like a mule. The temp guage is inside this custom made cooler, so I would have had to take out a drawer and peered into the depths of the machine to casually check the temp, even though I had no reason to and you can't tell what the temp reading is anyway becasue it's too far back inside. So I said, "Well..." and I was going to say something like this thing had happened and I will try to help fix it but all we can do is work to make it better. Basically there is no reason to go ballistic ever, really, in a business. I did not deserve such total disprespect after the hard work I have put in for them. She interrupted me and said, "No, don't say a word, I don't want to hear!" She said it in such a flagrantly condescending manner that that was it for me, I wasn't going to be called names behind my back and be discounted as a human being. Everybody has the right to be respected as a human. So I said, "Fuck you, fuck this place, and fuck it all!" And I chucked my apron down and left. And that was it for me. If they want to apologize then maybe I will work a little more for them. But I know them well enough to realize that they are complaining about me to all the other staff, calling me names, and they have moved on and this is just another bump in their Idot's Road to Hell.

So this is what I learned in the last 3 years:

You need to have a plan of where you want to be in three years.

I am a hard worker that can tolerate most anything, psychological or physical.

Your co-workers are the most important part of a job.

I am an artist, and I should behave like one.

Let that be a lesson to you. Don't allow anyone to treat you badly. They can treat themselves as badly as they want, but you are worthy of respect, just by being alive.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Industrial Anarchist Co-ops

By Marcello Balve

, a group of twenty unemployed factory workers gathered on a treeless sidewalk in downtown Avellaneda, an industrial suburb of Buenos Aires. They came loaded with poles, plastic sheeting, scrap lumber, and rope. In short order, they raised a tent before a nine-story brick factory known as the Cristalux Glassworks. The factory, recognizable by its billboard-sized bas-relief of a worker blowing glass, had once employed a workforce of twelve hundred. Now it stood abandoned and shuttered.

It was late fall in the Southern Hemisphere, and night temperatures dipped into the low forties. The wide, bleak avenue offered no shelter from wind, rain, or sun. The tent was just an orange tarp strung up between the factory’s main gate and a light post, the sides anchored to crates. But the workers were determined to keep the tent fastened to the gate until they could go back inside. More than one hundred ex-employees eventually joined the protest, either lending their bodies or bringing food.


What strikes me about this article and others I have read in the past few years is that certainly, at some point in the future, our society will look like this, will react like this, will have to cope like this. Surely you do not think that we wil be able to ride this wave of oil-induced affluence forever? At one point, when our oil is to costly for the average working class or middle class worker, we will need to revise our strategies and create sustainable worker-owned businesses.

Permaculture News