Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Your Pantry

So if you've been keeping track, you'll be happy to hear that my sweet kitty is safe and sound back at home with fully functioning bone marrow and kidneys! If you're just wondering where in the hell I've been, I've been in a dreadful holding pattern for the last week or so worrying about my cat, who was hospitalized very early the morning of Sunday the 30th.

But now I'm back, and there are so many things to write about...

Yesterday I was scurrying down 16th street, as usual, on my way to the Farmer's Market to pick up some things before the 4:15 yoga class at Namaste Yoga and Tranquility Center. As I approached University Place, I heard a commotion coming toward me from the north. I saw grim policemen on motorcycles next, warning people to stay on the sidewalk, and then, the commotion solidified into a sea of voices:

WE ARE THE 99%!

I had somehow managed to arrive at the corner of University Place and 16th street at the exact same moment as the Occupy Wall Street movement's latest march did. The light was against me, so I could not cross, and was gratified to realize I had a chance to use my stampede survival knowledge: I stood with my back to a light post, so as to avoid getting stepped on, run into it, or swept away with the crowd. They parted like the Red Sea around me: such a huge variety of people. All ages, all races, an equal number of men and women. Many held signs. Most chanted along.
Almost all looked in my face as we crossed paths. I felt so many things in that moment: a patriotic stirring, a simultaneous urge to join their song, and a stifling embarrassment that kept me quiet. I wanted to fall in step along side them, to find a piece of scrap paper in my bag and write a sign in motion.
But I had a heavy bag, and a full schedule, and when the light changed I crossed the street. Turning to watch the rest of the march go buy, standing up straight, as respectful as I had ever been of the flag carried by veterans, and for the exact same reasons.
I felt guilt then, too, for letting my day-to-day life keep me from showing my support, and doing my part within the movement. The last stagglers crossed the street, and the policemen in their motor cycles drove off after them, allowing cars coming down 16th to finally turn up or downtown and continue their journey.
I too turned, downtown, and looked for the brown awning that hailed the Bread Alone tent.

I chose a loaf of wholegrain health bread (which I would later partly devour furtively, chunk by delicious chunk, while waiting for my yoga students to appear), and then moved down the block to pick up my weekly share, and one dozen (medium) eggs. My bags far heavier than before, I made my way down to the subway entrance, the guilt weighing something substantial alongside the produce.

Until I realized that I was doing something just as powerful and meaningful in support of Occupy Wall Street and the 99% as those marchers drawing our collective attention to the situation right now. I was supporting, with my hard-earned dollars, the 99% instead of the the 1%. Instead of funneling my food dollars back to fancy offices atop skyscrapers at the expense of the economies of nations who should have been able to easily feed their populations, but instead those people languished in poverty as they watched their children die slowly of malnourishment, I was sending each and every dollar right back into the food system that directly supported me: these farmers' children would be fed, clothed, and educated with my money. The food I buy from them next year will have been planted and tended with my money. It would stay in this community, passing from hand to hand, linking together the 99% of the region while helping each of us to prosper a little bit at a time.

If it seems like a stretch to draw a connection between children starving to death across the planet and my artisan bread, let me give you a mini lesson in world trade:

America gives millions of dollars to foreign nations struggling with poverty. We don't walk down the street distributing tens and twenties: we write fat checks to the government. We are not naive enough to fail to realize how little of that money actually helps the people who need it. In exchange for our generosity, these nations must agree not to tax good imported from our nation. Pretty soon, we've flooded their market with cheap Tyson's chicken (for example), and every raiser, seller, and server of chicken meat is pushed out of business. Or, a Dole representative pops up and announces they want to grow pineapples (for example) near this town. The rain forest gets mowed to the ground, and jobs get created! Jobs that pay pennies! Meanwhile the pinepples are not being sold to the people of this community. They are getting flown halfway around the world: the water, the farmable land, is being sucked up into luxury fruits to impress guests at dinner parties in the U.S.! If the people could raise their own chickens and grow their own pineapples and sell them within their communities, they would have a FUNCTIONING ECONOMY!!!!! Get it?

You can make that difference along with me and Occupy Wall Street, where ever you are. The next time you stand in a produce aisle and are tempted by asparagus in Autumn, or watermelon in Winter, pineapples any old time, or apples from New Zealand, remember, the whole world is watching. With hungry eyes.

Live Omily, and remember that ultimately, we are all the 100%
~em

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