Lives there who loves his pain?
Who would not, finding way break loose from hell,
Though thither doomed? Thou woudst thyself, no doubt,
And boldly venture to whatever place
Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change
Torment with ease...
Reading an article in this week’s The Age, Epicure section – Moving up the food chain, on “Eating your way to salvation” – I felt quite self-satisfied that I was doing my bit by embracing the majority of items raised in the piece, in terms of eating seasonally, being a Locavore where possible, avoiding packaged foods, especially those with palm oil – supporting sustainability, fair trade, organic and bio dynamic practices, eating free range, heritage and rare breed, blah-blah-blah etc. We aim to eat ethically and we’re introducing household practices that hopefully will help minimise impact on the environment and support local suppliers and manufacturers.
And then I looked at myself and thought, what a wanker.
I am privileged. I have had a good education leading to a healthy career where I have had the opportunity to earn an above average income. Mr Stickyfingers and I have no children or crushing amounts of debt, in fact he has worked for the same company for 27years. We live in the inner city, enjoy the arts and dining out, we travel, read, socialise and have a comfortable home.
In short I’m a lefty wanker. In fact I’m a former anarchist, greenie punk who has gone a darker shade of ecru. Oh the shame of it. How did I become so vanilla?
For most of my life, I have been cocooned in a world of high maintenance, status-seeking achievers who I naively felt that I was rebelling against. But in the cold light of my energy saving light bulbs, I’m no different. Although my badge of honour is not the latest handbag from Chloé, European cars and entry to The Birdcage to rub shoulders with the skimpily clad, solarium set for Spring Racing Carnival, I am no less elitist in my practices, because it takes money to live ethically.
I’m doing my bit because it comes easily in my circumstances. While there are many people significantly better off than me, the vast majority of Aussies are not. As I trawl through the online sea of comment, forums and blogs, I begin to see the people who are beyond my social demographic and get some comprehension of the attitudes that I have for the most part ignored.
I see people who are driven 24/7 by the routine of their lives and by the example of their peers, lifestyle shows and trash magazines. An understanding of the planetary ecosystem, farming, culture and industry is not relevant to their lives. Many have an idea of how to cook, but not many consider the nutritional or environmental impact of their trips to the shops on their families.
To be SOLE in your approach - sustainable, organic, local and ethical - quite frankly takes dosh, which is manageable for us as a couple, but how far would it go if we had three more mouths to feed? I know in my heart that we would cope because slow grown is more filling and so less is required on the plate. And that ethical practices work as loss-leaders, paying off in the long run, but it is not easy to convey this to others.
So while people like myself are kicking back and feeling smug about our contribution, how much will our efforts actually impact on helping the environment, when industry and the majority of the populace need cheap and easy solutions to fit in with their budget and time poor lives? It is exactly to fill this need that Supermarkets have created a demand for items that are impacting negatively on the environment.
I watch Stephanie Alexander and Jamie Oliver with admiration in their attempts to roll back the years and teach children about growing food, cooking and eating responsibly. I feel saddened that in the UK Jamie’s efforts are being undermined by parents and a system that is beginning to reject his ideas because they are not cost effective. And when I read that some UK families regually choose a Pizza Hut family meal that delivers twice the daily requirement of salt to their children - over fresh home cooked produce - my high and mighty streak kicks in with a resoundingly self righteous “How dare they do that to their children!”.
But I am not a mother and I was raised with gallivanting gastronauts for parents, who rejected fast food. The stresses of the average family are not mine.
So in this world where many years of endorsing right wing governments has resulted in the cosseting of a generation of complacent young Aussies - who thanks to the efforts of the battlers who’ve gone before - have had it all at their finger tips, I have found myself gradually slipping into neutral. Like driving a car with a dodgy gear box, I adapted without even realising what I was doing. I see that I too am apathetic. Rather than rousing the punk spirit and reaching out to educate, I am like many others, vainglorious in my endeavours.
So in the midst of my mid-life crisis I have resolved to reignite the fire of my youth for causes. As a bonne vivante spin doctor, I have been nominated to assist the Slow Food Movement with their efforts and though I have never officially joined the cause, I support their practices. In order for a wider community, beyond those of privilege, to embrace these practices we need to get word out. The government and the media need to be involved.
We need a champion for the cause. Although Slow Food and The Slow Movement has been around for a number of years, they have oft been discounted for being a bunch of elitist, unrealistic, fuddy-duddy fundamentalists. The challenge will be to disprove this and to show more people how to live economically, ethically and in the process raise a happier, less obese population that has a planet with a positive future.
It’s time to step up to the soapbox again. I will make a difference. Old punks never die, they just go green around the edges.
75% of European food product diversity has been lost since 1900
93% of American food product diversity has been lost in the same
33% of livestock varieties have disappeared or are near disappearing
and one more is lost every six hours