Fast food nations and global nutrition
Daniel Maingi works with small farmers in Kenya and belongs to the organisation Growth Partners for Africa. He remembers a time when his family would grow and eat a diversity of crops, such as mung beans, green grams, pigeon peas and a variety of fruits now considered ‘wild’.
Following the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1980s and 1990s, the foods of his childhood have been replaced with maize. He says that in the morning you make porridge from maize. For lunch, it’s boiled maize and a few green beans. In the evening, a dough-like maize dish is served with meat. He adds that it is now a monoculture diet.
The situation is encapsulated by Vandana Shiva who says if we grow millets and pulses, we will have more nutrition per capita. But If we grow food by using chemicals, we are growing monocultures, which leads to less nutrition per acre, per capita. Monocultures do not produce more food and nutrition but use more chemicals and are therefore profitable for agrochemical companies.
Junk food and free trade
Moving from Africa to Mexico, we can see that agri-food concerns have infiltrated the food system there too. They are taking over food distribution channels and replacing local foods with cheap processed commodities. Free trade and investment agreements have been critical to this process and an alarming picture is set out of the consequences for ordinary people, not least in terms of their diet and health.
In 2012, Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health released the results of a national survey of food security and nutrition. Between 1988 and 2012, the proportion of obese women between the ages of 20 and 49 increased from 9 to 37 per cent. Mexican children are increasingly overweight, while one in ten school age children suffered from anaemia. Diabetes is now the third most common cause of death in Mexico.
The former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter concluded that the trade policies currently in place favour greater reliance on heavily processed and refined foods. He added that the overweight and obesity emergency that Mexico is facing could have been avoided or largely mitigated if the health concerns linked to shifting diets had been integrated into the design of those policies.
The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to foreign direct investment in food processing and a change in the country’s retail structure. As well as the emergence of global agribusiness companies in Mexico, there has been an explosive growth of chain supermarkets and convenience stores. Traditional corner shops are giving way to corporate retailers that offer the processed food companies even greater opportunities for sales. For example, Oxxo (owned by Coca-cola subsidiary Femsa) was on course to open its 14,000th store sometime during 2015.
In Mexico, the loss of food sovereignty has induced catastrophic changes in the nation’s diet and trade policies have effectively displaced large numbers of smallholder farmers. India should take heed. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 highlights similar disturbing trends in India.
Bad food in India
Policymakers have been facilitating the corporatisation of Indian agriculture and the food processing and retail sectors, both of which have tended to be small scale and key to supporting local (rural) economies and livelihoods. There are of course major implications for food security and food sovereignty, but what this could mean for the nation’s diet and health is clear to see.
The commodification of seeds, the selling of more and more chemicals to spray on crops or soil, the chemicalisation of food and the selling of pharmaceuticals or the expansion of private hospitals to address the health impacts of the modern junk food system is ‘good for business’. And what is good for business is good for GDP growth, or so we are told. This is nonsense.
In the latest edition of India’s Current Science journal, a guest editorial by Seema Purushothaman notes the importance that small farms could play in addressing poverty, inequality, hunger, health and climate issues. But the development paradigm is obsessed with a misguided urban-centric GDP ‘growth’ model.
And that author is correct. Whether it involves Mexico or India, to address nutrition, we must focus on small farmers. They and their families constitute a substantial percentage of the country’s poor (and undernourished) and are the ones that can best supply both rural and urban populations with nutritious foods cultivated using agroecological farming practices.
Numerous high-level official reports have emphasised the key role that such farmers could have in providing food security.
However, western agri-food corporations are acquiring wider entry into India and are looking to gain a dominant footprint within the sector. This is being facilitated by World Bank ‘ease of doing business’ and ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ directives as well as the implementation of the corporate-driven Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA), which was signed with the US in 2005.
These corporations’ front groups are also hard at work. According to a September 2019 report in the New York Times, ‘A Shadowy Industry Group Shapes Food Policy Around the World’, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies. The article lays bare ILSI’s influence on the shaping of high-level food policy globally, not least in India.
ILSI helps to shape narratives and policies that sanction the roll out of processed foods containing high levels of fat, sugar and salt. In India, ILSI’s expanding influence coincides with mounting rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Accused of being little more than a front group for its 400 corporate members that provide its $17 million budget, ILSI’s members include Coca-Cola, DuPont, PepsiCo, General Mills and Danone. The report says ILSI has received more than $2 million from chemical companies, among them Monsanto. In 2016, a UN committee issued a ruling that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, was “probably not carcinogenic,” contradicting an earlier report by the WHO’s cancer agency. The committee was led by two ILSI officials.
From India to China, whether it has involved warning labels on unhealthy packaged food or shaping anti-obesity education campaigns that stress physical activity and divert attention from the role of food corporations, prominent figures with close ties to the corridors of power have been co-opted to influence policy in order to protect agri-food corporations’ bottom line.
In the absence of government support for agriculture or an effective programme for delivering optimal nutrition, farmers are also being driven to plant crops that potentially bring in the best financial returns.
A recent article on the People’s Archive of Rural India website highlights farmers in a region of Odisha are being pushed towards a reliance on (illegal) expensive genetically modified herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds and are replacing their traditional food crops.
The region’s strength lay in multiple cropping systems, but commercial cotton monoculture has altered crop diversity, soil structure, household income stability, farmers’ independence and, ultimately, food security. It is also undermining farmers’ traditional knowledge of agroecology which has been passed down from one generation to the next.
Although agri-food capital has been moving in on India for some time, India is an agrarian-based country underpinned by smallholder agriculture and decentralised food processing. Foreign capital therefore first needs to displace the current model before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control. This is precisely what is happening.
Although this article touches on many issues, at the heart of the discussion is how we regard food. Are we to be denied the fundamental right to healthy food and well-being or is food just another commodity to be controlled by rich corporations to boost their bottom line?
A shorter version of this article initially appeared on Outlook India’s Poshan website
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published researcher and writer who specialises in development, food, agriculture and the environment. Although based in Europe, he has spent almost a decade in India. In 2018, Transcend Media Service named him as one of 400 ‘Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models’ in recognition of his work.
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Humanity has a choice to make – should all life on earth be in the service GDP growth and the financial market, OR should the economy be in the service of humanity and life on earth?
I think this ought be the main discussion everywhere, yet the attnetion of most of us is deliberately manipulated and directed towards things like ‘dancing with the stars’ or celebrity gossip or porn or “national pride” (and the resultant hatred of the supposed “national enemies” and voting again and again or the same right wing capitalist interests that facilitate the insanity and crimes detailed in this article) or are simply too sick/depressed/addicted/filled with chemicals to even be able to observe clearly the bigger picture of how we are being played and treated as if our only value is as a means for GDP growth and for the “well being” of the financial market..
PS. Here is a stunning short animated film that expresses this beautifully: https://youtu.be/j800SVeiS5I
Well said! It all comes down to the flat impossibility of infinite growth of one part of a finite system: the human economic sphere, with economics being simply buying and selling.
I agree entirely: this impossibility ought to be the primary conversation, with particular focus on what needs to change throughout society such that we can build and sustain a stead-state-growth system:
No doubt much more is needed, but these items hint I think at what is required.
When Food become a hazard, it is a crime against humnity. No ifs, no buts. This kind of article need to be given a more prominent platform.
How to get our official representatives in parliament to read and absorb this information and act according to the premise of protecting the plebs?
Mexicans have become …Americans!
Is it not strange how so many self professed environmentalists ignore such obvious problems and instead focus on the mythological Climate Change catastrophe?
Crikey, get all sorts on Off-G don’t you? Another poster who seems to believe that the climate isn’t changing. Where do they live? Obviously not somewhere where you can just look around you and use your common sense. ‘Course, it helps if you have eight decades of actually experiencing the weather – and how it’s changing – as I have. Put your shirt on it: whatever the cause may be, human or astronomical (it’s both, of course), the climate bleedin’-well IS changing! As it always has, speaking paleontologically.,
PS: Look into Geoff Lawton at ‘Zaytuna Farm’, and also at ‘Greening The Desert’ (many vids on YT.) These are the Gaian skills which will feed the survivors, after the Long Descent (qv) has put an end to much of hitech industrial ‘civilisation’, and its monstrous socio-economic distortions, some of them described by Colin here.
These would be creatures who live divorced from the natural world. Australian farmers, once a great repository of ignorant denialism, in line with the opinions of the coal-financed National Party, now are in the front ranks of those demanding action, because they SEE and experience rapid climate change every day. The longest and deepest drought in recorded history, deeper that even the Indigenous traditions encompass, record megafires devastating entire regions, obliterating billions of native animals and driving many species to the brink of extinction in the wild, dust-storms, dying rivers, massive fish kills, coastal erosion etc, etc, are now followed by ferocious deluges and flash floods, flushing ash and debris into rivers, leading to more ecological destruction. Fires so hot that they destroy the soil biota, the fungal networks and the myriad arthropods that keep the soil living. And the inevitably hard Right denialist deny it all, just as it happens before our eyes.
Rhisiart Gwilym You appear to have mis-read my comment. I did not say that the climate does not change. It does. It always has. I have no doubt it will continue to change in the future. What I referred to as mythological is the Climate Change catastrophe narrative. And the narrative is a myth. In 1989 the United Nations Environment Program asserted that we only had ten years left to save the planet from the devastating effects of carbon dioxide emissions. https://apnews.com/bd45c372caf118ec99964ea547880cd0 As you will have noticed, the planet is still here and the predicted catastrophe never happened.
Indeed I did misread you, Steve. Sorry! I’m inclined to agree with your clarification. The planet IS still here, and will remains so for a while yet – with life aboard the whole way, I suspect. Mam Gaia has proven to be VERY good at picking up her fecundity again, with ever-new invention, after every knock-down. Cheers! 🙂
The predicted catastrophes have indeed occurred, across the planet, and will only worsen. Closing your eyes does NOT alter reality.
Richard Le Sarc I can only think that you did not read the link. The predicted catastrophes, which were supposed to have happened by 2000, included entire countries being wiped off the earth by rising sea levels, massive crop failures, tens of millions of climate refugees, the melting of the polar ice caps, Canadian and US wheat leands being turned into dust bowls, coastal regions being inundated, all of which would cause political chaos. None of which happened.
That someone, allegedly, made some lurid predictions, does NOT refute the science, nor the certainty that such disasters will occur this century. Seal level rise IS accelerating, as the cryosphere rapidly melts. Droughts, deluges and megafires ARE increasing in range, frequency and intensity. The polar ice caps ARE melting, with Arctic summer sea ice about to disappear, which will have a catastrophic effect on the planetary system. If you’re under about fifty, you will live to see the beginning of the end, which I suppose helps explain your denialism-it is too horrific to accept and contemplate.
Richard Le Sarc It is not that someone allegedly made some lurid predictions. The predictions were made by the UNEP (the IPCC is a subordinate part of it). The predictions were proven false by the facts. Your assertion that they will occur is just making stuff up. Just as your claim that sea level rise is accelerating is just making stuff up. All you have to do is look at a graph of sea level rise and you will see it is not accelerating. Similarly, there has been no increase in extreme weather events. Just as Arctic summer sea ice is not disappearing – another prediction that has been repeatedly shown to be false by the facts. By the way, the only people who claim to know the future are either fools or charlatans. People have been shouting “The end is neigh” throughout recorded history – and they have all been wrong.
How can science attested to by ALL the Academies of Science and scientific societies on Earth, and proven by the plethora of weather and climate disasters unfolding with accelerating rapidity, be ‘mythological’? And I know of NO environmentalists who ignore the coming collapse of agriculture.
If you link to a source for the accelerating rapidity it might help your case.
If you Google it, you will find numerous ‘sources’. How about ‘Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene’ by Steffen et al, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, on August 6, 2018, or ‘The Human Imperative of Stabilising Global Climate Change at 1.5C’, by Hoegh-Guldberg et al, from Science, 20 September, 2019, or ‘Climate Tipping Points-too risky to bet against’, by Lenton et al, from Nature 27 November 2019, for a start?
“All the scientists” have about the same level of integrity and credibility as Bellingcat and the OPCW. Follow the money.
Yes, ‘follow the money’. In the case of scientists, right back to their salaries, nothing more. In the case of the denialists, much loot, disbursed by the fossil fuel industry, with tens of trillions at stake, and Rightwing ideological groups, who see the whole capitalist cancer threatened by the Truth.
Any genuine scientist who challenges the global warming hoax in any way risks his career, his tenure, and his funding. Despite this, many people of integrity still do.
They have to earn their shekels from Soros and the big corporate donors. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
You think that Soros et al are not invested in fossil fuels or the banks that finance them?
Of course they are. And they are pouring millions into bankrolling Little Greta at the same time. Look at the donors and Daddy Banker Mark “Goldman Sachs” Carney being put in charge of saving the polar bears by raiding trillions from the pension funds yo bankroll Global Warming Boondoggles.
It’s simply a nonsensical ‘argument’, with which you can refuse to acknowledge ANYTHING on Earth, in science or politics, just because the global overlords have some tangential relation to it.
A not-unrelated initiative regarding the preservation of basic sanity in our species. Eliant work very closely with biodynamic agriculture on a practical level too:
a friend of mine lives in a small farming community in the uk and her neighbour produces(i choose the word carefully) potatoes for one of the large supermarket chains.she hasn’t forgotten him saying,”I don’t
eat them myself of course.”
Scum is, who profits recklessly – without any regard to the negative consequences their practices create for the populations of the world.
What are you oing to do with the scum? Usually, anyways? Correct. You clean it. Scum needs to be cleaned in order to be prevented to accumulate in the second place. Because the fact that you have scum that runs your life/lives, shows that you did not clean your house after each infection with corruption, or deceit, or greed – or psychopathy.
Sticking to the coin analogy where, or what is the other side of this madness? Are those, who desire, dream of, or envision a world without corruption, without pollution, where every human being and of course the source for Homo Sapiens’ sustenance originates from. The time is long overdue to give back to Earth. By stopping to strip her, rip her, poison her, desertify her, inundate her with trash and artificially created toxins that did not exist prior to the advent of Homo Psychopathicus.
In the spirit of delivering solutions – not only on the technical aspects of agriculture – I like to add this one, that most probably is already done somewhere else from where I am. Or you. What I am talking about is the creation of a “‘Common Good’-Permanent-Farmers’-Market-Sustainability-Recycling-And-Open-Source-Research-&-Design-Center-Co-Op” Well, you get the idea. Parts of it are coming to life in all areas of the world. But not all of them at one location. You could say that the population has to create these centers by their own volitions.
And of course it is nothing new in its individual aspects of providing these services to the population/society. What is new though, is the “Taking it into your own hands” approach. If Sanders could get millions of dollars 2016 and give them to “Don’t-say-her-name”, then the population should be open to – wherever it lives – organize a fundraiser in the community to raise the capital to start the center. Each donor becomes member of the Co-Op. Their money doesn’t go anywhere else but into the Co-Op – of which they just became a member.
The Co-Op purchases the required terrain and starts with the construction of the most important facilities first: Recycling and R&D. Recycling will already provide new, inexpensive building materials that serve the Co-Op and the community – since it is the entire community that benefits from lower housing construction costs.
Nobody will ever convince me that this can’t be done anymore. The means are there – what is sorely lacking is the concerted practical approach to deal with the frankenfood Nazis by re-creating the common good and thus providing an existence that is not depending on ‘work’. 21 Trillion stolen at the Pentagon and 23 Trillion+ citizens’ debt. Over a Trillion for military and wars?
The agricultural/food crisis is also a symptom of an artificially created problem to profit from it, too. Profit from the beginning to the end. With a monthly Universal Society Compensation farmers would be freed from the necessity to profit from the creation of produce. Even though we already know that organically grown produce has the highest – and most importantly – healthy yield.
Oh, I forgot to mention that these Community Co-Op Centers are protected from bureaucracy like embassies. They are sovereign and outside of the corrupt jurisdiction of the local mobster council.
Under ‘Feed the World’ – an agenda to starve it.
Narrative inversion or reversal is the signature of deceit.
“Seeds of Destruction’ by Engdahl, lays out the background of weaponisation of Food as a CorpGov global dominance – that fits in with a broad spectrum dominance – ie all areas of influence are part of one core possession and control agenda that stems from fear of dispossession and loss of control – to become a blind and destructive systemic ‘machine’ of fear given power over feeling.
I use feeling NOT for emotional reactivity but to the nature and function of Soul – for true feelings are always restoring of and connection to wholeness of being. Emotional reactivity is always some form of divide and rule.
So yes breakdown in all sectors is by design, as the result of the attempt to remake the world in the image of the mind (of) control. And so an insanity operates increasing unmasked of a seeming rationale or narrative – revealed as deceit.
An ‘alien agenda’ operates through the willingness to deny Soul-awareness or truly felt relation, recognition, appreciation and exchange or shared reality with private agenda, its attendant and inherent fear of loss, and masking self deceit – accepted and believed as self-survival – at expense of love’s awareness (You).
Our financial and legal corruptions frame us in deceits of false derivatives.
Direct currency is Currency of being – and all that derives directly from this will serve a true account rather than a false witness.
Sustenance is a relational balance – not a systemic control.
The sustainability of a lie is the willingness to feed it with sacrifice of true – and like ‘the Terminator’, it will not stop until you (we) are dead. Unlike the movie, it first ‘kills’ the Living by replacement with a ‘dead’ or robotic systemic defence that DOES the thing it is supposed to protect from.
This is pervasive and systemic as ‘alien thinking’ or indeed doublethink of conflict terms fused or packaged as Meaning or Profit- while effecting toxic debt.
Gaining false profit by cunning and deceitful manipulation of debt is the corruption of capital that takes from others to seem to have or kills in order to seem to live. Deceit in the heart costs awareness and participation in Everything. Its ‘victory’ is to effect the hell it was always driven to escape – but at some point, recognising lack of foundation, finally allows the release of the false, no longer running a blinding mind of self-doubt set as certainty.
“Why Food Systems Are Breaking Down Across The World”
Time for people to wake up and realise that in some big entities’ books, these disturbances are ..
What we are seeing is something that should be defined at the UN as a ‘Crime against Humanity’.
We have the knowledge to feed the whole planet a decent diet. Those who prey at the alter of capitalism and its partner in crime ‘marketing’, it would appear have other ideas.
The thing is to stop going to Micky Ds and go to a Farmers’ Market instead. Stop buying Coke, Pepsi,Doritos and most Potato Chips on the Market. In other words boycott junk food. If enough people do this maybe the bastards’ll starve.
Gall, with respect, I think it’s easier said than done. Although the article focuses on parts of the poorer Countries of the World; Kenya, Mexico and India, this is because total dominance of their food markets, food production and diets is still “work in progress”. Here in the UK, where I live, those areas have been captivated for some considerable time. Butchers, Greengrocers and Fishmongers shops have largely disappeared from our High Streets, as have traditional independent Corner Shops, which have been supplanted by subsidiaries of the supermarket chains. Similarly with education, Domestic Science (cooking) has largely disappeared from the curriculum. Yes, supermarkets do still sell the ingredients to make a healthy meal from scratch, but these products represent only a fraction of their floorspace. Added to this is the steady growth in services like Justeat etc…a Burger King meal etc, deliverrd to your door, by a few taps on your phone.
Hey I live in ‘Merica where this BS started. Ralph’s, Vons, Safeway, Gelson’s etc, etc and if ya forgot it there or ya ain’t “got milk” 7/11, Circle K, Foodmart etc etc. I mean we’re swamped with Supermarkets and not only that but Walmart, Target and a few other Department stores sell groceries too. There used to be independent grocers but they were wiped out by the malls.
I think they have a painting of a local butcher at the Smithsonian. Last one heard of was on Market Street in San Fran turn of the last century.
To counter that trend we had Health Food Stores but they’re all gone taken over by Bezo the Evil Clown and his Wholefoods empire that allegedly sells “organic” food but how can you trust anyone who calls canola oil “organic”? I mean how oxymoronic is that?
Anyway the new trend now is Farmers’ Markets. I know an old concept to all of you across the pond but new to us who went through the torrent of ads telling us to shop at Lucky’s because it’s sooooo convenient. Actually one of the few supermarkets I liked that got swallowed up by Vons.
Anyway the trend here is going back to small farms and real organic produce. How long it’ll continue? Who knows?
Oh I forgot to mention the gazzilon fast food chains that we’re infected with like lice but that would be a long list.
By the way: Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get away from Col. Sanders 🙂
Q. “Why did the chicken commit suicide”?
A. “To get to ‘the other side’……
How long, Gall? Into the far future. It’s what will feed the survivors when the current Synergising Global Crises have worked themselves out, and what’s left at the other side is starting to pick itself up again.
‘..what’s left’? A few ragged survivors, endlessly traipsing the high north and Antarctica, and envying the dead.
As far as I can see Globalism has been as the scam it always was and now is losing more and more support from the local populace. This is why one sees the rise of Nationalist movements in Europe and the Americas. Here in America areas have moved from Nationalization to regionalization and eventually we’ll probably be back to tribal governments as it was before Columbus set his lily white foot on one of the outlying islands and claiming he “discovered” it.
By the way the idiot thought he had reached India which is why the indigenous population are called “Indians”. 🙂
If it threatens profits in any meaningful way, it will be banned.
That’s the reason they banned Hemp in America. Yet they’ll also ban something to increase profits as well such as alcohol which was great for financing a criminal class who seamlessly moved into politics. Now its drugs like cocaine and heroin which funds most of CIA’s black ops.Probably the most profitable agency in the US Government. A true example of capitalism in operation if ya catch my drift.
Capitalism working as designed, to homogenise the entirety of existence, and turn all that is living, diverse and vibrant into the cold, dead, stuff of ‘money’ accumulated in as few hands as possible. The cancer of existence.
Agreed. I live in Cyprus and make the effort to go to the local municipal market to support the dwindling number of independent traders there and I buy most of my food there in the form of fresh, local produce. The market is obviously dying and most of the clientelle are elderly. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Same with climate change. I haven’t been inside a plane since 2005 and this is mainly due to concern about the damage to the environment flying causes. Why berate big oil for simply producing a product for which there is a rising demand? If you want to see less oil being produced, use less of it.
I totally agree. Also one doesn’t have to stop driving their cars as there are alternatives to petroleum based fuels and lubricants. I think Elon Musk’s Tesla is one of the biggest scams since they require lithium batteries which requires strip mining to obtain which is more environmentally degrading than even fracking for oil.
Other solutions are Biodiesel, Methanol and Ethanol of which the latter two can be modified to be used in place of gasoline. Even Moonshine can be used in low compression engines. In fact that’s how many bootleggers powered their vehicles here during prohibition.
As I wrote lubricants can be synthesized or obtained from renewable resources like for instance canola oil which is a better use for it than trying to eat that crap. It can also be used for biodiesel as well.
I imagine that this evil situation is not just the usual malignant workings of Free Market capitalism, but a very real conspiracy to control countries by controlling the global food chain. And then starve recalcitrants into submission, and, soon, simply starve billions of ‘useless eaters’ to death, the oligarchs’ preferred solution to the ecological Holocaust.
We have become the pets/playthings of the 1%.
We’re told what to eat, drink, watch, listen to, wear, believe and salivate over.
To buy or not to buy.
That is the question.
Yes, Economic Growth is our god. It’s ministry is The Logic of Money.
What is economic growth? Ever more buying and selling.
What makes most economic sense? That which produces most ‘profit’.
What produces most ‘profit’? Mass-produced stuff that has low production costs, where labour is a production cost (by extension so too are soil health, societal health, infrastructure health, etc.).
Hand, The Invisible takes care of the rest.
Actually, Toby (I know you are being a bit spurious) …but money does not come from mass-produced plastic widgets any more. It comes from money. Money has become its own logic. The logic of money is money: not things. Most corporate profits come from finance: not commerce. Finance which is all but on the point of collapse (China has pumped about half a trillion dollars worth of liquidity to keep its market afloat after they crashed last week.) Which means both the dollar and yuan are technically bankrupt. Without central bank intervention: they’d both collapse.
As we were saying on the other forum: we need a radical re-appraisal of value and meaning. Any priced asset is actually soon to be proved ‘valueless’. We are at an Eternal Return to the Physiocratic – the only meaningful tangible asset we have is the soil. And the fruit of the soil – us. The neo-Platonic illimitable God of Money has an abstract formal logic. One devoid of sense-data, value and meaning. One can only hope there is a turn toward sense – literal lived experiential sense. Of which language and logic are literally devoid. And money? That is the pseudo-absolute we made God. Maybe we should have stayed worshipful of rocks, feathers and sticks …instead of making the money-form our modern bourgeois Fetish of Fetishes?
We are pagan metaphysical animists who – as Bruno Latour attests – never became modern. Arguably, we just got more sophisticated as to what we transferred our objectified powers to?
I was attempting something simple and clear, but find with money that’s almost impossible. In my defense, I said “stuff” not widgets. I had in mind anything at all that can be mass produced, including in the digital realm and by extension the realm of numbers.
One of the main problems here is how to define money. E.g., are derivatives ‘money’? In some senses yes, in others no. I don’t want to get bogged down in the detail; there’s just so much of it and it all points in the same sort of direction anyway. So it’s not that important to define what money ‘truly’ is; that’s the lesser point, the opening move that leads, with luck, to the real deal. What matters, as you say, is value. Value is the pivotal concept, the doorway to meaningful wealth that the infamous owners of the money system artfully conceal, greedily defend, cynically distort, etc. I’m always on the lookout for some effective way of pushing quickly through the fog of money definitions straight to value. I’ve been at it for years, and find I only rarely make a decent fist of it!
Planet earth suddenly made of solid gold is an image I find as potent as having all this planet’s ‘money’ all for yourself on the moon. No matter how many quadrillions of dollars that might be, the absence of breathable air, fertile soil, potable water and biodiversity is clear, and obviously means zero wealth. So I trot that sort of thing out from time to time, hoping it sticks somewhere.
And then there’s a deeper issue with number itself when used to ‘control’ and ‘master’ the environment. A few centuries ago, Hume advised us all to “consign to the flames” anything that cannot be measured. Well, value is one of those immeasurable things. And as we in fact occupy a subjective reality, consigning the subjective to the flames is a bit reckless. Nevertheless, we’re still at it. So I see an obsession with money as in some ways an obsession with number and measurement: a logical extension of asserting a ‘mechanical’, ‘objective’ universe. Not that I’m arguing for an end to counting and mathematics, that would be arguing for an end to consciousness, but there’s an extreme lopsidedness in modern civilisations best brought into relief (perhaps) by pointing out that the Piraha – a hunter-gatherer band in the Amazon – don’t have numbers at all (or the written word, and cannot be taught either). I find them to be a beautifully healthy/wealthy people who do not need to be ‘lifted out of poverty’. We can only dream of the wealth they have. Though if we did dream it, I doubt we’d understand it in most cases.
And see! Too much information again! Ah, me…