Saturday, February 14, 2015

Food Chains (movie review)

As a former resident of Florida, I appreciated the portrayal of Publix as uber-powerful, but are there really no Safeways?  When it's a monopoly, you have a lot less leverage with consumers than when there's a Kroger's or New Seasons within the same or similar radius, with comparable prices.  The thing about big boxes like Wal*Mart as they count on becoming the only big box in town.  Niche markets have a harder go of it.

But lets not mistake the Publix Empire for the whole Fifty States.  As this documentary makes clear, one does have leverage, through Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).  Companies such as Taco Bell and Whole Foods got on board.  There's no reason those techniques have to be confined to any one neck of the woods.  Most these chains are global these days, so where to apply pressure is anybody's guess (meaning one might not predict where the serious change artists will find one).

When it's a monopoly, don't think of hunger strikes as a first option maybe?  The wild card here, and what makes the Coalition of Immokalee Workers special, is precisely this movie, which is shown in India and Russia just as poignantly, as oppression of the peasantry is hardly a new story.  North Americans did not invent slavery either, and to their credit, their rhetoric remains largely against it, even though it's still widely practiced in various guises.

The movie shows how criminalizing a population (making them "illegal" as in "undocumented") is then a license to exploit.  USAers needs the cheap labor, but it has to be really cheap, as in completely unsustainably cheap.

Until people start seeing that poverty in their midst is poverty nonetheless, they'll turn a blind eye.  That slum in California known as wine country, wreaks of malign neglect.  But they're working on it.

I'm working on it too.  The ecovillages I'm storyboarding are not just fancy resort party towns for the rich and famous.  They're geared for those with dirty jobs in hard places, maybe working for academic credit as a farm worker, truck driver, baggage handler or whatever.

Not in some condescending character building way, but because if you're going to be an authority an agriculture, transportation, or airport management, or hospitality, it helps if you've played a few roles.  More than a few.  Just doing spring break over and over is not that great on your resume.

If you're new to the history, you'll pick up some great archival shots of Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar E. Chavez, with more background as to the historical context for their meetup.