August 2009

Pollan Favors Upscale Food Retailer Over Universal Healthcare

Whole Paycheck MarketIn spite of the national boycott against the high-priced chain of supermarkets, best-selling food author Michael Pollan insists he's going to keep on shopping at Whole Foods Market. The corporate "natural foods" retailer is currently being boycotted by consumers, healthcare advocates and labor because its co-founder and CEO John Mackey is lobbying against universal healthcare. (Read more...)

'Pay More': The High Cost of Class Bias in Food Politics

As a poor person who has experienced food insecurity, I find many mainstream writings on food politics hard to accept as creditable. At times I find the professional middle class norms and assumptions agonizing to read. While sometimes writers make trivializing and token references to differences of class, race, sex and citizen status, these superficial acknowledgments are patronizing and tend to marginalize and perpetuate the ways the food system affects the lives of the poor and working class, people of color, women and im/migrants. The fact that these commentators ignore the experience of those of us most oppressed by our food system is too infrequently questioned.

A class-conscious look at the writings of best-selling author Michael Pollen can help illustrate the practical harms that class-biased food advocacy can have on poor and hungry people. Pollan's writings on food politics are rooted in his own privileged position as a professional upper-middle class White man. Much of Pollan's class and race bias is hidden under a voice that depicts his own privileged experience as normal and universal. He thus specifically writes for other class-privileged Whites and it is not much of a surprise that many of his affluent White readers don't question what is oftentimes their own experience as well. (Read more...)

Race, Species and Dehumanization

From the headlines of yesterday's Democracy Now! comes this report of a speciesist and racist "joke" dehumanizing President Obama:

GOP Candidate Jokes About Hunting President Obama

An Idaho Republican gubernatorial candidate is claiming he was only joking when he said he would buy a license to hunt President Obama. At a rally in Twin Falls on Tuesday, Rex Rammell was discussing hunting tags, when an audience member shouted a question about "Obama tags." Rammell responded, "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those." Rammell says he sees no reason to apologize, because he was joking.

Racist and speciesist New York Post cartoon depicts two cops with guns drawn and a dead chimpanzee with gun shot wounds. One cop is saying: This is not the first time violence against nonhuman animals was employed to communicate a threatening racist message against the president. In February of this year, immediately after a chimpanzee who was being kept as a pet was shot and killed by police, the New York Post published a cartoon depicting the killing with one of the cops saying, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," in direct reference to President Obama.

(Read more...)

Soft-Headed and Hard-Hearted

I've seen a lot of people ask time and again how an organization like PETA can seriously think up and promote such oppressive campaigns as its recent fatphobic outdoor advertisement. In a word, one way of explaining PETA's desicion-making is: Groupthink.

"Groupthink" is a social-psychology concept Irving L. Janis developed to explain a defective process of group decision-making. Read more...

The Mobilization Against Fatphobia

The fatphobic billboard reads: Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian. PETAWhat do advocates concerned with obesity, feminists, and progressive vegans, vegetarians and nonhuman animal advocates have in common? These are all people who mobilized over the last week in solidarity with people targeted by a fatphobic billboard ostensibly designed to promote vegetarianism. (Read more...)

School Lunch and Univeral Access to Food

Not only does Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey oppose universal access to healthcare, he also explicitly opposed universal access to food and shelter. As he said last week in his anti-universal healthcare op-ed:

Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges.

Yes, how can we say people should have universal access to healthcare and not also food and shelter? Millions of people in the U.S. are hungry or otherwise food insecure and/or homeless or living in substandard housing. So obviously people's needs are not "best provided" by "market exchanges." In fact, far from being "beneficial" the marketplace is inherently oppressive since by design it denies people equitable access to meeting their basic needs. (Read more...)

Taking Sizeism and Fatphobia Seriously

Sizeism (oppression based on body size) is rarely taken seriously in the United States. Sizeism devalues people whose body type does not meet some socially defined standard based on height, weight or shape — oppression based on weight is a significant area of concern.

Sizeism targets fat people as especially deserving of oppression. Under sizeism, fatphobia (hatred, harassment, exclusion and violence targeting people because of their body weight) is too often viewed as justifiable. That is, fatphobic derision is actually believed by many as a valid motivator for coercing people into losing weight. However, the sizeist claim that fatphobia is in the interest of the target's health is a lie. Sizeism and fatphobia are one thing and one thing only: tools of oppression. (Read more...)

Whole Foods Market's Bumper Sticker Health Plan

Turns out my previous posts on a bumper sticker claiming "Vegetarianism is an Affordable Health Plan" and the Whole Foods Markets CEO op-ed denouncing universal healthcare that has prompted calls for a boycott are more related then I first realized. In the op-ed, as if taking his cue from the bumper sticker itself, John Mackey writes:

Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

Like the bumper sticker, Mackey thinks a vegetarian diet is a valid substitute for universal comprehensive healthcare. Also, just as I had predicted in my post — unbeknownst to me, the op-ed was actually published the day before — Mackey is using this very bumper sticker logic to promote privatization. (Read more...)

Support Univeral Healthcare, Boycott Whole Foods Market

On the heels of my post earlier this week on supporting universal access to food and health care, comes this report from today's Democracy Now!:

Single-Payer Advocates Call for Boycott of Whole Foods

Advocates for universal healthcare are calling for a boycott of the grocery chain Whole Foods over the views of its CEO, John Mackey. This week Mackey wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal criticizing President Obama's plan to create a government-funded public healthcare option and dismissing the single-payer healthcare system of countries such as Canada and Britain. Mackey said he doesn't believe in "an intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter," which he said are best provided through "market exchanges." On Thursday, the group Single Payer Action released a letter calling for a boycott of Whole Foods.

(Read more...)

Is Vegetarianism an Affordable Health Plan?

I recently read a bumper sticker that boasted: "Vegetarianism is an Affordable Health Plan." Wouldn't that be nice? Well, while I can certainly empathize with the desire to communicate the connection between a plant-based dietary system and well-being, I think this particular bumper sticker communicates a more disturbing message about class, health and privatization. (Read more...)