Occupy’s Message to the Food Movement: Bridge the Class Divides

"Occupy the Fertile Ground Beneath this Pavement"

Farmers gather in New York in December 2011 to demand an end to fracking and factory farming. Creative Commons/Mike Fleshman.

Occupy Wall Street is about nothing if not about class politics in America. Class has long been the submerged topic—it seems to make most Americans uncomfortable while at the same time defining many of our social structures and personal interactions. We often discuss race and gender inequalities, but discussions of class seem to be almost taboo outside of an academic setting. Sure, politicians will use code words for talking about class (“working people”), but there is no explicit mention of the strict class lines that divide and segregate people in this country. What Occupy Wall Street has succeeded at is opening up this dialogue and bringing the question of class to the foreground.

And from where I stand, nothing is a more deeply felt and lived indicator of class in this country than food—this is why the question of global food systems must be addressed within the framework of Occupy Wall Street.

For all the talk of Occupy having a vague message, I find the message quite clear and compelling: it is a dissection of American class politics rooted in calling out the corporate control of our democracy and our everyday lives. As such, dismantling our corporate-dominated food systems and replacing them with local, sustainable alternatives will play a crucial role in getting corporations out of our food supply. The challenge will be getting the majority of Americans to agree with this idea.

The food landscape and its correlation to class is complicated and rife with contradiction. This is partly because our modern-day American food system is brand new—it’s only been in existence for about sixty years. Compared to our agrarian past, which is at least 10,000 years old, sixty years is a blip. But the past sixty years of industrial food systems have come to define American food as well as the global food economy. Much remains to be seen about how this new global food economy and new food products will ultimately affect our world. ...

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Kristin Wartman writes on the intersections of food, politics, and culture. Her writing appears in The Huffington Post, Grist, and Civil Eats. Read more at kristinwartman.com.

Source Citation

Wartman, Kristin. 2012. "Occupy's Message to the Food Movement: Bridge the Class Divides." Tikkun 27(2): 34.

tags: Economy/Poverty/Wealth, Environmental Activism   
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