This last couple of weeks I have found myself cheering the removal of a dictator I was only vaguely previously aware of, feeling emotional about the liberation of a people that I had previously presumed were liberated, feeling ignorant. But my real, deep puzzlement has been over emerging hints of our involvement. Why is there film of Tony Blair hugging Gaddafi? How come the tear gas used in Libya comes from a British firm? Why, precisely, do we appear to be friends with these people?
Then this morning I saw something that made the penny drop. Naomi Klein, on twitter, wrote : ‘Our enslavement to oil has required the repression of millions of Arab people. As they shake off their bonds, so must we.’
I know it seems stupid to try to draw a line between what is going on in the Middle East and my garden, one so momentous the other so small and insignificant, but it exists, so I thought I’d come on here and try to connect a few dots between what is happening on the news and us, the gardeners and cooks.
We (not just gardeners, all of us) have become dependant on oil for everything, but almost above all for food. From the tractors that plough the fields to the manufacture of chemical fertilisers that are sprinkled on to the tired soils to fluff them into performing one more time, to the harvesting machinery, preparation and packaging systems, distribution network and more. Our entire food system is tied to that stuff that Gaddafi has (or had). We are so very addicted that we turn our faces away from his massive cruelty (and dictatorships throughout the Middle East) in order to ensure ourselves a constant, uninterrupted supply.
Growing and buying organically, so that you are not encouraging the use of oil-based fertilisers and pesticides, buying seasonally and locally, to cut out air miles, buying raw products and cooking them from scratch, using every scrap of land to produce in a sustainable way, all these things seem like small things, but because of the disproportionate extent to which food is embroiled in this they are not. Each is a big deal, a political action. Every way that we can make ourselves less dependent on oil helps to release the wicked grip it has on us.
I’m not going to pretend to know anything like the full history of how this horror in the Middle East has come about, but I do know it hasn’t occurred because of some lone nutter. We have all been a party to this, and these people know it and they hate us for it. The ridiculous thing is that the alternative is so good, the organic approach, the local sourcing, the community growing, the cooking from scratch: it’s not a problem.
This post is not about wagging my finger or telling anyone off. I reckon many of you are already doing most of this stuff, but I just wanted to make that link explicit, cheer you on, remind you that every little bit of our easy living comes at a price to somebody and that we’re seeing it on the news every night at the moment. Gardeners and cooks have a real and important role, because we have the land (little bits often, but land nonetheless) or the skills, or both to stop being spoon fed and to grow up and start taking responsibility for ourselves.