Makenna Goodman  @  ChelseaGreen

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Green Fundamentalists: I'm Talking to YOU

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009 at 3:56 pm by Makenna Goodman

Here's what really amazes me. The self satisfied complacency of those who have deemed themselves politically sound, and businessally ethical, and morally resoundingly liberally spot on. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say I'm queen of the internet world when it comes to morality. I do believe using pesticides is gross, and I do think supporting certain companies and large mega-chains who put small farmers out of business is not the best thing in the world. But come on, people. Just because you're liberal and have the Obama Progress poster on your wall, don't mean you're perfect. And just because you eat organic and use organic toilet paper, doesn't mean you have perfect food politics. What IS progress? What IS politics? These are the questions I want to put forth in the liberal world. Because now that we've got 60 senators and some pull in the white house…let's start looking at the root, at the cause, and at the "why". Transparency. And maybe a little self-reflexivity. No one likes a fundamentalist, green or not.

I think a dangerous place a good-hearted-good-politicked-well-educated-well-read-well-fed person can go…is one of self satisfaction. The inability to question even the best of intentions, is when society tends to get dictatorial. I've found this lately amongst those involved in the organic movement. And I never thought I'd be sitting here typing away calling hippies and foodies to take a look in the mirror. But here I am.

Anytime I write an article that asks a question to an organic company, all of a sudden we have ire and spitting fire. If I write a piece about the fact that some organic companies use feedlots, and some conventional small farms raise happy hens that graze for miles on fresh forage, commenters call me a plug for Monsanto. If I write a piece on how organic dairy farmers in Maine are boycotting companies like Horizon, Stonyfield Farm, and Hood for breaking their contracts, I get called Sarah Palin. I never realized that questioning organic was as bad as shooting wolves from a plane in Alaska, or spraying pesticides onto America's biggest crop fields and forcing small farmers into bankruptcy by messing with their seed saving techniques.

America calls itself the freest nation in the world, but weren't we a nation founded on slavery? And yeah, we've got a great Democracy, but don't we also incarcerate the most people of all industrialized nations in the history of the world? (The answer is yes.) Maybe we need a little self awareness about the fact that we overcriminalize people of color, and that our drug laws are horrific and favor the rich, and that our prisons are inhumane, and that we deify companies in the name of organic that may, in fact, be perpetuating practices that are detrimental in terms of animal and human rights. They MAY. Just because we like the certification sticker on our milk, we're going to stop asking questions of the distributor? Just because a company has a sweet-sounding mission, and a happy website with smiling children of all shapes and sizes and colors sippin' on milk from happy cows in what appears to the be green fields…doesn't mean it stands by that mission. This is not to say no one stands by their missions. But we may want to get hip to the fact that business can become simply business, no matter the mission. Self reflexivity is important, even if you're a liberal company.

Many blog-commenting critics of this kind of self reflexivity in the whole foods movement–or more simply, those who think it's perfect and wonderful–advise to just "look at the company's website". Apparently that's where I'm going to find self reflexivity, where I'll find out point blank who's funding these mega-businesses, and what those funders' politics are when it comes to labor rights. But companies have control over their websites. PR people are paid millions of dollars to make sure companies look good. Am I really to find the answers in advertising? If it were that easy, people like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser would be out of a job, for starters. Stuff is HIDDEN! Even amongst liberals.

Am I really to believe that because someone began their company with a mission to serve something good, that years later in the middle of a war and a recession, in an economy that marginalizes poor people, and a labor market that does the same, they these companies still serve that mission without any bending or swaying and without any special interest? Or is it the right thing to do to ask them simply: are you? How's it going? Because isn't money pretty sexy and alluring and complicated and tangled, even if you're a CEO dressed in hemp? If liberal, foodie, progressive, organic, locavore businesses are not held to the standards of reflexivity they are holding the rest of the world to, then there's something off.

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