Why Just Food Matters

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Everyone needs to eat, yet even in our democracy there are people with low access to food and the food they can get is low quality. This shouldn’t be the case, so let’s do something about it! Colin Dring created the Just Food website to help educators explain and explore our food systems in Canada. The National Observor intervied Dring to find out why he created the site.

The Just Food website says the resource “brings diverse standpoints relevant to food discourses to the table.” Can you give me an example of one of those perspectives? 

Much of contemporary food system perspectives come from people in positions of privilege. Take, for example, a food bank. When we think of the food bank, we’re not necessarily thinking that people who use the food bank should have a say in the decisions or the kinds of services offered or the kinds of food provided. The dominant discourse is that people experiencing poverty should just be grateful and thankful. I think this reproduces a system that treats people like objects. So, when we talk about including diverse perspectives, we’re really talking about elevating and drawing attention to the impacts of privilege in maintaining the world as it is.

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Now is the Time to Increase Accessibility in the Arts

Making an art gallery accessible is more than providing a ramp for people to enter, an accessible art gallery ought to include accessible art. The bare minimum a gallery or performance space can do is follow the guidelines around accessible buildings (ramps, floor space, etc.). Over at Art News, Sara Reisman, executive and artistic director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in New York, argues that 2021 should be a turning point for the art world to make the entire field accessible so more people can create and appreciate art.

During our talk, Papalia presented examples of sensory experiences that diverge from the art world’s focus on visual art and its bias toward sighted audience members so frequently referred to as “viewers.” In the past few years, he has become known for participatory performances that he describes as “nonvisual walks,” using his cane (and sometimes a megaphone or even, in the case of a special event on the High Line in New York, a marching band) to lead groups in daisy-chain-like formations that enact the kinds of interdependencies articulated in the principles of “Open Access.” Like Papalia’s approach to conversations around accessibility in general, instructions for the walks avoid medicalizing terminology and frame the experience as a function of embodiment instead.

I have participated in three such walks, and each has recalibrated my relationship to the environment and people around me. In a rural setting, I felt rocks and dips in the dirt road under my feet. In an urban landscape, I felt pavement, curbs, and the presence of vehicles in constant motion. Each time, I have experienced the world with a heightened sense of perception—and my understanding of the sensorium has been further transformed.

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Google Workers Create Union

Interview

Unions are a reaction to poor working conditions, and it’s clear that some Silicon Valley companies have created the need for unions. Google, which has been actively suppressing workers who stand up against injustices are now seeing their workers unionize. This is a symbolic victory for the labour movement in the tech world and a clear success for the people working at Google.

From afar it looks like the tech unions in the States are going to be modelling themselves more like the Screen Actors Guild than the more popular conception of unions like those at auto plants.

“This is historic—the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Dylan Baker, a Google software engineer, said in a statement.

“We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values.” 

Google workers have some history of collective action. In 2018, thousands of the workers signed a petition protesting Project Maven, a contract to help the Department of Defense track individuals in video footage captured by drones. That pressure campaign was ultimately successful, as the contract was terminated.

Read more.

Thanks to Greg!

South Korea’s Local Basic Income Experiment Demonstrates Success

Due to the economic fallout of COVID-19 a city in South Korea decided to create its own kind of universal basic income. Instead of just getting cash, the payouts are done on a special credit card that only works with local owned businesses, meaning you have to spend locally and help your local businesses survive the economic downturn. In the video above you can see how successful this program has been and that one federal politician is hoping to make the program national.

To stimulate its pandemic-hit economy, a province in South Korea has been experimenting with universal basic income programs by regularly giving out cash, no questions asked. Now, some politicians want to go national with the concept.

It’s Good to Understand the First 5000 Years of Debt

How can we make sense of governments around the world taking on more debt during the COVID-19 pandemic when beforehand they were repulsed by the concept of going into debt? Step one is to look at our assumptions of debt.

About a decade ago David Graeber wrote a book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years which explores the history and cultural practices around debt. If you don’t have time to read the whole book you can watch a summation of the main points in the talk he gives (embedded above). Trust me, it’s worth your time to at least watch his presentation.

While the “national debt” has been the concern du jour of many economists, commentators and politicians, little attention is ever paid to the historical significance of debt.

For thousands of years, the struggle between rich and poor has largely taken the form of conflicts between creditors and debtors—of arguments about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, amnesty, repossession, restitution, the sequestering of sheep, the seizing of vineyards, and the selling of debtors’ children into slavery. By the same token, for the past five thousand years, popular insurrections have begun the same way: with the ritual destruction of debt records—tablets, papyri, ledgers; whatever form they might have taken in any particular time and place.

Enter anthropologist David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years (July, ISBN 978-1-933633-86-2), which uses these struggles to show that the history of debt is also a history of morality and culture.

Watch it above or on YouTube.

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