Friday

Appropriation by Any Other Name


One of my favorite on-line sites has been More Intelligent Life, a web magazine from The Economist, of all things.  I say 'of all things' because our current economic world seems to have little to do with intelligence as I understand it to be.  Cunning, yes.  Intelligence, no.  I do, however, understand that the assessment and subsequent reporting of economic matters holds the possibility of thoughtfulness as does journalist inquires of any other atrocity.

I read an article recently published by this magazine about heritage grains and seeds, interesting to me because of the increasingly nasty business of genetically engineered crops that are creating all sorts of havoc environmentally. Damning soil, birds and bees is the beginning of the hard-core evil this strictly-for-profit travesty has produced.

A smaller GE crop evil would be the tasteless food produced by these methods which is the article's primary focus. Leading the pack in rejecting these crops, for taste's sake not surprisingly, are a number of chefs who have said no to genetically engineered food by reaching back, via heritage crops, into a tastier time.  A time when long-range transportation of perishable crops wasn't so much of a factor for farmers.  A time when farmers were mostly individuals rather than corporations.

The writer describes a crop of rice whose color is intense enough to create an aura of gold over the fields.  This I really want to see.  Sounds truly like a field producing food fit for the gods.  I think of Van Gogh's paintings of the fields of Arles and wonder if these were the types of crops he saw.  It makes sense that they would be.

The details in a history have the ability to bring it to life and this story, however inadvertently, freshened my sense of an artist I have long admired. I am able to imagine Vincent in another type of field than the ones I know.  I am able to image the food on the tables he painted.  The tables he painted so dearly, deeply and well that illustration was entirely transcended and what could, in a lesser hand, have been a sentimental rendering instead became art.  

Imagine my disappointment when at the very end of this article the writer used a quote, a fairly famous quote, from Faulkner:   "The past is never dead.  It's not even past."  And he did not acknowledge the great writer by the use of quotation marks or italics.  It was written as if the line was his.

And because he did so I had to question the veracity  of the entire article and I did not want to.  The subject is near and dear to me.  Any and all protests taken against the massive sweep of genetic modification I welcome and encourage with all my heart.  So why can't I let this be?  Why can't I take the good with the bad?

Maybe because our current ecological condition has become another modern atrocity.  One created to a large degree by a corporate world that has gone long without meaningful scrutiny.  One where the notion of journalistic integrity as regards an economic condition, if not lost, is negligible.  As a society we have always needed those who investigate, those who report:  the Fourth Estate.  Whatever hope we may have of righting ourselves it may rest, to large degree, on the shoulders of that estate.

The use of the quote could have been a mistake, an oversight.  It probably was.  I hope so.  All the same, in these critical times I don't think any of us can afford to be less than vigilant with even the seemingly smallest of matters concerning the serious issues of our day.  I know from a study of history that economic fortunes, both of individuals and empires, rise and fall only to be replace by another than in turn rise or fall.

But once a species is extinct it is gone forever.  Once a land is salted into desert it does not return. Increasingly clear is the profit-making motive of those who would bring ruin to our land, water and air. And that is why I can't take the good and ignore the bad from an organization that publishes such an altogether prestigious magazine as The Economist. Right now we need their help more than ever to assess not only how the great profits of our age are made but also their impact on our very real and precious natural world.

The past may never be dead, but hopes for the future diminish daily.  Maybe a magazine like The Economist can  be part of an inquiry that restores those hopes and dreams. Imagination.  It really has no bounds.