Life is a communal activity. Mycorrhizae in the soil entwine with the roots of plants bringing water and minerals to the plants and being fed in return. The insects and worms in the soil break matter down, releasing nutrients for all to use. Bacteria and fungi colonize the roots and leaves of plants and protect them from disease, all the while feeding themselves and thriving. Far from being a competition where every winner means that someone else has lost, the world of the soil embodies the ideal of a mutual-benefit society. But perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into how nature works when trying to understand people. It often leads to some pretty far-fetched theories. However, I can’t resist comparing the “nature red in tooth and claw” outlook of social Darwinism, which seems to be making a resurgence, with the advances in discoveries about soil-web ecology and the role that cooperation plays in biology and botany.
A list of the 400 richest people in America was released recently showing that those few people controlled 1.4 trillion dollars. In a time of 10% unemployment and rising poverty, their wealth grew by 8% last year. These same people are fighting to retain the outrageous tax breaks they got during the Bush years, using their surrogates and lackeys on Fox News and in the Tea Party movement to vilify and smear President Obama. The furor over the Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan, the ravings that global warming is a hoax, that marriage is under assault, phony issue after phony issue, all trotted out to distract us from the reality that our lives and prosperity are being sacrificed to increase the already obscene and pointless wealth of the few.
It’s time to take our country back. Our roots are planted in our communities and to be nourished we must provide nourishment to others, not junk food and junk politics. People are angry because they are frustrated and hungry. When we are frustrated, we often act irrationally (see Tea Party, above). We use junk ideas and junk food to try to make ourselves feel better. People need real nourishment, both mental and physical. Our communities and farms can provide it.