“One problem I see with those of us who want to be humane is that while we invariably support calls for justice at a macro level, some of us are not above taking advantage in our personal, day-to-day dealings. I once rented a room in a house full of Marxists, and one of them was one of the least just individuals I’ve ever met. Yet he regularly marched in favor of justice for the oppressed peoples of this world. If we want peace, it’s essential that we be peaceful. And if we want justice, we have to be just—down to the smallest transactions. I think a lot of people can agree with this easily. But there are always “grey areas.” That’s where we have to be especially disciplined and thoughtful.” -Mark Bittner, We Must Be Just, April 2013

Friday, February 13, 2009

Teach A Man To Fish

A few months ago I read an article in the news that talked about a university that has developed a way to fortify tortillas with iron and zinc so that the poorer people in Mexico, and other tortilla eating nations, can consume the "recommended" amounts of these minerals. These researchers have been working on this particular problem for many years and have spent a lot of money trying to find a solution. I'm sure the people involved with this research have the desire to help all those they can by giving them a product that could possibly enhance their health. The method and equipment will be affordable for small mill owners and, in fact, some are already producing fortified tortillas. Of course, they made sure to preserve the color, texture and flavor in order to appear as if it were the natural tortilla. In time they hope these fortified tortillas will be consumed by millions. They are receiving financial help from a non-profit group that believes in using technology to help improve nutrition in poorer, developing nations. This sounds like a wonderful product, but I see some flaws.

Our bodies have been designed to thrive on natural foods, not processed look-a-likes. Our bodies have the amazing ability to extract the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and protein from the food we can grow in our own backyards (yes protein is found in plant foods). Anything that is made in a laboratory or factory is far from natural and may have dire consequences when introduced into a system that requires natural foods. Dr. T. Colin Campbell has spent most of his lifetime researching health and nutrition and has come to some amazing discoveries through that research. Here are some of the facts he has found in his line of work concerning unnaturally altered foods and synthetic supplements:

"Our bodies have evolved with this infinitely complex network of reactions in order to derive maximal benefit from whole foods, as they appear in nature. The misguided may trumpet the virtues of one specific nutrient or chemical, but this thinking is too simplistic. Our bodies have learned how to benefit from the chemicals in food as they are packaged together, discarding some and using others as they see fit. I cannot stress this enough, as it is the foundation of understanding what good nutrition means.
Supplements will not lead to long-lasting health and may cause unforeseen side effects. Furthermore, for those relying on supplements, beneficial and sustained diet change is postponed. The dangers of a Western diet cannot be overcome by consuming nutrient pills."

"It is not that these nutrients aren't important. They are - but only when consumed as food, not as supplements. Isolating nutrients and trying to get benefits equal to those of whole foods reveals an ignorance of how nutrition operates in the body. A recent special article in the New York Times documents this failure of nutrient supplements to provide any proven health benefit. As time passes, I am confident that we will continue to 'discover' that relying on the use of isolated nutrient supplements to maintain health, while consuming the usual Western diet, is not only a waste of money but is also potentially dangerous."

"Our food choices have an incredible impact not only on our metabolism, but also on the initiation, promotion and even reversal of disease, on our energy, on our physical activity, on our emotional and mental well-being and on our world environment. All of these seemingly separate spheres are intimately interconnected."

"How many billions of dollars must be spent before we understand the limitations of reductionist research? Scientific investigations of the effects of single nutrients on complex diseases have little or no meaning when the main dietary effect is due to the consumption of an extraordinary collection of nutrients and other substances found in whole foods."

- T. Colin Campbell, PhD, The China Study, Pg. 228; 229; 240; 288.

Artificially supplying our bodies with synthetic nutrients, or natural nutrients unnaturally added to other foods, will not give us the health benefits that would come by consuming necessary nutrients in their natural state. However, this is not the only problem I see. I also see the opportunity for a few to capitalize from the needs of many. To me this seems morally wrong and is in direct opposition to what these researchers are trying to do, which is to help people in need. The poor people will become dependent on a bad product under the false impression that that product is good for them and a small minority will make a profit from that dependence and falsehood. This seems to be counter productive to helping the poor and malnourished. They will remain poor, in bad health and on top of that will then become dependent on others. They will then need to find more ways of making money, which they already don't have much of, in order to buy a product that doesn't help them. Aidan Mackey has this to say in the book Beyond Capitalism and Socialism:

"Most emphatically, we must first restore the family and its values. After that, in natrual progression, must come the family trade or craft, and the small organic family farm. Upon these must any sane and healthy society be built, and we must destroy the grotesque combines and cartels, many of which are strong enough to dictate to governments. It is clear they exist not to produce food or furniture, but profit. We all know the euphemism "diversification," which means that in pursuit of the money-god, they will readily switch from one field to others not remotely connected, providing there is money to be harvested."
- Aidan Mackey, Beyond Capitalism and Socialism, pg. 4

Instead, I propose taking the money and time away from research and using it to send knowledgeable people to these nations and teach people how to garden, build homes of their own, build their own furniture and other needs, make their own clothing, etc. Teach these people how to fill their own needs with the help of others in their own small communities. Don't worry about their reading, writing and math skills, that kind of knowledge will not feed starving children. Stop making them dependent on capitalists who only care about their pocket books, not the lives they are affecting. Stop making them dependent on groups because they will never learn to be self-sufficient that way. Make them dependent upon themselves and what they can produce through the work of their own hands. Do this and you will have made an independent people that are no longer poor and needy.

Stop giving out fish and start teaching people how to fish for themselves.

Soaring Potential

To fly with an eagle is to see sights unseen, as starlings fill the skies.

Even that little brown bird on the ground knows where it’s potential lies.

The ostrich and emu share a common trait, running is their forté.

Other birds, when allowed to be, seem to enjoy their play

A bobbing cockatoo dancing on it’s perch is truly a silly sight.

Now imagine that bird, free with its flock, as it passes in graceful flight.

Have you ever seen a pandemonium of parrots descend upon a tree back home?

For, you see, in reality, parrots weren’t bred to be alone.

The nightingale brings beauty to our ears, the peacock beauty to our eyes.

While all through the trees, where the mourning doves roost, hang the mourning dove’s mournful cries.

The flamingo stands on one leg for hours, while the penguin soars through the deep.

And though variety abounds throughout, they’re all birds from their very first peep.

There are birds that mimic, birds that screech and birds that can sing a soothing tune.

There are birds that welcome the morning as it breaks and birds who serenade the moon.

There is beauty to be found throughout the world of birds. Still, and none the less,

Only a bird, who is allowed to soar free, knows it’s own potential best.

“Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings.”

André Gide

"All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education"
- Sir Walter Scott