Friday, February 8, 2008

The Colonized Molecule

One of the inspirations for this blog is that I finally picked up Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, a 'bible' of the new localvore/slow food movement. I'm about halfway through it, and so far it's as gripping as I might expect. Since I haven't gotten to the end yet, I suppose it's not fair for me to gripe about the sense of 'ok, what the hell am I supposed to do about it on $50 a week for food?" I am getting as I read about the high price of cheap food.

One of the things Pollan talks about in the book is our food chain's dependence on corn. Hybridized industrial corn, which goes into virtually everything we eat: it makes the food additives, emulsifiers and sweeteners that make up most of our starches, and is the animal feed that makes most of our protein: eggs, chickens, beef, cheese, milk. (organic or not I might add). Scientists can tell this dependence by looking at the carbon molecules that make up the bodies of North Americans. Corn has a unique carbon signature, and one of the scientists Pollan quotes describes the average North American as looking, molecularly speaking, "like a corn chip on legs."

I can't tell you how much this disturbs me. The idea that the massive corn-oil-military-imperialist complex has affected my body, right down to the level of my carbon atoms, fills me with rage. Rage and corn.

In the end, this is yet one more manifestation of why what we eat, drink and breathe is so important to revolutionary transformation. Our body is a primary site of colonization, and must be one of the foremost loci of liberation. This is basic feminist theory of course, and the underpinnings of my life's journey into healthcare and food politics. But I gain renewed energy from the thought of my little carbon atoms - the chain of being made flesh, literally. As I struggle to make change in my own and other's lives, I am inspired by the thought of breaking the molecular chains of corn dependence within my own body, of no longer being 'a corn chip with legs'.

This entry was a little grim. More later probably on the decadent, corn-fed birthday dinner I am making for my honey tonight. Hey. Even the battleground of the body needs furlough every now and then!

(Image: Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your Body Is a Battle Ground), 1989)

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