Ben's Reviews > Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel
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's review
Apr 23, 08

it was amazing

I hope this book gets widely read, it's couldn't be more timely, and cuts through a lot of bullshit without cutting any corners on the way to its powerful conclusions.

Will post a link to review when I write one, in the meantime, I have to post this paragraph on Haiti, as I've been thinking a lot about my brothers and sisters there:

p.87 “Just as workers in Europe and the US resisted the poverty of life in new cities’ slums, so did the slaves whose labour kept food prices low for the white working class. Slaves, too, had caught the winds of revolution, and never more than in the Haitian slave uprising. Inspired by the American Revolution, and after centuries of plunder by Europe, the Haitian slaves, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, seized control of their country. After seeing off the French, British, Spanish and French again, the Haitian slaves fought their way to an independence that was, briefly, glorious. The retribution was, however, uncommonly fierce and brutal. Since its 1791-1804 revolution, Haiti has been reduced to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere by the conscious action, over the subsequent 200 years, of the US, France and Germany. It is hard to understand the ferocity of the reprisals against Haiti unless we understand the fears of contagion that its revolution inspired among the elites of other countries.”

O.K., now I'll also add that there's a great interview with Raj Pahtel at alternet this week:

[sorry, can't make the link work, call me technophobe]

from that interview:
RP: All of the reasons I've given for why people are forced to eat bad food have nothing to do with choice. Choice is almost entirely absent from any of these calculations. Yes, you can choose between Burger King or McDonald's, but you don't get to choose to have time to have a healthy meal. You don't get to choose to have time to sit down with your family and cook a decent meal, to really enjoy food, savor it, and connect with it. What we're left with is this poor simulacrum of choice -- constrained between two options that are equally bad for you. Individualizing this is a case of blaming the victim. When we say that it is your fault because you're choosing McDonalds rather than the Whole Food's salad, that's bollocks because people couldn't choose the Whole Food's salad. The choice is Coke or Pepsi, Burger King or McDonalds, either because people don't have the time or the money.

OR: I think that's such an important critique. To read your book is to see the infrastructure behind what Pollan proposes: to spend more time to have meals together, to grow more of our own food. I think it's critical for people who are middle class, upper middle class, and wealthy, who are trying to be conscientious eaters, to understand why they have the choices they have and why these may not be as readily available to others.

RP: The message that is so much harder to explain to Americans is that politics is necessary. People do need to get their hands dirty by getting involved in social change. There is a particularly American fantasy that we can together create a better world by shopping. It's absolutely a case of thinking we can go to Whole Foods, choose the right thing, shop here, pay for this and all of a sudden we will lift the righteous above the impure.


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