Decommodifying our lives, a combination of essays. Part 1: Food
The seeds of revolution are both real and metaphorical.
The core tenant to capital slavery is “Work or starve”. So we have to decide for ourselves never to starve again. There are ways to build up to this and we can collectively grow food to sustain ourselves even in the densest urban environments. We really don’t need to all escape out into the countryside and spread our communities and relationships thin. Start where you are, with what you have. Don't listen to the people who tell you that you need a certain amount of food stored or you are going to die without it. Not everyone has the money or the space to store up massive amounts of food but there are quick and easy ways to build up resiliency on the cheap.
Canned veggies are great because they don’t need refrigeration, they are cheap and offer decent access to out-of-season crops. Cans only make sense if you are stationary and have a roof over your head. If you are houseless or nomadic this may not work but cans tend to be a good all-around thing to have.
I won’t get too far into this because there are plenty of really good breakdowns on this but a general place to start is to have a reserve of around 2 weeks of shelf-stable foods.
I keep 2 weeks of canned veggies, soups, and meats in a closet and will replenish them after cooking with them. That’s another big thing, get stuff you actually can cook good meals with. If you can’t cook, it’s an important skill to learn but just get soup.
2 weeks sounds like a short time, and it is. But this food is meant for emergencies.
Climate change will ramp up extreme weather events and being able to live for 2 weeks without needing a grocery store to survive can make a big difference.
Individually We Survive, Together We Thrive.
Individually preparing for emergencies is great, and usually is the extent that people take things. The idea is that an individual can survive hunkered in a bunker full of guns and stockpiles of food to emerge into a barren wasteland where they will be the sole survivor. That won’t happen. More realistically they will be barricaded in their homes worried about boogeymen while their neighbors share supplies, share food, water, medicine after an emergency.
Sharing is caring, creating community preparedness
We will not survive alone, and the most powerful resource is other people. So the best thing is to pool your resources with friends, your affinity group, your neighbors in an apartment building or your neighbors next door.
Doesn’t matter, find people near you and get together to pool resources together. Some people might have a bunch of canned food, while someone else in the group might have alot of cleaning supplies and another might have diapers. Together your supplies go a long way. This dovetails into other aspects outside of food. But if you live anywhere near other people who are willing to help, guarantee they have extra canned food.
Ok but how does this actually work? How do you actually get started with this?
Talking to people kinda sucks but a good way to start is to make a little flyer or even just write on a sheet of paper.
“Hey there! I’m your neighbor down the hall and I have been wanting to see if anyone wanted to pool some stuff together incase of emergencies. I have canned goods and some extra storage room! If there is ever a problem or emergency you can always ask for help.”
Then to coordinate you could make a discord server or even just a group chat so people who join can have a way of communicating together and posting extra stuff they have. This is good for small groups to get started and let people communicate but also stay inside if they want to.
It is best to have some of the groundwork laid out before an emergency happens. To know who in your area are people who like to help others. Because when emergencies do happen, in the moment it can be really hard to rally people together and get things going. When if you had a small group of even 5 people who already had the idea of sharing resources down, it can be easier to scale that up both from an organizational and logistical standpoint.
Working stiff USA has amazing videos on getting started when it comes to organizing and has solid info on how to do it. Here is their channel!
It is not a good idea to organize groups like this based off strict political affiliation. Hot take from an anarchist I know. But if the goal is to survive with other people, learn how to use language they understand and can follow. If you told the average person you were forming a mutual aid cooperative, they would more than likely have no idea what that really means. But if you talk about things like “freedom” “independence” and “disaster preparedness” you are more likely to swing people over. So many people like socialist ideas but hate the word “socialism”. Don’t use political terms, talk straight up. Also want to add to this, nazis and far right Q-anon types are not the type of people you want to organize with. Full stop. You can persuade most people through community action and not buzz words but don’t collaborate with people who want to commit war crimes.
Start Gardening and Making Your Own Food
The biggest thing you can do is start growing your own food and decoupling yourself from the commodified food chain. Growing food is very simple at its core concept, though we all tend to think it’s harder than it really is.
I won’t get too deep in the weeds (haha plant joke) in how to garden. There are tons of youtube videos and professionals who know way more than I do. But here are the basic elements you need to grow plants:
Space where the plants will grow
Already grown plants, cuttings or seeds
Notice I didn’t include anything about owning land, needing land, and actually in some cases even needing soil or natural sunlight. Why? Because you don’t need 500 acres of land, you don’t need to move to the country. In fact you can have an urban farm or indoor vertical farm and be very productive. There are three categories of growing that can push you in the right direction.
You own the land or have permission to plant: Regenerative Ag / Food Forests
You are the least restricted and have to only really worry about when to plant and harvest. Planting in the ground is usually the move but raised beds will work well too. Especially if you compost or raise worms to help keep your soils healthy. If you have a lawn, start taking it over and planting veggies. Lawns suck, just look it up, they are literally the worst.
You don’t own the land or can’t plant on the land there: Gorilla gardening
Fuck landlords, and especially fuck them if they don’t allow their tenants to garden. If you can’t plant where you live or live in an apartment where there are semi vacant lots or just open grass, consider gorilla gardening. Basically just finding open land that you can plant in. Turning an empty lot on your block into a community garden just means getting the seeds and planting on the land. Do it anywhere you want. This is in a legal grey area, and your gardens might get mowed if you don’t try and protect the plants or put up no-mow signs. If you don’t own the land some people get bent out of shape. The easy route is to make “seed bombs” or get local wildflower seeds and spread them in empty lots. Make your neighborhood beautiful, if there is a park near you that is in disrepair from the city, take it over, plant veggies and start feeding people.
No land, no space or a hostile environment: Indoor Vertical Gardening
There are a lot of factors and situations where growing food outdoors may not work. Especially if you are in a dense urban area with no patio, no public land to expropriate, or live in a really cold climate where growing food outdoors can be a challenge. Another big one is if you are trying to grow stuff out of season or in a region where that plant would not grow (like citrus in northern hemispheres). Indoor gardening is an option. You will need good natural sunlight or just buy cheap grow lightbulbs from a big box store and use regular lamps as grow lamps. There is also hydroponics which uses no soil and instead of a solution of water and nutrients. Either growing in soil or hydroponics it is possible to grow food even in the most extreme conditions and grow food that would die depending on the weather. This is a good supplement to traditional gardening and gorilla gardening if you don’t have the space. That way you always have a supply of fresh, organic food in your home and you can grow stuff like lettuce, kale, berries and even citrus in the dead of winter. I will be sharing how to do cheap hydroponics soon using Tupperware and pool noodles. You can also use solar panels to offset the cost of running grow lights, but with LED lights the cost is pretty low compared to the early days of grow lights. I have a full tutorial with videos and links on how to build out a very cheap hydroponics / indoor grow system.
The best way is to combine all the methods together. In my case, I have a house and space to plant so I make a food forest garden in my backyard. Not only that I go out and plant seeds in abandoned lots and expropriate space in public parks to make small veggie gardens. Then I grow stuff hydroponically at home so I can have some stuff out of season and always have crops going even in the worst weather or natural disaster. This is not a silver bullet. But also growing your own food is easier when you know there are alternatives to what we are commonly taught.
Listen To People Who Have Thousands of Years of Experience
On the same topic of alternatives to what we are commonly taught. Indigenous people have thousands of years of experience working in food systems, growing food in the most hostile areas, and have ancestral knowledge and tech most of the world is just now finding out about. Regenerative agriculture is cool, food forests and all the stuff that is common in forward-thinking farmers is not new at all. The tribes of the First Nations pioneered advanced farming and their practices outperformed European ways of farming. Where ever colonizers landed, they failed because they brought over the European model of farming. They lacked the understanding of land management and not land extraction. Indigenous people shared their wealth of knowledge and information in good faith because that is what humanity is like at its core. We are social creatures who want to help each other out. The colonizers as we all know did not share the same sentiment as the native people who basically saved their asses every single time. And so they wiped out anyone who didn’t want to assimilate into their societies. They didn’t see wheat fields and assumed the native people were behind, and in some way didn’t even have agriculture. When in fact the forests, plains, mountains, and tundras that looked wild were carefully managed through generations. Entire family lineages were seed savers and passed down seeds and traded for them through generations. Every part of the land was understood, because to many tribes, the land was intertwined with religious beliefs and in many cases the origin stories of their people. And so this history had to be wiped out. Most people in America have no idea the sheer amount of knowledge and understanding indigenous people have of the land. They have no idea that they would not be here without the help of indigenous tribes showing Europeans how to farm. Anyways there is a small rant.
We have to listen to indigenous people because we have the keys to the problems the world is facing and yet are ignored and excluded. Being AfroCarribean and Indigenous (Siksiká) and learning about the history of all parts of my background has given me alot of insight that Africans and Indigenous people were and are the bedrock and foundation of the modern world. We would not be here without the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the land that both groups shared, willingly and unwillingly.
Towards decolonizing our diets
Think outside what gardening magazines written by white boomers tell you what to grow. If you live in the US there is an indigenous tribe or nation on the land you call home. Learn what tribes are in your area and try to connect with people and learn what plants their ancestors ate and cultivated. You might be surprised what you find out, what plants were native to the area and which ones weren’t. If you have the money, financially support any indigenous farming efforts in your local area. There is fantastic research and science going into cultivating crops that can survive and thrive in our changing climate that indigenous people have used as staple crops. There is a plant that grows like crazy even in hard droughts, can grow anywhere, the leaves are edible and taste like spinach. They make a grain that can be made into something similar to couscous, you can grind it down just like wheat. It’s called Amaranth and it is a little-known plant outside certain communities. I personally think it is a miracle plant just like hemp. Why aren’t we all eating this amazing crop? Racism and capitalism. Wheat is a staple crop for most Europeans and European centric diets and is a crop that is grown widely in the US. There is a profit motive for it to be grown and back in early colonial days, they wanted to grow wheat because it was familiar. But also because amaranth was seen as “food for savages” and so it never caught on in American culture. Well the “food for savages” that will grow in the Anthropocene may be the crop that saves us all. Broaden your horizons. Food is everywhere. Acorns were and are a staple food for many tribal nations. But you might just view them as an annoying thing that falls on your car. You can cook with it, make acorn flour, use it as a topping or additive for extra protein. I have a TikTok about acorns and making acorn flour. There is so much that most people have no idea about, that if they listened to the indigenous people near them, they would learn.
Garden With Your Community and Expand
You have emergency food supplies and share them with a group of friends or your neighbors. You're doing gorilla gardening and planting native wildflowers and veggies making freely accessible small community gardens. You're listening to Indigenous, Black, Latino, and immigrant communities to learn new techniques and incorporating ancestral wisdom in your practice. Now it’s time to get more people involved. At this point, you will have started making a legitimate threat to state power. Sharing free food with your friends, your fellow apartment tenants, and anyone who wants free veggies in a park you turned into a de facto public garden. This is a crazy amount of power the state can only take way with force. This is the autonomy we are looking for. Or at least a step in the right direction. Time to get more people on board.
Decentralized, Non-Hierarchical, Worker-Owned Organizing
If we want to change the world, if we want to survive climate change, if we want to live closer to nature and closer to each other. We have to dismantle hierarchical thinking, organizing, and actions. No one is above anyone else. We see time and time again, organizations with central leaders and authorities making the decisions above everyone simply does not work. In the short term, it does. But this class of people always will abuse their power. Distribute power in the hands of everyone involved. Those that lead are not kings, but servants to the people they are supposed to lead. Also keep in mind that decentralizing power means that it is harder to destroy with force, harder to destroy from the state or bad actors who might want to use community orgs for power or clout. The US Army Counterinsurgency Manual says the hardest groups to stop are those that have no clearly defined leadership. If you look at the history of revolutionary action in the US, the government has infiltrated, co-opted, imprisoned, and assassinated organization leaders they deemed too dangerous to the state. Movements and organizations that have central leaders tend to fall apart when the leaders or leadership is taken out of the equation because everything was controlled by that central group. Instead of central authorities calling the shots, everyone involved in the system calls the shots. If one person is arrested or hell even half or more of the organization, things can still go on because not one person or group of people had total control. It is harder though to explain nonhierarchical organizing to people who have only known top-down authoritarian command from the family to school, to work to society. But there are concrete frameworks on how to organize and work together in more decentralized means.
Sociocracy as a framework for nonhierarchical organizing
There aren’t a lot of easy-to-follow frameworks when it comes to this type of stuff but sociocracy seems to be the closest framework to build off of to help run things in a consent-based, directly democratic, and decentralized way that is worker owned.
I think this is a good place to start because it really takes care of some core components to anti-authoritarianism, and nonhierarchical thinking:
System based on consent and consensus, not majority rule
Centers every person involved and the process hinges on everyone having a voice
No central leaders saying what has to be done and when
Looks close to a workers co-op where the people doing the work in their circle own the means of their production, and collaborate with the community at large so people doing other things can also have a say but have a strong level of autonomy.
Allows for centering voices of people normally ignored in hierarchical models
Keep in mind this is not perfect and only a start. First off, anyone who is a leader or delegate cannot think they are more important than other people. Their job is to help communicate and move information. They are no better, and they should not get any more status or recognition than any other person in the circle.
Anyone in a leadership or delegation position should be instantly recallable by members by a vote. That way no one person can abuse their position or jockey to create their own tyrannical rule. I don‘t have all the answers but this is a place to build off of.
Decentralized Community Farming Where Every Worker Owns The Means Of Production
So you expand your small community actions into larger ones. Using a modified sociocracy framework and making sure everyone involved is truly involved. You are gaining more people, the community gardens are getting bigger. More and more food is being grown and preserved and cooked for free. Because everyone in these community organizations is getting their own free food, there eventually becomes a surplus. That surplus is used to supply food for the houseless, to supply food for anyone and everyone who wants and needs it no questions asked.
This stage is a pivotal one. Because from here there are plenty of other branches to go off and organize on more causes.
Community farming initiatives in an apartment building can lead to tenant organizing. When people have food and know others have their back, landlords lose their grip on power.
These initiatives can help feed the houseless and give people the tools to start organizing housing. Expropriated land can be used for community gardens and housing built by a community credit union financing development and purchasing land to house those on the streets.
This could lead to forming community land trusts, pooling people’s money together, and using the system of capitalism against itself to buy land and turn it over to community control. The once stolen land by colonizers and capitalism can be returned to the indigenous population that once called that land home.
Decommodifying food can lead to revolutionary change. Decentralizing food and how we organize ourselves can free us from the need of capital to live. Landlords lose their power over people, the state would need massive amounts of violence to take food from the people. Even in that case, because people have experience with decentralized organizing from community food initiatives, there could be community defense to keep out military occupations and stop police from coming into communities. This is just the start.
The seeds are real, but also metaphorical.
This is only part of the solution. There will be more essays on how to address water, housing, electricity, and communications. One step closer to a solarpunk future we all need and deserve! Until next time!
I, as a British minor, have really no means at all to do a lot of this, but will try to promote the idea to others and save it for when I do have the means. 👁👁