For months on end, pork producers across the Midwest had been struggling against record-low prices per head, but Becker had taken steps to protect his family’s farm against contractions of the market. He had signed a producer agreement with Hormel Foods, maybe the one company with a recession-proof demand for pork, and he had planted enough of his own corn to sustain his herd for the next year, insulating his operation from skyrocketing feed prices. With another Minnesota winter already in the air, Becker was out walking his fields one last time before starting the harvest. “When I got in and checked the answering machine,” he told me later, “there was a message from Matt Prescott with PETA.” Becker was soft-spoken but bristled with nervous energy. His jitters, together with his work-honed physique and fair hair, made him seem much younger than forty. But he insisted that the four years since receiving the call from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had aged him by more than a decade. “They had ‘damning evidence,’” he said haltingly. “Undercover. Of animal abuse. On a farm that we own.
The video’s camerawork was shaky and low-definition, captured with recorders hidden in the hat brims of undercover workers, but it had been cut together into a concise and harrowing five minutes.
In one shot, a supervisor was shown beating a sow relentlessly on the back. In another, workers turned electric prods on a crippled sow and kicked pregnant sows repeatedly in the belly. A close-up showed a distressed sow knocked out, her face royal blue from the Prima Tech marking dye sprayed into her nostrils by a worker who said he was trying “to get her high.” In one of the most disturbing sequences, a worker demonstrated the method for euthanizing underweight piglets: taking them by the hind legs and smashing their skulls against the concrete floor. Fellow workers whooped and laughed as he tossed the bloodied and twitching bodies into a giant bin. The AP story revealed that PETA had already met with Tom Heater, the sheriff of Greene County, Iowa, and he had agreed to open a criminal investigation.
Now Thrasymachus had many times started out to take over the argument in the midst of our discussion, but he had been restrained by the men sitting near him, who wanted to hear the argument out. But he could no longer keep quiet; hunched up like a wild beast, he flung himself at us as if to tear us to pieces. [The Republic of Plato]
Yet hence arises a grave mischief. The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation—the act of thought—is transferred to the record. The poet chanting was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The writer was a just and wise spirit: henceforth it is settled the book is perfect. As love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue, instantly the book becomes noxious: the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted mind of the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of reason, having once so opened, having once received this book, stands upon it and makes an outcry if it is disparaged. Colleges are built on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, not by man thinking; by men of talent—that is, who start wrong; who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles. Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.
Hence, instead of man thinking, we have the bookworm. Hence, the book-learned class who value books as such; not as related to nature and the human constitution, but as making a sort of third estate with the world and the soul. Hence, the restorers of readings—the emendators, the bibliomaniacs of all degrees.”
He is hardly the first to note that children groomed for highly selective schools are often relentlessly coached and coerced from an early age to perform in ways that will win eventual admission: extracurricular activities like student government or sports; college-level Advanced Placement courses; “service” in impoverished countries during the summer; expensively acquired skills in music or tennis; the ability to outperform others—especially those from public schools—on standardized tests like the SAT. Deresiewicz sensibly suggests that young people (and their harried parents) need a break from all this regimented rigmarole, by which training for adulthood begins soon after conception. He vividly describes his day on a Yale admissions panel, sorting out from the “double-800 crowd” the merely “well-rounded” from the “pointy—outstanding in one particular way.” “But if they were pointy,” he adds, “they had to be really pointy.”
When they get to college, such high-achieving students, according to Deresiewicz, continue to perform in the same approved ways, majoring in two or three or even four disciplines (with economics a popular choice), taking courses in which they are confident that they will receive an A, piling up credentials for their résumé like writing for the student newspaper or playing in the orchestra, and graduating with an acceptance from law school or an offer from Bain or McKinsey. “The system,” Deresiewicz writes,manufactures students who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.
One night I ended up back in a girl’s room after a first date (those do happen in college). She had invited me in and was clearly attracted to me. We were kissing on her bed, outer layers of clothing removed, but when my hands wandered downward she said, “No, wait.” I waited. She began kissing me again, passionately, so again I moved to remove her underwear. “Stop,” she said, “this is too fast.” I stopped.
“That’s fine,” I said. I kissed her again and left soon after, looking forward to seeing her again.
But my text messages received only cold, vaguely angry replies, and then silence. I was rather confused. Only many weeks later did I find out the truth from one of her close friends: “She really wanted you, but you didn’t make it happen. She was pretty upset that you didn’t really want her.”
“Why didn’t she just say so then, why did she say we were moving too fast?”
“Of course she said that, you dumbass. She didn’t want you to think she was a slut.”
Talk about confusing. Apparently in this case even no didn’t mean no. It wasn’t the last time I’ve come across “token resistance” that is intended to be overcome either. But that’s a line that I am still uncomfortable with testing, for obvious reasons.
In the early seventeenth century, this powerful little sculpture in the guise of a tea bowl was made at the Motoyashiki kiln, in former Mino province. The bowl is shaped, glazed, and decorated in the format now called Black Oribe, one of numerous varieties invented by the potters working at Motoyashiki. The Black Oribe style at its most elaborate, as on this bowl, combines lustrous black glaze incised with graphic motifs and unrelated patterns loosely brushed over velvety white Mino clay and coated locally with translucent Shino glaze. All this, cradled in the hands, would frame a freshly whisked froth of chartreuse-green powdered tea, in an experience that engaged sight, touch, and taste.
Japan, Gifu prefecture, Toki city, Kujiri, Motoyashiki kiln
Momoyama period, ca. 1607–15
Mino ware, Black Oribe type
Stoneware with black glaze and iron pigment under clear glaze
Purchase—Harold P. Stern Memorial Fund, Freer trust fund, and Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
nothing much has always been in the
there’s too much of it
everyone’s gone creating
I’m just not going
"–you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
Images of rapture
Creep into me slowly
As you’re going to my head
And my heart beats faster
When you take me over
Time and time and time again
But it’s just a
Sweet sweet fantasy baby
When I close my eyes
You come and take me
On and on and on
It’s so deep in my daydreams
But it’s just a sweet sweet fantasy baby
Watch Werner Herzog at BAM. Here is an excerpt from his book, Conquest of the Useless.
some quick sketches from my new masterpiece
Of course, you know our constitution has given more attention for our farmers, therefore we couldn’t have displaced a single person from his own farm. Because, if you displace the people, the investments could not be sustained; for sustainable investment you should take care of the local people. You should take care of the local environment. You should take care of everything, the events, the cultural events in that area. This is the program of this country. This is a modern marketing system for Africa, not for Ethiopia.”
This is a modern marketing system for Africa, not for Ethiopia.
It’s been called by some to be a new form of colonialism. Others say it is outright theft.
Since 2000, over 37 million hectares of land, mainly in the world’s poorest nations, have been acquired by foreign investors “without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities” in what, according to Oxfam and other organizations, constitutes a “land grab.” It’s a portion of land twice the size of Germany, according to researchers.
More than 60% of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of for feeding local communities. Worse still, two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with serious hunger problems. A report by the University of Virginia in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Milan says that a third to a fourth (pdf, p. 1) of the global malnourished population, or 300 to 550 million people, could be fed from the global share of land grabs.
Instead, the land is used to grow profitable crops—like sugarcane, palm oil, and soy. The benefits of this food production “go to the investors and to the countries that are receiving the exports, and not to the benefit of local communities,” says Paolo D’Odorico, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. He attributes the phenomenon to a global “commodification of land” and says the problem will only get worse in the coming years as food prices continue to rise globally.
Land grabs in the developing world create a system so unequal that resource-rich countries become resource dependent.