In the dying days of the corporatist nanny state

Arnold J. Toynbee, in his monumental A Study of History, talked about the point at which a civilisation shifts from a time of troubles into its terminal decline.

When civilisations are growing, they receive the periodic impetus of a creative minority. Really good innovations tend to be broadly accepted.

But all innovations run their course, or hit their limits. The more broadly they were taken up, the more likely, then, that they will not be further changed in time. So a time of troubles ensues.

In a time of troubles, there are those who want to solve the problem, who compete with those who like the old order just as it is. Contention occurs.

If the old order wins the day, the time of troubles resolves into the rule of a dominant minority, with an internal (and external) proletariat emerging as subjects. Those who might have been creative minority types end up becoming rebels to be put down.

Our civilisation has many of these characteristics today.

Part of disciplining and subjugating a formerly free people is to seize upon every opportunity to “respond” to events. The promise that is made is security in all its forms. The method of achieving that is to subjugate any form of “non normative” activity.

Thus the “nanny state”, passing regulation after regulation, law after law, for “our own good”, to “protect” people.

That this plays into the needs of the dominant minority — in our society, those who run large organisations (bureaucratic, corporate, not-for-profit, it makes no difference) — and can be used to aid their benefit is the icing on the cake.

Take a recent incident in Toronto as an example of how far this goes.

The owner of a small restaurant, Café Florentina, wanted to offer heritage egg dishes. He found an independent farmer near Cambridge, Ont., using natural organic approaches to raising hens of various varieties to be his supplier.

You may think “if you don’t want heritage eggs, pick another restaurant: there are lots”. That’s not how a dominant minority thinks.

Three times Café Florentina has been visited by the City’s health and safety inspectors. No, they’re not finding cockroaches, or rats, or spoilage (although that’s what they’re there for). The kitchen is clean and properly managed.

Instead, they’ve been downgrading the place, and threatening to close it altogether by bureaucratic fiat, because it uses “non standard eggs”.

You see, heritage eggs aren’t sorted by size. This one is bigger than that one. That’s all.

Apparently the public is at risk if every egg on a rack isn’t identical to every other egg, industrial style.

All the bureaucracy at the Egg Marketing Board is fine with the heritage eggs. So too all the provincial inspectors of the farm. It’s just the City bureaucrats that reject it all.

Most farming today is industrial in character, often with de facto agribusiness ownership even if title is still held in the debt-slave farmer’s hands on paper.

Most of what you can buy at your local farmer’s market, in turn, is produced using industrial methods, using industrial seeds, fertilizers and pest controls, etc.

It would be as problematic for the Cambridge farmer to sell his eggs at my local farmer’s market as it is to have them be on the menu at Café Florentina. It would be as problematic for a restauranteur to acquire “non standard” items directly from farmers at the farmer’s market as direct from the farm gate.

If it didn’t enter “the system”, flow through the Ontario Food Terminal, get mixed in with everyone else’s product in a standardised way? “It’s a danger. Shut it down.”

In looking forward to the future, we often talk about urban agriculture, augmented with community-supported agriculture (CSA) on farmland augmenting what can be grown in backyards and on roof tops.

What we don’t talk about — and should — is how threatening seeing any part of the food system (amongst many other systems) slip out of the control of the dominant minority is to them.

Try turning your front yard into a vegetable garden. What’s tolerated in the back yard is difficult to do in the front.

Try getting the building permits for greenhouses, or roof top gardens.

Try running a business depending upon being a distributor or user of CSA-supplied foods, especially if these are “non-standard” in some way.

As times get tougher for the old order, we can expect more and more of the treatment Café Florentina has been receiving. Senseless restrictions, different levels of government rendering different decisions while the individual is broken under the weight of it all.

Remember, always: real societal innovation is a danger to the dominant minority, once that minority is established.

Is it any wonder the answer to the question “if they could see it coming, why didn’t they…?” can be found here?

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