If Rising Stress Levels the Mark of a Growing Movement, Then 2011 Was a Great Year for Food Rights
What is the mark of a vibrant movement?
For the food rights movement in 2011, at least, it seems to be the frequency of major disruptions, or what I would call "shock events." These include court decisions, government enforcement actions, and internal organizational moves.
Over the last year, we had any number of all of these.
On the legal side, there were major initial losses in Missouri, from Morningland Dairy, and Wisconsin. But they aren't over till they are over, and the cases are all on appeal. (Appeals were just filed in the last few weeks on the Wisconsin cases involving Wayne Craig and Mark Zinniker.)
Enforcement Actions. I'd say the most ominous event was the raid against Rawesome Food Club because the enforcers for the first time showed a willingness to press for felony charges against three involved individuals. A close second was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's undercover investigation of Pennsylvania farmer Daniel Allgyer. This one showed the willingness of federal enforcers to snoop around private homes to intimidate them on their food choices. There was also the federal grand jury investigation of David Hochstetler, and Richard Hebron, in Indiana and Michigan...along with state actions against Vernon Hershberger in Wisconsin and Brigitte Ruthman in Massachusetts.
Civil disobedience. The big event was Michael Schmidt's 37-day hunger strike stretching out over late September and October. He finally succeeded in gaining an audience with Ontario's premier. Another big event was the formation of the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, and the organization of two "rides" by moms risking arrest to bring raw milk across state lines, followed up by protest demonstrations.
Standards setting. It's generally a positive sign when an industry grows to such an extent that participants begin thinking about cooperating so as to set safety and other standards. Sure, there was lots of disagreement, and a rocky launch, but the establishment of the Raw Milk Institute overall was a positive sign. Already, it's gone through a re-structuring, which Mark McAfee describes in a comment following the previous post.
Each of these disruptions creates much tension within the movement. The tension from events like the Rawesome raid and other enforcement actions are pretty obvious-they arouse fear and mistrust. Farmers especially wonder if they will be next. And now, consumers are fearful as well. This is what the authorities are attempting to accomplish.
What the authorities don't want to see is people responding with anger and organization. That is what we have begun to see. The more people who become angry and upset, the more they let others know about what is happening.
Perhaps the greatest amount of stress came from Michael Schmidt's hunger strike. People concerned about whether he might die divided over whether he should continue or give up. In the end, Michael Schmidt's hunger strike was a great educational effort, informing thousands of people who knew little or nothing about the ongoing food wars about the severe crackdown on food rights in Canada and the U.S.
But each of these stressors has the prospect of helping us educate more people as to the nature of the struggle we are facing. Michael Schmidt put it well last year, when he distinguished between the "breaking point" and the "tipping point."
"Government and bureaucrats deliberately use the breaking point as a tool to achieve what they want to achieve: complacency and fear. The lengthy legal procedures, the threats of fines and jail and the never-ending resources will drive you towards that breaking point unless you are committed to lose whatever you have and to risk your own security of comfort and conformity. Let me guess, 95% percent of the people might think they have no option, no choice to defend the truth, the rights and the principles of fundamental justice. That looks like bad news. However the tipping point in regards to massive change is not 50% or more what most think. NO the tipping point for change is in fact less than 10% of the population. If more than 5% start waking up and begin to realize that we have the power to change the current destruction of society IF we are willing to stand up and resist."
More about the lessons upcoming.