A Cowboy’s TalePosted: August 22, 2011
Day 28 of the March on Brussels. From Lévignacq, 31 km.
When I published my latest articles on the terrace of Lévignacq last night, many of the marchers had not yet arrived. It was nine o’ clock in the evening. Only when it was already completely dark, and the assembly had long finished, the last of them finally came in. They had lived many adventures, they had been received by sympathisers and treated to coffee, beer and lunch. They had also been soaked by garden hoses, not to scare them away, but to offer them some refreshment on a hot day.
As the last people arrived in the silence of the crickets I was talking to our comrade Pana, a true ‘vaquero’, a cowboy from Asturias. He is a romantic hero, a man that spans history. He told about the ‘transumanza’, when he drives the cattle up to the pastures in the mountains in the spring. It’s a ten hour walk. One of the cows has a bell, so that the rest can hear her and the pack stays together when they roam freely along the slopes.
He told me about the descent from the mountains by night at the height of summer, when the fire flies extend the starlit firmament to the sublunar atmosphere of earth. He would put a bit of leaves in a jar, catch two or three of the fire flies and put the lid on. The light they emitted would be just enough for him, Pana the cowboy, to find the path that would lead him safely back home.
This for the romantic side of the cowboy life. He also told me about the European Union. About subsidies to agriculture, about price control. I don’t know hardly anything about this. But I would like to. I think it is very important. Especially because the lion’s share of all EU expenditure goes to agriculture.
The EU, as it seems, subsidises every single cow. They subsidise the production of their food as well. On the other hand they force farmers to sell their livestock at very low prices to immense meat treatment corporations. Of course, it’s possible for farmers to buy food for their livestock on the free market, but then they would pay a price that is many times higher. They could also try to sell their cows on the free market for a normal price, but nobody would buy.
In this way the EU has complete control over the food production in the Union. There doesn’t exist a free market as far as agriculture goes. The hamburgers you eat at McDonald’s and the meat you find at ridiculously low prices in the supermarket are financed by European tax payers’ money.
This system benefits production of food and meat on an industrial scale, to the detrition of small farmers. Cows, pigs and all kind of animals are grown at the least possible cost in the shortest possible time, making maximum use of all possible public financing. It results in unliveable conditions for the animals, and flavourless meat.
But there’s more. All fresh food comes with an expiry date, but this date doesn’t mean that the food has gone bad. It means that it can’t be sold anymore. So it is thrown away.
Supermarkets throw away immense ammounts of perfectly edible food every day, to make place for new loads of food that continue to arrive at a steady rhythm from the industrial agriculture. The dumpsters of the supermarkets can feed entire armies of tramps, and in many places they do. In New York City, certain dumpsters are particularly appreciated by their customers. They haven’t yet received a Michelin star, but they are booked every night.
The production of good and healthy food is at the very base of a good and healthy life style. It’s clear that the revolution will have to address this by stimulating the production of local biological products, and the sustainable use of the earth instead of monocultures dependent on petroleum, insecticides and artificial fertilisers.
Pana’s father was a carpenter, an artisan, someone who made products that lasted more than a lifetime. Those people don’t exist anymore. Almost everything comes from slave labour in China, and nothing is made to last. The revolution will have to succeed, if only to make sure that in the future there will still be cowboys like comrade Pana.