"If you learn, teach
If you get, give"
- Maya Angelou
My hero, Maya Angelou. If I can't express what I feel I usually find that she has done it for me already, beautifully and kindly.
There is so much that I feel about the current imbalances in our lives around the World - there are enough resources for all to be living comfortable, healthy, and fulfilling lives yet here we are. Poverty, starvation, illness, war, oppression - what is it about the human psyche that so many feel superior to others and look to keep it that way at all costs?
I live in the UK and always have, so my opinions and experiences relate to that. The experience of others in different parts may be different to mine but in this area of our existence - how oppression is applied - we all seem to experience much of the same to some degree, from what I observe from World 'News'.
We live in uncertain times - but wasn't it always thus? Many of us are lucky enough to have so much more than others but because we also have so much less than others we feel powerless to gift substantial amounts of money to those deserving of more as this would affect the security of our own immediate family. We see multi-millionaires and billionaires living life to excess and think that it is not up to us to try to fix the problems when they don't - and this is probably right. There is not enough money between us to fix the problems with the 'just £3 per month' scenario.
£3 here, £3 there - how much difference could that truly make?
We have never been so poor since the last World War.
We have never been so poorly educated on food values and the nutritional link to our health.
We have never been so ignorant on food preparation and economic food buying and storage.
We have never had so many labour saving devices, electronic aids, books, the internet, and yet a significant number of our population have no cooking skills whatsoever. No way of feeding themselves let alone a family. Many children don't eat any meals at all at home, just snacks, and there are all sorts of complicated reasons for this. I am not being judgmental - if you in your life never interface with this it is sometimes hard to understand if this is even a truth, let alone how it comes about. We need to put that observation aside for the moment, just accept it as a fact.
We are very poorly informed from official sources which simultaneously chastise us for being overweight, by bringing about an epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes, heart problems, liver disease and sorts of other ailments affecting our ability to work and to support ourselves; our lack of meaningful exercise and underused gym memberships. At the same time, the rise in Ultra Processed Food is actively facilitated, helping to make it the only affordable choice for many low-income families. It should not be possible to buy a boxed meal for a family of three or four for less than cooking from fresh ingredients. The emphasis is in all the wrong places, providing huge profits for the 'food' manufacturers and the school/hospital meal providers and ultimately Big Pharma, as we make ourselves sicker and weaker.
The fact that there are people who do not know how to cook or who cannot afford the energy costs reflects no shame onto them. The pressures of the vicious cycle are just too great. Instead we should be turning it around and examining how our society has come to condone the systems that allow this to happen and to relentlessly criticise those that cannot withstand the grinding pressure of poverty.
Naturally enough I read lots of social media posts on preserving and especially on pressure canning which is a relatively new system of food preservation in the UK. It concentrates on preserving meals and other food groups at ambient temperature, instantly ready for use when the need arises. This is all good. However, increasingly these posts are starting to sound a bit 'I'm alright Jack'. People detailing the cheap bargains they have snapped up and then squirreled away in jars for later. All of this is good stuff. I just wish it could be a bit less 'us and them.' My goodness, how different all of our lives could be if we all took the time to teach when we learn, to give when we get. The bee in the hive does not return after a long flight and then secrete all the pollen she has collected and not contribute to the general good of the community. It wouldn't last very long if all bees behaved like that.
How would it be if we operated on a community basis as a way of life? Those that know how teach those that don't. Share resources such as crops, equipment, the processed preserves. Grow more as a community - instead of everyone growing everything, specialise by organising crops in the community and then come together to process in different ways, sharing the work, sharing the fun. Regular community meals involving all age; young learning from old.
The alternative is this rising anarchy of the haves and have nots. Why should whole swathes of youngsters be banished to the wastelands of poverty through no fault of their own? If they are encouraged and supported to thrive and learn they will be able to work and provide for themselves. Who are we to say 'I know how to do this; I have food stashed away to see me through - and you haven't'. What does that make us? Better than them?
The thing is there was a time when nobody knew about food preservation at ambient temperature.
Prehistoric Man (and Woman) were Hunter Gatherers. They hunted and gathered which involved a lot of walking about hunting animals and collecting berries and honey. They hunted and gathered and gathered and hunted and that's just about all that they had time for. When an animal was killed they may have hung the meat in a cave, keeping it out of the way of marauding beasts. They noticed that kept in this way - the origin of our expensive air dried ham and salami - that it kept for longer. When their collected berries were accidentally mixed with some honey they found that they kept for ever - or their reality of what 'ever' was. The oldest berries stored in honey have been found in the pyramids, still edible, from four to five thousand years ago.
Their accumulating knowledge meant that the forays to hunt and to gather could be spread out, it was no longer a relentless task. They could stay put for a while, they started to form communities, to help each other. Some stayed to watch the children while others went to look for food. Food could be cooked together needing only one fire instead of many, less fuel to find. Children could play together, life was less stressful. Animals could be kept to work with them to start the first attempts at farming.
It is a mind blowing thought that the preservation of food at ambient temperature
changed civilisation for ever.
It is a less comfortable realisation that the ability not to understand cooking and processing our own food could very quickly return us to a more precarious way of life.
I will finish as I began, with Maya Angelou.
What we need is less.