Chris Hedges and Buying Local

This week, I switched from reading novels from the Canada Reads 2011 series to something a little more serious. In Death of the Liberal Class, former NYT writer Christopher Hedges posits that the liberal class was, in the past, a line of defense from the excesses of power. He states that the pillars of the liberal class--the press, universities, the labour movement, culture and liberal religious institutions--no longer serve as a counterbalance to the corporate state, leaving the poor, working and middle classes without anyone to champion their cause. Hedges writes that the liberal class also provided a means for possible "incremental reform," such as the civil rights and the gay rights movements, while keeping the corporate control of politics, education, labour, the arts, religious institutions and financial institutions in check.

In other words, the liberal class has become complicit with the corporate state out of fear or greed, leaving the majority of the population without any type of protection. If you've been wondering where the Tea Party came from, I think that Mr. Hedges has offered a plausible answer. There's a large segment of the population that is unemployed, penniless and facing foreclosures on their homes who need a champion or some type of "incremental reform" to lend them a hand, and there's no one in either of the US parties offering any support.

And this isn't limited to the US; it's happening throughout the Western world. In Canada, we just have to look at our outrageous banking charges, the ever-changing billing practices of telecommunications companies or the election of Rob Ford as Mayor of Toronto to see that we are experiencing the same thing right here. Mr. Hedges even quotes federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who, while still living in the US in 2003, told the Guardian that "I still think that Bush is right when he says that Iraq would be better off if Saddam were disarmed and, if necessary, replaced by force." It's a small wonder that our minority Conservatives are still in power; our own Liberal leader appears to be liberal in name only.

Selling Kale at the local St-Dominique Market
Although I haven't come to Mr. Hedges' solutions yet, I can see where he's headed. We need to start supporting our neighbours to keep our own communities afloat and try to exclude corporations whenever possible.

I thought of environmental activist Laure Waridel's book Acheter c'est voter, or buying is voting. Now, more than ever we need to consider this when we make our purchases.

But finding local products is time-consuming. And how do you know if the product is good? Where do you get decent recommendations from someone who isn't a corporate shill?

It would seem that resorting to word-of-mouth among networks of friends and like-minded people is once again one of the more trusted methods, which would explain the huge success of social media.

Word-of-mouth: a new non-toxic local product

On Thursday, I was buying organic vegetables from a health food store on Laurier East. There was a man in his thirties who asked me if I wanted to try a sample of Oneka Elements shampoo that he and his wife were selling. I stopped to have a look. As some of you may recall, after reading about the Dirty Dozen or all the carcinogens, toxins and industrial ingredients used in commercial cosmetics, I tried making my own shampoo and moisturizer. The moisturizer was a hit, but my husband was not keen on the shampoo. I needed an alternative in case my next recipe was unsuccessful.

As I strained to read the ingredients on the sample bottle, I told the salesman that I had learned about all the toxins used in commercial cosmetics from the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF). He immediately blurted out that the reason their list of ingredients was so long was because he and his wife had listed them in French and English together.

You may recall that the DSF instructs consumers to buy cosmetics with the fewest ingredients. I went through the list and was pleased to see that the shampoo did not contain any Dirty Dozen ingredients. In addition, there was an asterisk next to the certified organic ingredients, and they had even indicated the ingredients that had been picked in the wild. I was also given an explanation as to the best kind of shampoo for a particular hair type. The best part--the shampoo sample was large enough to wash your hair at least three times to see if you liked it or not.

Okay, I was sold! Here, we have a husband and wife team going to health food stores to give out samples and explain their line of dirty dozen-free hair care products. What's more, it's a local product from St. Armand, Quebec. But the best part is that I tried the shampoo, and it does a great job.

Even more endearing, they deliver their product by bike with a bike trailer.

As I've said before, I'd much rather support the efforts of individuals trying to do the right thing than give my money away to a largely unaccountable, unsustainable multinational corporation.

Check out the Oneka Elements website here.

Related posts
DIY: Home Spa Salt Scrub
DIY: Moisturizer and Shampoo
Cosmetics: the Dirty Dozen
Dirty Dozen in my Personal Care Products
Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber
Airing our Dirty Laundry
The Mile End Buzz around Beekeeping



John-WArd Leighton | November 23, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Here in Vancouver at the Granville Market you would expect that the produce would be local well actually it isn't.
Most of it is bought at one of the wholesale markets minus the wrap marked up by about 25% and sold as local.

It really isn't a farmers market because its meats are all imported and the salmon comes from the freaking fish farms. i get around this by buying right off the fish boats the fish are cheaper and in most cases fresher. Some of the local farmers market are much better for getting fresh local food but being as they are only operating on weekends you still end up in the super market.

The markup in these so called farmers market is exorbitant and can add at least 25% to your food bill not something you can afford if on pension. I fail to understand the produce in the super markets can be shipped 1500 miles in refrigerated trucks and still be cheaper than locally grown produce.


Heather | November 24, 2010 at 8:23 AM

You buy your fish right off the boat? I'm so jealous! Man, would I like to blog about that.

I agree that organic and food from farmers' markets is more expensive, but this is just further evidence of the amount of money food corporations have. They are able to buy massive amounts and haul them across a continent and still have them cost less than what it costs a local farmer to produce. Just think of the unsustainable farming methods, pesticides and the pennies they pay to farm workers when you buy at your farmers' market.

Maybe you should do some of your own vegetable gardening next year. I can't wait to do that in my new garden.

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