A friend emailed me a link to a piece on chicken torture, with the subject line “ick” and a one-word comment: “disgusting.”
It seems a farmer on contract to Perdue had “an attack of conscience” and invited an animal rights group to come in and document how poorly he treats his chickens. It was all rather odd, because the farmer, who has been raising chickens according to Perdue's specifications since 1992, wasn't portrayed as feeling guilty about his own role in the abuse.
No. He was bothered more by the company's marketing lies, as in its false claims that Perdue chickens were treated humanely.
And it struck me as yet another example of how we love to blame the corporations, while never taking responsibility for our own role in the documented ugliness of the modern food system. As in our insatiable demand for chicken tenders, nuggets, sandwiches, buffalo wings, deboned thighs and breasts, grilled on rotisseries or hulihuli style — available 24/7, at the lowest possible price,.
Which is not to say it's OK treat chickens or any livestock badly — it's absolutely not — or for corporate advertisers to exaggerate, distort and outright lie — i.e., use the most common tools of their trade.
But we, the all-powerful consumers, make choices every single day in how we spend our money and time, how we respond to marketing, what we are willing to ignore for the sake of convenience, low-cost and satisfying our (often manipulated) desires.
The way we treat chickens is just another symptom of our denial about what a consumer-driven society fully entails, how we're actually living in this world, what things truly cost, beyond dollars and cents, what it really means to keep this dysfunctional system going.
Which leads me to a blog post by Luke Evslin, who expressed dismay about the lack of vision expressed by the current Council. Luke wrote:
Council Chair Rapozo's inaugural address was a clear statement that our island's systemic issues will continue to go unmentioned. Maybe my expectations were too high or I'm naive and idealistic, but I was hoping his speech would provide an outline for more than clean park bathrooms, quality performance audits, and support for burning trash as a solution to our landfill problem. The stark realism of that depressing priority list was topped off by his number one commitment for the county of Kaua'i: the re-surfacing of Puhi road.
Road maintenance is a basic county service, not a bargaining chip or an achievement. In just four years we traded in the grand and sweeping vision of Mayor Carvalho's Holoholo 2020, which included expanded bus service, a north and south shore shuttle, and green affordable housing for the stark fiscal realism of Council Chair Rapozo's vision of re-surfacing a road. Obviously the road needs to be paved, but, by promoting it as priority #1 our council chair is relegating our county government to just fulfilling basic services.
There are several points to be made here.
First, in 27 years of covering the Kauai County Council, I can't ever recall that body moving forward with any vision, lofty or otherwise. That vision thang has typically been the purview of the mayor, who then seeks Council support in the form of funding. If the Council and mayor have a good working relationship — and it seems Bernard Carvalho Jr. is taking steps to make that happen — the mayor's vision can become reality.
Second, when Kauai County has not yet mastered the art of providing its residents and visitors with the basics of good roads, clean park bathrooms and solid waste disposal, how can it be expected to articulate, much less execute, any sort of progressive vision?
Third, Mel's cautious, nuts-and-bolts agenda is yet another bit of blowback from the regressively progressive “vision” that was pushed by Councilman Gary Hooser and former Councilman Tim Bynum. The last Council was actually a very good one — until Gary and Tim went off on their own vision quest, which they then tried to shove down the throats of their colleagues and the public.
Their vision of Kauai as a trend-setter in restricting the chem/seed companies, and themselves as leading a grassroots rebellion proved delusional, divisive, expensive, distracting and ultimately fatally flawed. Tim lost his re-election bid, Gary barely made seventh and their two piece of legislation have died.
Meanwhile, a majority of voters — as evidenced by Mel's overwhelming victory — indicated they have no stomach for the Council as visionaries, especially when it costs them money and prevents the Council from achieving such mundane, but essential, services as paving roads and cleaning park bathrooms.
What about a government that works to increase economic freedom, enables environmental protection, and fights for Kaua'i residents to retain their way of life? Nope, let's let the market take care of that while the government focuses on paving roads and cleaning bathrooms.
Or what about citizens who work to increase economic opportunities, and protect the environment and the Kauai lifestyle?
Much as we resist the idea, governments and corporations are direct reflections of us as individuals, and as a society.
We can shake our heads in disgust at the sordid chicken houses, the squabbling County Council, and blame the politicians, the corporations, for their lack of a better vision, the many wrongs in the world.
Or we can take responsibility for the systems we create and contribute to, pursue our own visions and work for meaningful change at both an individual and societal level.