Ode to the Market
We all live in the era of on-demand television, instant shipping, ever-available internet access.
This economic model, the so-called consumer-oriented economy, undeniably produces advantages for everyone purchasing goods and services at the end of the productive process.
A similar model is that of the supermarket, a model which pretty much everyone in Europe has known for at least 30 years.
Everyone now has been accustomed to round-the-clock minimarkets, immense supermarkets(often as part of a shopping mall), and a general omnipresent availability of goods. In fact, in the last few years we have even witnessed the apparition of internet-based ordering of groceries.
But what does this entail? How does this affect one of the most ancestral activities in human societies?
Economic globalisation has granted everyone in the West the opportunity to buy caribbean mangos, mexican avocados, and turkish cherries pretty much all year around.
Thus, the market, as a traditional meeting place of buyers and sellers, has become “super”, it has been “sanitized”, and air-conditioned, and the usual cries of merchants trying to lure in customers has been replaced by in-com systems croaking about eternal discounts and promotions.
We no longer know whose hands have physically extracted the potatoes we intend to buy from the earth, we no longer know whose hands have bottled the milk we purchase. And without knowing the faces of our local farmers, we now take for granted their work, and the products of their work.
It is true that the worring scale of food waste in the West is largely dependent on its abundance in the first place, but i would also argue that the way products of the earth are completely abstracted from their origin plays a huge part in it – as we have forgotten that what we thoughtlessly ingest and throw away as leftovers is the physical product of a man’s sweat, his waking up early in the morning, his treading through muddy fields, his caring for the crops.
Furthermore, as any vegetable and fruit is available all the time has also removed them from the cycle of season as all humans before us have always known. Greenhouses have effectively removed seasons; nowadays, who even remembers when courgettes are ready? When carrots can be harvested? When are tomatoes ripe, and ready for the picking? We have severed the ancient relationship between food and time.
Even in our daily lives, acquiring the ingredients for our meals has lost any defined place in the day – we now shop whenever we feel like, or whenever we can, while the market is usually held in the morning.
It is in a sense what Marx talked about with his idea of commodity fetishism, as products are considered independently of the productive process that generated them.
It is because of this that grocery shopping at your local market is of the utmost importance – it validates the holy work of your local farmers, and dignifies their work in a way that is simply unconceivable through industrially-organised retail. Sure, you might not get baloon-sized apples and shiny tomatoes as in supermarkets, but the joy with which an old farmer will sell you his goods abundantly makes up for it, and i am sure you will be happy to know that your coins and banknotes will be used by the farmer to support his family, rather than disappearing into the vaults and safes of some multi-national giant of mass-scale agriculture.
Eat local, and support your local farmers.