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Why I did not like Barack Obama’s remarks at Seeds&Chips

DSCN4312 r2I beg everybody’s pardon, but I do not follow the general appeasement and endorsement for Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the most recent Seed&Chips event, in Milan. Though I might as well agree with his analysis of the situation – global climate change is happening, and it is killing life on this planet as we know it, with hundreds of millions at stake of famine, we’ve got to do something, and do it quick, if we want to curb the temperature increase – but I do not stand his side as long as recipes to challenge the problems are concerned. At least, some of them recipes.

I will focus my attention on three particular points of his speech: market as the leading actor in tomorrow’s world, the one world Obams and alikes believe in; technology as a sort of ultimate weapon against food emergency, a result of climate change; and the need to educate people, young and not as young as well.

Market as the leading actor

“Industries will make the rules”, Barack Obama said to the audience gathered at Fiera Milano for his keynote speech. He was hinting to the debate about cars emissions currently in place as an aftermath of the COP meeting last December. In Paris, host city of the worldwide event about environmental quality, climate change and all issues and topics connected, participating countries signed an agreement to curb emissions by automobiles. Donald Trump has made it clear he does not believe in the actions supported and proposed by the agreement, which the USA approved in Paris while still with Barack Obama as President. Trump seems to be going to allow automakers for less strict emissions limits, a decision which definitely goes opposite to what the Paris agreement calls for. In Milan, Obama said it would not matter what President Trump will decide, it will be the market to make the rules. “No car maker will risk losing the most important US market, California, making automobiles that do not respect the strict emission limits in that West Coast State”.

Now, that might seem a good point, for two reasons: first, the market is life in reality, so if “real life” wants something, that something will prevail; whatever goes for a cleaner planet is good for our life. There is one point that is hard to leave behind, though: Democracy. With a capital “D”.

Like it or not, Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States by the citizens of that great country. He responds to them, and to the two legislative bodies that represent citizens and States: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of both bodies are known by name, can be contacted by citizens, are under open scrutiny by all kinds of media. They respond of their doing to their voters, first, and to the courts of justice at all levels. Executives and managers of corporations and businesses in general are free of such “burdens”: they are not elected by citizens by appointed by stockholders; they do not undergo any democratic control about actions, decisions, they might take; more often than not, they are not even known to the general public, and their life, private and public as well, is hidden behind a wall against intrusion by public and media. If, as Barack Obama let his audience understand, accept that “it will the market to make the rules”, we implicitily give businesses the power to decide how we are going to live, with no actual part in the decision making process by ourselves or our representatives. Cars emissions first, later anything and everything untill each and every thing in our lives is controlled and decided by businesses. Out of anx democratic control.

Technology will save us

Sometimes, and this is one of those times, definitely, lower technology is better than state-of-the-art technology. Too much confidence in the good technologies can bring into our life has already shown many a time how troublesome, if not dangerous, it can be. We could go as long back in time as the early yerars of the 1900’s, back to the Titanic sinking, due to the excess of confidence in the power of technology, which led to people paying no attention to signs and events that, without those technologies, would have sparked alerts and alarms. Excess of confidence causes our brain falling asleep, and our innate push toward survival is silenced. With the results the tragedy of the Titanic showed the whole world.

That is just one part of the danger when we rely too much on technology. There are more, maybe even more dangerous and prone to cause longer period troubles and consequences. Talking about food, we shall not forget the Green Revolution launched back in the 1960’s and 1970’s has, indeed, helped to feed millions and millions of low-income petty farmers all over the world, but it also paved to way to the commoditization of agriculture, and to the over-power of chemical industry in the sector. For ages, farmers have leaned on their own crops as source for seeds to plant their fields again, and again, and again. Fields would be fed, and protected against insects, animals and illnesses, the natural way. The Green Revolution have made farmers dependents on chemicals provided by industries to protect the seeds ther industries would provide them. In the long run, it turned farmers into employees of these industries, when not servants: they can only use industry-provided seeds, which need industry-provided chemicals to survive natural enemies. Those to small to pay for the services industries would provide have been forced to leave their homes, theirs lands, and flock into the cities. That’s a phenomen that has been going on for decades, now.

Technology has turned our food into an industrial product. A commodity, just like oil and its derivates. And a product there to be manipulated, treated, re-treated to satisfy the needs and demands of the industries, and of the marketing and communications departments and agencies. It is no longer food to feed our bodies, and give tastes to our life.

If we accepted Barack Obama’s words: “Technology will feed the world and save our planet”, we would also accept the vision of a world where human beings are no longer indipendent and able to provide for their own needs, depending on industries for all and every things of their life. The way we eat, what we eat, what is inside the food we eat, vitamins added, minerals and salts, eat this to feel better, eat this to increase your muscles, this will make you slimmer, your skin will be lighter and softer: these are the kind of messages technology is already giving us every day. Are we really eager to give industries full control?

Educate people

Every time I hear a politician talk about the need “to educate people to build a better society”, a shiver goes through my backbone. Fascism wanted to educate people. Nazism wanted to educate people. Communism wanted to educate people. Mao wanted to educate people. The Vietcongs in Vietnam, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Sendero Luminoso in Peru, all small and large revolutionary movements all over the world wanted and want to educate people. “Educate” is a verb common to the language of all totalitarian regimes. That is why I really felt scared when I heard Obama say “We need to educate young people and consumers” to the new paradigms of behaviors he supports. Close your eyes, and his words will sound just like those of Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Josip Stalin, and all the great dictators, tyrans and murderers of our history.

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