About this Blog:

Hello to whoever may be reading this. I started this blog a while back for a variety of purposes, primarily the reason of documenting and sharing my thoughts and rants on a variety of issues and sharing insightful documentaries and resources. All I hope to do is to provoke at least a little bit of thought here and there, because most people don’t think critically enough about most things.

I chose the blog name “Food for Thought” for a variety of reasons; firstly, because I enjoy eating food and I’m very interested in food-related issues (such as issues of ethical production, food accessibility and so on…) and because I enjoy thinking! Also because a fair amount of the topics I will discuss will be food-oriented.

I don’t claim to be an academic or anything of the sort, just a moderately intelligent person who thinks critically about as many things as I can. None of my beliefs are static, as I’m always open to new ideas and having my own be challenged, which I believe is absolutely essential. I actually love being proven wrong. Because if any of my beliefs can be proven wrong, I learn from it, and adapt my views to whatever is more appropriate. Constructive criticism and/or debates are welcome, although I don’t know if I necessarily care for debates to be the main purpose of this blog.

For anyone who may be interested, I play in a hardcore punk band called Knives and Forks for Freedom. We’re a politically-oriented band who deals with a variety of issues similar to the ones addressed in this blog, and we have lots of fun too! For anyone who enjoys punk/hardcore bands such as Minor Threat, MDC, Dead Kennedy’s, A Global Threat and so on may enjoy us. Check us out: Knives and Forks for Freedom

Found below (to the left) are the blog entries I've done so far. I'd generally recommend they be read in order, as some of them make reference to ideas that were elaborated on in greater detail in a previous blog entry.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Takers and Leavers

In some ways, this topic is kind of a continuation of the previous blog entry I did.

The other day, I was looking at pictures online of new animal species that were just discovered in Southeast Asia (which were super cool and all), but the descriptions for some of the animals even acknowledged that these species were known to the locals. This indicates that these weren’t actually “discovered”, but only discovered and documented by the Western scientific world for the first time, which is pretty misleading to say they were just discovered. Another similar thing is the example of Christopher Columbus “discovering” North America, yet he wasn’t even the first to come to North America, not to mention the Native Americans who’ve been here forever. But the European who colonized North America is the one who “discovered” it, is what we're taught. It's almost like our society has to reinforce the idea that only the "developed” world can do things like discover new species and new continents.

Ever since I’ve started doing cultural studies and thinking critically about the education we’re provided, one thing I’ve thought of is that I find that the modern Western industrialized world doesn't really give any credit to indigenous peoples and people and cultures from thousands of years ago. One example that comes to mind is Stonehenge. From what I know about Stonehenge is that it’s still unknown who built it and how “simple” people could build such a thing thousands of years ago. But one thing people don’t seem to realize is that people from thousands of years ago were very much capable of intelligence. Clearly in the case of Stonehenge, whoever built it clearly knew what they were doing (apparently Stonehenge is even aligned with the stars or a constellation or something!). They clearly just didn’t leave behind any documents indicating how they built it. Our society seems to think, or even indoctrinates us with the idea, that people and cultures from over 50 years ago didn’t have any capacity for intelligence, which is a pretty ridiculous thing to think.

In the modern industrialized world, it seems like humans are so far removed from nature. The day that electronic technology fails on us, most of us are going to be screwed. Whereas on the other hand, indigenous people are just going to keep doing the same thing they’re doing now; living off the land. They’re the ones who are going to survive and evolve. Once electricity fails and shopping malls and cars are no more, the rest of us are going to die out because we never learned any practical survival skills.

For anyone who is interested in this sort of topic, I highly recommend the book "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn, it's one of the best books I've read in a very long time. It's a relatively short book which will force the reader to re-evaluate the way that we in the industrialized world view the rest of the world. Similarly, I'd even just recommend an Anthropology textbook.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Education and the Social Order

We can’t fully rely on our public school system and media for our education, which is why it is essential that people educate themselves and think critically about the education our schools are providing us. While there are many great aspects of schooling, it essential to be critical of what we’re being taught, as it seems like schools are more concerned with teaching us things that benefit capitalist economy and maintaining the prevailing social order.

Our schools never teach us about important real-world issues and people. We are not taught about gender and sexual diversity, feminism, indigenous peoples and their struggles and other very important issues such as the causes of homelessness and addictions. When we aren’t properly educated on these matters, we look at these people as “others” and come up with our own ill-informed notions of them, which in turn reinforces the subtle notion that our Western industrialized capitalist society and the white heterosexual male is superior to the rest of the world.

When we don’t learn about the incredible diversity in gender and sexual identities that exists, it implies that there are only two rigid gender roles that men and women must abide by. When we don’t properly learn about feminism, the very existence of misogyny and patriarchy prevails. When we don’t learn about indigenous peoples and their ways of life, we view them as all being simple-minded and primitive people. When we don’t learn about the variety of issues that cause homeless and/or addictions, we look at these people as worthless people who wasted their lives, rather than as victims of circumstance. When we aren’t properly educated about these people and issues, we only take note of the negative aspects and base stereotypes off of them or only come up with an overly simplified understanding of something.

It is for the same reasons we are taught to fear our enemies (whether they be communists or people in countries that our Governments are at war with) and we never see the “other side” of the story. State-sponsored school and the media are only interested in teaching us what they want us to know; obedience and fear.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Thoughts on Extreme Violence in Movies

These are just quick thoughts of mine that I have on extreme violence found in movies as a form of entertainment. This is just a rant and speculation, as I’ve never really conducted any academic research in this area.

By extreme violence in movies, I’m not referring to things like martial arts movies or relatively harmless stuff like a James Bond film; I’m referring to movies that have excessive and graphic scenes of torture and rape. Worst of all, is when such films have minimal to no plot whatsoever (because these movies do exist). Even when these movies do have a plot, I just don’t understand how people can actually watch overly graphic and prolonged scenes of such extreme violence.

There’s little denying that society is becoming increasingly desensitized to extreme violence in movies. I just find that our culture’s obsession with violence is a little unhealthy, and potentially dangerous. It just seems like if most people weren’t so desensitized to such violence, that we’d all care much more about things like the widespread horrors of war, torture, violence and rape that are taking place on the globe at this very moment. So with that in mind, I don’t understand why anyone would watch this kind of stuff in a movie, for their own entertainment.

Yes, I know people will say how these movies are all just in good artistic fun and are meant to provoke emotions and/or that the viewer can clearly distinguish between violence in a fictional movie versus real life (and I don’t doubt that, for the most part), I just personally don’t care for the whole thing myself.   

The only exception I’m fine with is if these violent movies are grounded in reality or based on history, such as a film that is based on actual events in history, such as Schindler's List. What I’m implying here is that a movie like Schindler’s List would hopefully provoke thought and provide insight into the brutality and violence that took place on this planet not too long ago, compared to movies featuring prolonged and detailed scenes of torture and rape for no other reason than shock value which are merely used for entertainment.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Food Waste and Accessibility

Food is obviously essential to life, yet so many people on this planet don’t have access to it. Even in the “developed” world, so much food goes to waste. Approximately 40% to 50% of food in the Western industrialized world goes to waste after it’s produced. This is a tragedy and should not be happening.

spent several years of my life working in a grocery store, I’ve seen the amount of edible food that is thrown out daily, it’s absurd. Perfectly edible food is being thrown out every day in grocery stores and restaurants everywhere. Often times the food is thrown out the day it hits the expiry date or if the item becomes slightly damaged.

In regards to the expiry date, most foods can actually be consumed within a reasonable amount of time after the expiry date. Generally, the expiry dates that companies put on their products are actually earlier than the products will actually go bad. The reason for this is that because it decreases the chances of someone potentially getting sick from consuming their product which could get the manufacturer in trouble. It’s a liability for them, so they label the expiry date before the food actually goes bad. Both the store selling the food and the food manufacture would rather see the food be thrown out than have to deal with that slightest chance of someone getting sick from consuming their product.

In regards to stores throwing out products that have become dented or slightly damaged, this is generally done because stores want to maintain an image of selling only “perfect” food items. Most people would also prefer to eat perfect looking food rather than slightly imperfect food, which is understandable. But if people and stores could stop being so picky about the appearance of their food, much less of it would go to waste. 

So, here are some great ways to minimize waste (and save money!):

- Firstly, don’t waste food. If you have food in your refrigerator, eat it before you acquiring loads of more food.

- Another great thing to do is to simply buy food at stores that have been marked down/reduced. Several stores seem to do this. They’ll reduce the price of food items by 50%, generally because the food is nearing its expiry date or is slightly damaged, but otherwise perfectly edible. If you’re not too picky with the food you eat, buying reduced food is a great idea. More stores should do this, as they would also get part of their money back.

- Lastly, dumpster diving! Yes, this is a much stigmatized activity, which our society has conditioned us to associate with being filthy and/or homeless. However, with all of the above information I mentioned, grocery store dumpsters/garbage bins are filled with loads of edible food. Rather than elaborate on this in great detail, just check out this website instead. It’s got a great short video/mini-documentary about the wonderful art of dumpster diving and some great information about food waste: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/08/meet-the-freegans.php

Along the sames lines, here’s a really cool and informative article that was written in the Carleton University student newspaper: http://www.charlatan.ca/content/frugal-living

Another great initiative to reduce food waste is the Food Not Bombs movement. Food Not Bombs is an international decentralized network consisting of activists who set up food lines in public parks and streets serving day-old food acquired from local grocery stores and bakeries that would otherwise be discarded. They prepare this food into vegetarian/vegan meals which are then provided to anyone who would like a free meal. This is done both as a political stance against government institutions that spend billions on war while people are starving and homeless and to serve perfectly good food that would otherwise be wasted while helping alleviate starvation. Find out if your city has a Food Not Bombs and go enjoy some free food!

For more information about the Food Not Bombs movement: http://www.foodnotbombs.net/

Here’s some additional information about the issue of food waste: http://www.endhunger.org/food_waste.htm

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Various Thoughts on School

Here are some thoughts I have on school, primarily focusing on my criticism of post-secondary school.

Firstly, I do acknowledge that there are certain legitimate reasons for attending school, such as for anyone who actually wants to pursue their field of study, and certain fields that do require a lot of education and training (such as the physical sciences and engineering), and perhaps most trades also.

That being said, I think most other people should really reconsider why they attend school. If you are attending school just for the sake of learning, you should probably ask yourself if you can just educate yourself other ways.

For example, as a student myself (unfortunately…), I find it ridiculous to pay 500 dollars to take a university class about Canadian History, just to buy a textbook and have a goofy teacher reiterate what the textbook says during the lectures. If you want to learn about Canadian history, just acquire the textbook yourself and read it at your own pace.

I’ve also taken a couple of classes in the area of human rights and world issues, in which we learned about a variety of human rights issues internationally and domestically. Although I learned a fair amount from such courses, I feel that the notion of paying to learn about world issues is pretty messed up. I almost find it reinforces the idea that we have to pay to learn about world issues. I’ve also noticed that most people who take such classes probably do absolutely nothing to address any of the world issues during the course of the class or after they’ve received their final grade for the class, as that is probably their only concern when taking such a course. It's frustrating seeing people in human rights classes drinking Coke, coffee and other other unethical beverages and food items.

If acquiring a degree is not a concern of yours, just educate yourself! Read books on your own, watch documentaries (maybe even take them out of your local library for free!), engage in discussions with the people around you and travel the world and learn through experience. There are so many ways to learn, so why pay $20,000 for a degree in Philosophy?

That being said, I also have a problem with students who complain about the price of school. Yes, College/University is expensive, and probably can be covered more by the Government, but I really dislike when people complain about the price of school.

Firstly, in Canada school is so much cheaper than in the United States. If I’m not mistaken, in the US post-secondary school costs like 3 or 4 times as much as here in Canada. Secondly, if you’re tight for money, maybe take a semester or a year off from school to save up some money?

I also dislike student protests about the cost of school. Again, I understand where you’re coming from, but I think it’s ridiculous to be protesting the cost of school when you’re the one who’s choosing to attend school. A good friend of mine, who will probably never be able to afford to attend post-secondary school once made a great point that it’s people who will never be able to afford school who should protest the cost of school. Otherwise, students who are choosing to pay $5000-$20,000 to attend school and then complain about it look like a bunch of spoiled brats. There are so many bigger problems on this planet than the cost of school. At this very moment, there are people who are starving and being trafficked for sex against their will, and you’re complaining that school costs too much, when you’re the one who’s choosing to pay that much money to go to school?!

Not to mention, the debt so many students find themselves in: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20090329/NEWS01/903290339/Many-college-students-face-mountain-debt-once-they-graduate

Maybe everyone can do something a little more productive with that $5000-$20,000 they’re spending on school?

p.s: Large-scale student protests as currently seen in Montreal are cool with me. Protests of that nature are much more likely to be successful than a protest of a few dozen students holding signs.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Toilets and Water Consumption

Have you ever put any thought into how much water is used every single time you flush a toilet? Well, on average toilets use 1-2 gallons of water per flush. That’s a lot of water! 

So, what I’d propose to anyone is that you consider not flushing the toilet every single time you urinate. Although this is definitely a bit of a taboo for many people and society at large because it is the norm to flush the toilet immediately after use, there are definitely some good reasons to refrain from flushing every single time.

So much water gets unnecessarily wasted every single time a toilet is flushed, so why not just flush it every second or third time you urinate? By flushing the toilet even just every second time that you use it, you are only using half as much water as you normally would be. Also, it’ll save you a tiny bit of money if you don’t use up a gallon or two of water every single time. If the sight and/or possible smell of urine is not appealing, just leave the toilet seat closed after you use it.  

Also, with so many people on this planet who don’t have access to clean water, is it not a little messed up that we actually use water to urinate and defecate in? Even just out of principle, it might be a good idea to refrain from wasting so much water.

That all being said, you will still want to flush every odd time, because when urine-water sits in a toilet for prolonged periods of time, it will stain the toilet bowl, which will require you clean it slightly more often. If your urine is really concentrated (due to being dehydrated), it’s better to flush the toilet to minimize the staining of the toilet. Along the same lines, you may as well also flush the toilet before you go to sleep, so urine-water is not left in the toilet for a prolonged period of time, which will also increase the staining of the toilet.

It is essential that you keep in mind whose toilets you do this in. You may want to make sure your family or roommates won’t be bothered by this. I wouldn’t advise you do this when you’re at someone else’s house if they wouldn’t approve. Public bathrooms are good though! Outside is good too, when appropriate.

Admittedly, this suggestion that I’m making is a fairly trivial and perhaps insignificant approach to this issue. So, here are some really great and more serious resources about water accessibility and water conservation that are definitely worth looking into:

Pets and Adoption

Pets are great, I absolutely love them. However, and I almost hate to say it, pets are basically just a commodity in the Western world. A dog is practically just another household item in this world of consumerism.

When you walk by a pet store, have you ever thought about where these animals come from? They don’t just fall from heaven, waiting for someone to buy them and take them home, that’s for sure. In the case of dogs (and presumably most other animals found in pet stores), the majority of them are mass-bred in horrible and confined conditions in “puppy mills”, which are comparable to the ways animals are mass bred and confined for the production of animal products. Huge industries have little care about the lives of animals, and instead just see them as profitable objects. With this in mind, every time I walk by a pet store, I actually become depressed when I see animals confined to a small glass display.

For anyone who wants to have a pet in their life, the obvious thing to do is to go to an animal shelter and adopt a pet. There are so many pets at animal shelters that have been abandoned and need a home. Animals who have been abandoned will probably be extra loving and affectionate too! Think about the life you are saving!

By decreasing the demand for store bought pets, less of them will be bred, until hopefully none of them will be bred anymore. Ideally, what I would like to see is that no animals are forcibly bred to be sold, and that people adopt an animal instead, until every animal has been adopted into a caring home.

Here’s a great website to check out for anyone who would like to learn more about the unethical business practices of mass-breeding and selling animals: http://www.petsmartcruelty.com/

Also, what really is the difference between a pig, a cow and a dog? Why eat some and not the other? Pigs are smarter than dogs, cows can be just as affectionate as dogs and dogs probably taste good too. Not to mention how culturally subjective the perception and use for dogs is. Here, they’re a household commodity, in parts of Asia they can be used as food; in parts of India a wild dog is considered a pest. The same can be said in the inverse, in that cows are exploited for food here, yet in India they are considered sacred and not to be consumed as food. It seems like large industries have a lot of control and influence over what our society buys and eats in the industrialized world.