“In a capitalist society, the motive behind the production of food is not to feed people, housing is not made to give them shelter, clothing is not made to keep them warm, and health care is not offered primarily to keep people healthy. All of these things, which are and should be viewed as basic rights, are nothing other than commodities—to be bought and sold—from which to make a profit. If a profit cannot be made, usually due to overproduction in relation to the market, the commodity is considered useless by the capitalist and destroyed.”—
In 2010 alone, about 3,164 Californians between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely for lack of health insurance.
That translates to about 61 Californians every week. Nationwide, 26,000 Americans in that same age group, died last year for the same reason.
“There are many factors driving global society toward a low-wage, low-growth, high-profit future, with increasing polarization and social disintegration. Another consequence is the fading of meaningful democratic processes as decision making is vested in private institutions and the quasi-governmental structures that are coalescing around them, what the Financial Times calls a “de facto world government” that operates in secret and without accountability. ”—Profit Over People - Noam Chomsky
“[H]ospitals almost double their profits when they convert a vaginal birth to a cesarean section. So they make about a thousand more dollars -- this is on average in California, per birth. And so there is a financial incentive there. ”—Nathanael Johnson on the profitability of Cesarean Section vs. natural birth
“Major changes have taken place in the global order in the past quarter century. By 1970 the "affluent alliance" of the post-war years was running on to the rocks, and there was growing pressure on corporate profits. Recognizing that the United States was no longer able to play the role of "international banker" that had been so beneficial to the US-based multinationals, Richard Nixon dismantled the international economic order (The Bretton Woods system), suspending the convertability of the dollar to gold, imposing wage-price controls and an import surcharge, and initiating fiscal measures that directed states power, beyond the previous norm, to welfare for the rich. These have been the guiding policies since, accelerated during the Reagan years and maintained by the "New Democrats." The unremitting class war waged by the businesss sectors was intensified, increasingly on a global scale. ”—Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People, Neoliberalism and Global Order
“A group of prominent Japanese economists recently published a multivolume review of Japan's program of economic development since World War II. They point out that Japan rejected the neoliberal doctrines of their US advisers, choosing instead a form of industrial policy that assigned a predominant role to the state. Market mechanisms were gradually introduced by the state bureaucracy and industrial-financial conglomerates as prospects for commercial success inscreased. The rejection of orthodox economic precepts was a condition for the “Japanese miracle,” the economists conclude. The success was impressive. With virtually no resource base, Japan became the world's biggest manufacturing economy by the 1990s and the world's leading source of foreign investment, also accounting for half the world's net saving and financing US deficits.”—Noam Chomsky - Profit Over People
“all of this is very natural in a society that is, to an unusual degree, business-run, with huge expenditures on marketing: $1 trillion a year, one sixth of the gross domestic product, much of it tax-deductible, so that people pay for the privilege of being subjected to manipulation of their attitudes and behavior.”—Profit Over People - Noam Chomsky
Additional experiences with Gutter Oil
At first I thought it prudent to try not to be seen taking pictures. (Yeah, try that out sometime - not looking like whatever the dominant ethnic group is of wherever you are and trying to take pictures without being noticed! Maybe it’d be easier if I wore a shawl to cover my hair?)
I eventually just went up and talked to the workers and took pictures with them. They were quite open. They said, ‘you don’t have this in the west (because of how people cook)’ and that, in response to my asking about reusing the oil, that its a good thing and ‘very environmentally friendly.’ To what extent they know the end result of their work I don’t know at all. Ignoring for the moment its ending up on people’s plates, the fact that a waste product is being re-used is of course environmentally and economically positive.
It turned out that this wouldn’t be the only time I saw people collecting gutter oil. I came upon people again a few months later, just a couple weeks ago, and again at my former school in Beijing. This time the people were repeatedly watching me as I hung around nearby taking pictures of nothing. I also noticed this time they were looking up at everyone who walked by, in characteristic ‘I’m doing something wrong’ fashion. You’d think that they were nervous about being ‘caught’. Maybe they were, yet this location happens to be in the parking lot of a main hotel/office building on campus, and next to the school’s main square. If you were worried about what you’re doing, you wouldn’t be doing it here.
[what you’re looking at here: 1) Plastic drums to hold the oil. 2) The funnels used to pour the oil into the drums. 3) Several black garbage bags filled with the oil soaked food (?) matter that’s on top of the oil/water in the sewer line. 4) A family working together. 5) The car of some official who walked by without saying anything. 6) Something you can’t see here - the smell. The other time I took pictures of this I didn’t smell anything at all. This time the smell was absolutely foul.]
You could draw a variety of conclusions from this..Perhaps most of the people who walked by didn’t know what they were doing, perhaps they did. Maybe the workers had some sort of sanction or deal with the hotel/college management, maybe they were working on the fly. I don’t know.
These are places where the gutter oil is collected from. In trying to understand who might be using gutter oil in their food, a useful place to start would be knowing who stands to benefit the most from its use. So who would benefit the most by using rock-bottom priced cooking oil? I can think of two main groups: 1) Those who use a lot of oil — Restaurants that produce dishes requiring a lot of oil and those who produce a large quantity of food on a regular basis. Places serving deep fried and stir fried foods of various kinds, and cafeteria’s or places with large numbers of people gathering. 2) Poor people, people on a fixed budget, and establishments with a very small profit margin — Migrant workers, urban poor, students, pensioners, and the food establishments that they either eat at or manage.
side note: [A debate in the China Daily about whether to reduce gutter oil use through subsidizing biodiesel mentions that gutter oil is sold by the original collectors to middlemen at RMB4000 a ton and eventually resold to restaurants at RMB8000, compared to standard cooking oil priced at RMB12000]
Disturbing is where these lines intersect - cafeterias are places that people on a fixed budget (students) eat at and that produce a tremendous amount of food. Since cafeterias are also a place I saw oil collected from, if you followed the logic that it is also a place likely to use cheap oil, you have the potential for an unfortunate and frightening cycle.
In the end any restaurant would like to save money by purchasing cheaper cooking oil. There really isn’t a way to determine who’s using it, unless perhaps you’re oddly lucky to get immediately and thoroughly sick after eating like I did a month ago.
A friend here joked with me recently about how all the toxic things in the environment will in the end make us stronger. I’ve heard different versions of this on several occasions, spoken in a tone by people being quite serious, to wanting to make a dark situation lighter, to just darkly cynical.
On that note, I am going to go have dinner in a school cafeteria.
Profit over People
We are doing this backwards, it should not be profit over people, people should always come first.
You vote with your feet! People think “well I am just one person, what can I do”? You can do everything!!! Choose local and organic- encourage others to do so and things will change!
Choose locally grown foods and local business!!
One of the most terrifying things about living in this time and place is knowing that if a topic is not productive to capitalism it will not be investigated/researched/discussed.
~birth control for men (which is faster, cheaper, and totally reversible)
~ways to recycle/reuse all the clothing in the world that’s already been made (since companies like Abercrombie burn their unused clothes bc apparently it hurts their image when their items get donated)
~returning to safer birthing practices
~we should expand this list, y’all…