Food is politics. What we put in our mouth has meaning beyond its nutritional value. As we elevate how we think, speak and engage with life, what we eat and what we buy changes too.
I don’t shop for food anymore in a kind of trance, I shop with wide-eyed awareness and purpose. All because of an elderly Chinese man in line behind me a few weeks ago. He gestured at me and said a few words. I didn’t understand him. Then he picked up the product I had purchased, shook it noisily at me and said, ‘Made in China! – Bad!’ I am embarrassed to admit I bought it. I was too tired to go back through the aisles and choose another item.
But when I opened the package and used the product, it tasted awful. The seed had been planted, the deed was done. I couldn’t stop thinking about China.
Everything I saw in the next few few days beamed China into my psyche.
Then, as I waited one day for the streetcar at the Dundas square in downtown Toronto, I felt a gentle nudge at my elbow. It was a woman, barely a whisper in size, with a clipboard, a pen, and leaflet in her hand. Wordlessly she offered them up to me. I began to read. It was a story about the Falun Gong in China – people persecuted and tortured by the Chinese government for their practice of peaceful meditation. Tortured for peace? Give me a break. It was horrifying, startling – and like all acts of inhumanity – born of fear, separation, competition, greed – entirely incomprehensible.
I thought back to that product that I bought. This was my recompense for not paying attention. For being too tired to go find another product. Too tired. Shame on me.
My friend, Dan, has been talking to me about the Falun Gong for over 2 years now. He does the meditation practice every morning and he studies a tiny bright robin’s egg blue book with gold lettering. He speaks about cultivation of a peaceful mind and the importance of acting with non-violence in the face of cruelty and violence. These are not new themes – but what is new is to see someone so devoted to his practice and to know that he is doing it not only for himself but in solidarity with the millions fighting for change in China and other parts of the world, and for all those who have been and are being tortured for their devotion to peace.
I remember thinking not so long ago after we had another coffee and he talked about it again – what can I do? What can any of us do to change this?
Stop buying Chinese products? Pick up a pen and write. Pass the word on? All of the above. Maybe we must gather our forces and mount a publicity campaign inviting the Chinese government to the virtues of another way. I don’t know the answer, exactly. But my heart is awakened now and I am going to keep asking and inviting others to ask and care too. Maybe together we can invite the Chinese government to move away from fear and the tactics born of it and into love. Polyanna? Simplistic? Maybe. But Love is the most powerful force on earth and it will prevail. ~ Christiane Schull