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Bitcoin and Food – So Similar?

Bitcoin and food — food and bitcoin — how would the two begin dating, let alone marry? One lives on computer servers and hard drives, and only moves to the beat of electricity; the other in the sensual world of taste, smells, colours, traditionally enjoyed without an electrical plug!

Raw Tibicos can take a break from food to learn about the world, and has been fascinated to hear bitcoin advocates speak of two concepts crucial to food: de-centralization/ personal sovereignty. As Raw Tibicos understands it, if governments fail to meet citizens’ basic needs, then at least one has bitcoin safe in an off-line wallet, in one’s own possession, with transactions processed and recorded in multiple servers around the world. The servers are chosen at random from among those who do ‘proof of work’; and the total number of bitcoins is limited by the algorithm. Let’s assume that ‘the algorithm’ does what its advocates claim for it, and caps the amount of bitcoins extant; awesome. Bitcoin is now like food; the amount of food is limited on the right hand by the biology of human digestion and corporal realities, and on the left hand, by our ability to source, process and store it.

De-centralization and personal sovereignty in the digital world are discussed everyday, over and over; so why, Raw Tibicos asks, would the convo. Not shift from bitcoin to food, reflecting the connection between the two? “Enough about the digital world, let’s discuss the same issues with food”. Astonishing isn’t the word! Most of us do not interact with bitcoin three or more times each day, and yet, with all the breakfast, lunches, dinners, and snacks eaten, while discussing bitcoin, Raw Tibicos is aware of none who have thought about food’s journey from de-centralized, marker of personal sovereignty, to – the complete opposite! Yowsers!

We don’t have to go back to the Roman Empire to find a world where the average human controlled his own food supply – but in the Romans we have a well-documented connection between food and conquest. Most of us are aware that Imperial Rome’s expansion was stopped by the Celts and the Germanic tribes — what should also be taught is that the reason Rome was stopped – with barely a weapon drawn – was that Rome was unable to control the area’s food? Rome – and all imperial-slave-based systems are based on control of food. Rome was a grain-based culture; the Germano-Celts tribes’ food was tree-based. No central granaries to control – probably not even barns to burn. What is an imperialist slaver to do? Go native?

A contemporary recorded that the Germano-Celtic diet was apples, deer and milk; and we have confirmation of this in the wealth of ancient Celtic legends that have come down to us. The tree-based pastoralists knew that cows and horses can be fed in the forest – leaves were an important source of additional food for cows and horses. To this we can add the many nutritious and delicious forest products that we know traditional temperate forest people eat: walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, acorns, mushrooms, birds, berries, ground and pig nuts, pine nuts, rabbits, burdock and even the bark and leaves of some trees. Unlike relying on a grain crop, if one food source fails, or is destroyed by the Romans, there are others. Stockholm syndrome has led many to conclude that only a small population can be kept on this kind of food supply, however, intensive historical food reading by Raw Tibicos shows this kind of thinking for what it is. Did you know that for over a century after contact, the coast of North America was so densely populated, that European trading ships could not land? Another victory for tree-based economies as difficult to conquer! (One suspects they had heard about their southern neighbour’s experience with Columbus). How many people know that during the summer fur trade, along the Michigan peninsula, each individual woman was able to provide enough food for herself, her family, and five – ten French & First Nations traders, plus enough for her family’s (non-meat) needs over the winter? No plows – and no monocultures need apply!

So why did Western Civ move from sustainable, productive, low-risk decentralized food production to one that is more work, more prone to famine, may provide less calories per acre, and best of all (sarcasm) – is easier to tax and – even better – control the population?

Cows may provide a (cow-shaped) keyhole to peek through, to begin answer that question. Cows were so central to Germano-Celt economies that they were the symbol of wealth, and the first letter of the Futark. Cows turn wasteland – useless for farming – into food. Cows can be fed in the forest as well as on grass, and give so much milk, that the cow – along with her co-conspirators sheep and goats, are probably the beginning of civilization. The dairy cow, in particular, has one additional fascinating characteristic – she gives immunity from small pox to dairy maids.

Imagine that we are living in a time not so long ago, where most people were involved with their food production, small pox is rampant; except among dairy maids. An alien observing this, from his UFO, might think, “Of course, mankind will share the labour and the benefits of milking the cows, so that everyone has a day off, and also the benefits of disease control. Plus, it solidifies decentralized and personal control over an important food source, as these are important values to these people.” HEAD FAKE! Rather, all the leading thinkers said, “Let’s have a centralized authority cut open the skin of healthy people and rub pus from a sick person in! Then we can make all the dairy farms centralized and pay the milk maids less!” Our fictional UFO observer would have given up on humanity immediately, for all time!

After knowing this slice of history, who would not shed a tear for the future of bitcoin? The values of decentralization and personal control can mean less than nothing compared to the march of profits. Perhaps more information will make this weakness more striking?

When small pox inoculations were introduced, there was tremendous push-back from the population. The inoculations had to be imposed by a central authority; usually the local landowner. The inoculations initially seemed beneficial; but this was a mirage, due to the way that diseases wax and wane naturally. By the time that years of data were available, including the deaths of many whom had been inoculated, it was clear that this method did not give the immunization that milking cows gave.

Personally speaking, (unlike most people living today), Raw Tibicos has spent some months hand-milking two cows, and found it to be rather nice. The cows are warm and soft, the calf is adorable, and the barn is a nice peaceful refuge. It is hard to hypothesize that a hatred of cows was the reason that funding went to further research of inserting pus into bodies, rather than researching human-animal symbiotic relationships.

As decisions about which research priorities got funding were made, other forces grabbed a decisive lead against decentralized, personal control over food. “Enclosing the commons” had begun, arguably as early as William the Conquerer, who set aside common land forest for his personal hunting preserve, but the practice of local large landowners appropriating land previously held as commons was a keynote of the Enlightenment. Developing world markets opened up the possibility of using the land to sell for those same world markets, putting in view the tantalizing prospect of heretofore unattainable wealth – for the few. All that was needed was a stomach strong enough to dispossess local families of land traditionally held in common; land used to graze family cows, hunt a few rabbits, or harvest wild foods and wood for fuel. Much ink was spilled justifying this; the end result was that people who preferred to control and manage their own food, were forced into the cities, to provide labour for the factories processing the wool grown on their own former commons. As an added insult, access to food was much more centralized, and depended on acceding to the demands of the factory owner. No longer could a family be fed by the simple act of one’s own labour!

Unsurprisingly, many objected to this arrangement. They were suppressed by the military, or deported, and even the name of their movement, Luddites, has come to mean stupid people objecting to wonderful progress. Lesson learned; the trouble-makers in their new continent, traumatized, ceased to advocate for food sovereignty, and those left knew the consequences of disagreement. Therefore food has come to be the poster child for centralization out of individual’s control.
Food became the pathbreaker for a new model of economy, one that included cycles dominated by man rather than nature. We are subject to an endless cycle of “wonderful new discoveries” which we must all buy, which are in due course of time, very predictably revealed to be actually harmful. Anyone with a memory long enough to point out the many previous cycles, and recommend caution in the most recent, is called “unscientific”, “a conspiracy theorist”, a “Luddite”, or maybe a climate denier or racist – the insults cycle along with the marketing – that is probably the point of it all, to keep us “disrupted”? Who among us cannot point to an industry or two, or three, that follow this disruptive cycle of higher and higher profits, and lower and lower quality of goods? Raw Tibicos is in favour of profits, what (apparently) sets us apart is the idea that profits can also partner with happiness! As a note, Soup&Kefir @RawTibicos sources from many suppliers, including small, independent sources, and our products are reputed to increase happiness. Please click here for the happy review: https://www.soupkefir.ca/reviews

During the era of smallpox inoculations and enclosure of the commons, legend has it, that as he left the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government had been decided. “Democracy, if you can keep it,” is the legendary reply.

Franklin would have known that what had been decided was a Republic, not a democracy – the difference being that in a democracy citizens vote themselves for laws and budgets, whereas in a Republic, citizens delegate law and budget duties to others. Bitcoin, of course, began with much wider distribution of mining, (as compared to users of bitcoins); but as the market has grown, bitcoin has become more like a republic, in that many of the essential functions have become professionalized and have a fairly high barrier to entry for the average bitcoin “citizen”. First World food, however, is even further along the centralization slide – almost everything the average food citizen puts in his mouth came from one of a small handful of companies. This includes restaurants, almost all of which source from one of the only two or three giant distributors.

Raw Tibicos would like to see bitcoin survive as a “republic”, and not slide into dictatorship, but one hopes that the real utility of this analogy is to provoke a little thought about the tremendous power concentrated in a few hands, which is the industrial food system. It has been almost exactly a thousand years since William the Conquerer caused mass starvation by kicking people out of the thousands of acres of their traditional land. The centuries since have seen billions displaced off of their traditional land, and their direct control over their own food. Can we stop this, or is it too late? Future blogs will discuss Soup&Kefir @RawTibicos’ efforts to decentralize and democratize food, and the barriers we see: please stay tuned, and if possible throw a few dollars every week toward us by donating here, or other providers who are working on food democracy, if only to prove that decentralized food does have a future!

Support decentralized food by purchasing at Soup&Kefir @RawTibicos, or donating below! http://soupkefir.com. Information provided is for entertainment only, no medical or other professional advice is offered.

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Life, Men & Microbes

There is elite corporate history; and then there is history for the rest of us. . . The first can be known for how it flatters and degrades us at the same time; the second for how it connects with us on a daily level and makes our understanding richer.

In elite corporate history, Great Men use Powerful Forces to attain Great Results. These histories began with the bards hired at courts to memorialize the conquests of kings; one can easily see how the format of Great Men/ Great Results would result in a bigger payment from the king to the bard!

During the Industrial Revolution the person paying for the genre changed from kings to corporate owners; until our time when the people paying are the shareholders. One of Raw Tibicos’ first jobs was as a very junior equity analyst; which means that it was actually Raw Tibicos who had to open endless annual reports, all with the same photo of a CEO taken from somewhere at the man’s knee, giving the perspective of the company being lead by a literal Great Man. This was in the early 90’s, when people still felt that raiding pension funds, loading companies with debt, cutting benefits and eradicating investment in the future required an excuse!

The good thing about the Great Man version of history, (from the perspective of the man taking the money out of the company), is that in order to question the Great Man’s actions, one must question the very format in which the story is told . . .

Let’s do this, shall we? Let’s explore the alternative to the Great Man! Most histories, attempting this, begin slightly lower with everyday people’s lives. For a really different history, let’s go way, way, wa-a-y down the social scale, to depths often uncharted. As Soup&Kefir @RawTibicos was founded on the magic of microbes, let’s begin our history on a very, very small scale.

A teaspoon of soil has more microbes than there are people alive. Microbes vastly outweigh the total weight of humanity. Microbes are Elder Brother to mankind, and will probably be Surviving Sister. Healthy microbiomes in the soil process nutrients, act as information sources, and share goods with the plants we depend on. “As above, so below”, in our intestinal tracts, we all process personal “soil” with the help of our own microbiome. A healthy human biome processes nutrients, acts as information sources, and shares goods (sound familiar?) with its host? client? you. By contrast, an unhealthy biome does none of these things, allows cracks in the intestinal lining, and as an added insult, may actually manufacture toxins as byproducts of itself. To complete this circle – the plants we ingest become soil in the intestine, and historically, returned to the maternal soil source, to nourish new plants.

The capacity of the Earth, to grow, nurture and care for humanity – as well as all the other life – depends on the quality – not of Great Men and their Powerful Forces – but on the health of the microbiome. Destruction of the microbiome has resulted in a measurable, documented decline in the nutrient value of the fruits, vegetables and grains that mankind relies on – one the past hundred years. How much is this decline? If asked to guess, would you guess 20%? 50%? You would be wrong – the decline has been more than 90% – in many cases, over 95% of the minerals and nutrients in our food has disappeared!

Let’s go further. Most histories describe the rise and fall of nations and empires as having been the result of Great Men. The truth is – men might be doing great things – however their actions have zero predictive value! What does have predictive value? Soil. Oh, and one other thing – soil. Nations with strong, fertile microbe-strong topsoil thrive. Once that is gone – the nation falls. The secret of some cultures’ ability to survive thousands of years? You guessed it – it isn’t subtle planning, big weapons, or virtuous thought – it all depends on soil. Do you disbelieve me? I invite you to prove Raw Tibicos wrong!

We aren’t done yet – we can go further and deeper!

Healthy topsoil with a healthy biome => leads to nutrient-packed foods => leads to healthy, strong nations and cultures; each individual filled with his or her own personal strong soil filled with healthy biome.

Instead, we have the “green revolution”, where artificial nitrogen fertilizers have led to huge plant growth – but the plants lack nutrients and structure, and so are prey to disease and predation by micro-insects – and therefore require larger doses of poisonous insecticides. Is there a parallel? There is! Humanity, fed on food created by nitrogen fertilizers has exploded in number, but we are weak, nutrient depleted, depressed, and increasingly, require large doses of toxic chemicals and interventions. Hmmmm?

Comparing human growth to the growth of our food is an ancient idea – older than thinking about causes of population growth – which goes back only a few centuries, as far as we know. Readers are doubtless familiar with the work of Thomas Malthus, whose famous prediction was that given adequate food, populations increase exponentially, tragically outstripping the supply of food, which only can increase linearly. Malthus has fallen in and out of popularity in the two centuries since he wrote; the conclusion most supported by long-term evidence seems to be that occasionally, in the short-term, Malthus can be correct. Malthus, is of course, in the Great Man tradition. Modern thinking is now centred on more everyday decisions: each set of parents plans to have one or two children survive them. With high infant mortality, mothers have more children; when infants have a high likelihood of surviving, births decrease. Most of the population increase has occurred around the world in the generation where infant mortality dropped, but expectations of mortality had not yet caught up with the new reality.

Infant mortality would seem to contradict the idea that soil health is important – as nitrogen fertilizers and the attendant pesticides, herbicides have wreaked havoc on soil microbiomes – infant mortality has gone down. Let’s get deeper on this subject:

Any parent can confirm – feeding infants is hard! Breast feeding, which is so natural and evolved, is far more difficult than one can guess. Breast feeding an infant not only provides the best nutrition, but the action helps an infant’s palate and jaw grow to the correct shape. As with anything of great value, there is a learning curve – infants must learn to latch on correctly, and the sucking takes effort – necessary effort, as it is the action of muscles that pulls the palate and jaw into shape. Dehydrated, malnourished or drunk babies will have difficulties. Further, mothers must have enough nutrition to make milk, enough time to suckle their babies, enough peace to allow the milk to come, and enough maturity to bring this all together. None of these many factors can be taken for granted!

These difficulties caused the rise of the profession of wet nurse. A wet nurse is a professional baby feeder, a woman who had demonstrated the ability to bring infants through the crucial first two years. We do know that wet nurses were common in the Enlightenment, in Europe – concurrent with, or more likely – the cause of the population boom at that time. During the Enlightenment, wet nurses came from a family located near by, a family usually known for generations to her employers. Historically, Jane Austin and her siblings were sent out to a local women for nursing; the Austin family was known for having a high survival rate for its children. Compensation in the form of household help; food, probably clothing and other tangible help was given, as well as probably a wage.

This system broke down during the Industrial Revolution, and here is where we return to our theme of the microbiome. Alcohol has seven calories per gram – higher than sugar, at 4 calories per gram – or whole wheat flour at 3 calories per gram. Sugar was expensive, and flour gets insect infestations, plus needs labour to make it edible. For these reasons, for the hungry many, especially in cities, easy-stored and relatively cheap to buy alcohol became a food staple – not only for adults, but also for cows, and for babies. Cows can be kept alive (but not healthy) on the spent grains left over from distilleries – and babies can be fed, and kept quiet and docile (but not healthy) – on a diet of rags soaked in alcohol. For a world focused on efficiency, and not at all concerned about healthy microbiomes, this seemed like a good solution. Populations, fuelled by alcohol, continued to rise. In fact, one could call this the first wave of the “green revolution”, tied to the bodies of people, rather than plants.

Unsurprisingly, mothers objected to wet nurses who substituted alcohol for breast milk, and were unimpressed by the results of nursing provided by women fed on a diet of alcohol. Equally, the milk provided by sick, but alive cows, fed on the spent distillery grains, killed many infants. Must one mention that alcohol, as a disinfectant, and lacking fibre, is murder on the intestinal biome?

Wealthy families set up their own dairy herds in the country, and paid railroads to bring them fresh country milk, grown on the still healthy soil in the country. Middle class and poor families advocated for governmental succour – governments turned to corporations – and corporations responded with products – nitrogen fertilizers, baby formula, pesticides and herbicides, and the sterilization necessary to produce food in one place and time, while consuming it in a totally different place and time. The history of this time is also the history of Great Men, using Powerful Forces to attain Great Results. What is forgotten during the subsequent explosion of corporate profits, is the vitality in the soil, in the food, in the people and in the planet itself.

People are not used to thinking of themselves as creators of soil, or of alcohol as being parallel to nitrogen fertilizers, or to thinking about our food in context of the health of the soil, the cow, the wet nurse, or even the agricultural labourer. Could we be asking the wrong questions? Neo-Malthisians talk about the carrying capacity of the earth. Parents who have healthy children and an expectation of seeing them survive, have less children. People, plants and animals with healthy, nutrient-rich food consume less calories, and are sickly less often than when given nutrient-poor food. If it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a Great Man to enter the kingdom of God – would our lives, and the lives of those we care for – be easier if we gave the microbiome – (which, although greater in size than mankind – can certainly fit through the eye of a needle) – shall we give the microbiome for soil, cows, infants and adults what it needs to be healthy, happy and productive?

If you like this series of articles, please do support the work by purchasing @RawTIbicos products, here: soupkefir.ca — even you don’t like this writing, please consider purchasing, anyway, as twenty-five years is a long time for testing; many of the products are extremely good! Information provided is for entertainment only, no medical or other advice is offered.