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:

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! Information provided is for entertainment only, no medical or other professional advice is offered.