When food has been used as a political instrument it has always been effective since times immemorial, well except a few misfires. It is because for a start food is freely available to all and required by all living beings to sustain life. Others may question the assertion that it is free, yet you only need to go deep in the forests where people are still living naturally without attaching any meaning to mediums of exchange such as money or being concerned with what tomorrow will bring, just living on eating what they find as the seasons dictate, perhaps there will be agreement then.
At household level food has been used as a medium to possess, that’s why in some cultures marriages are conducted by exchanging food to symbolise that possessiveness. It has been used to sustain relationships through supply and or in its artistic preparation by one so desiring such attachments. The same food has been used for punishing unruly members of a household perhaps to bring them in line. It is fair to say at this same level of household or family, food has been used politically for entertainment. Do you remember those who have gone days on without taking food in what is called ‘hunger strike’? It is thus true to say those without knowledge of the power of food at this household level whether as provider or maker would not be good at managing family life including marital relationship.
At national level it is quite evident most people with political power have used food to rule others or make them subdue to their authority. For instance talks in parliament about food prices, those who take the debate on the side of the marginalised always excel. Yet again at this same level, the food in possession of those with power has been used to oppress others including buying cheap labour. Not to mention that as dear as food may be, people have bent on smaller things as minute as a grain of salt allowing others to do as they wish with them to obtain it. Food has caused tribal wars and or being used to emphasises superiority of one tribe over another.
It is at international level that food as a political instrument even takes on a form so magnified that in some cases we may not talk of the physical food but just imagined forms of it in one country against another’s view. Most of the international transport channels we see be it rail or sea, were charted as people thought about carrying food from one country to another. It thus at times started as a good cause with good intentions yet ended in some acquiring the will to enslave others for to make food available only to themselves. So undoubtedly it can be said that food has caused misery as well as happiness depending on choices and which side or in some cases the depth of a people’s appetite.
The quotes this week are from a book that in expressing people’s differences across the globe in a way celebrates these differences. As one commentator on the book put it, he said it focuses on practical steps required to create transcultural competence and reconcile cultural differences by using communication, empathy and creativity. I am sure the selected quotations below from this book will enlighten you to one or two life lessons, read and enjoy:
RIDING THE WAVES OF CULTURE – UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN BUSINESS by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner
“Every culture distinguishes itself from others by the specific solutions it chooses to certain problems which reveal themselves as dilemmas. It is convenient to look at these problems under three headings: those which arise from our relationship with other people; those which come from the passage of time; and those which relate to the environment.”
“… While the individualist assumption is that individuals who make a mistake should be punished for it and therefore become a better team member, communitarian logic is the reverse: through team membership we support individuals so that they become better individual workers. If a mistake is made only the immediate group needs to know this. As well as avoidance of shame, the reconciliation lies in the fact that the group has taken care of the individual’s mistake and no extra punishment is required.”
“We see that a specific organisational culture or functional culture is nothing more than the way in which groups have organised themselves over the years to solve the problems and challenges presented to them. Changes in culture happen because people realise that certain old ways of doing things do not work any more. It is not difficult to change culture when people are aware that the survival of the community is at stake, where survival is considered desirable.”
“…. Such continuous problems are eventually solved automatically. ‘Culture’ comes from the same root as the verb ‘to cultivate’, meaning to till the soil: the way people act upon nature. The problems of daily life are solved in such obvious ways that the solutions disappear from our consciousness. If they did not we would go crazy. Imagine having to concentrate on your need for oxygen every 30 seconds. The solutions disappear from our awareness, and become part of our system of absolute assumptions.”