I walked over to Bowman while we were waiting for the food, and when I returned, we soon had two huge platters of injera with mounds of different kinds of cooked vegetables. Injera is flatbread, made like a crepe so that it's stretchy and flexible. The method is to tear some off and wrap up some of the vegetable mixes like a mini taco. No forks or spoons needed.
At a different Ethiopian Restaurant in St. Louis, I saw a pie chart explaining how people around the world eat. The smallest section of the chart (I can't recall exact percentages, as this was years ago) represented those who eat with forks and spoons. The next largest section was people who eat with chopsticks. The largest section, more than half, was for those who eat with their hands. It's funny to me that for those of us who live in modern, first world situations, certain things seem normal, as if part of the standard human experience. But when you actually look at the numbers people who live like us are in the minority. Most of the world is surviving on so much less than we few who consume most of the energy and resources.
It seems like something of a blind spot in the growing movement of pointing out privilege. The top 15% of the world's population divides itself into groups, figuring out who has benefited the most from the spoils of empire, ranking themselves by identity group and how oppressed it has been. While their designations of privilege may be accurate (on average, whites enjoy more privileges than blacks, straights more than gays, etc.) the whole thing completely overlooks the fact that all of us, regardless of race or creed, who live in the first world, enjoy absurdly disproportionate privileges compared to the other 85% of the world. Who's checking that privilege? What exactly are we supposed to do about this institutionalized oppression?
I believe its time for all of us to question some core assumptions about our society and how we all live. The culture of industrial consumerism is now three to four generations old, and most of us have never known anything else. It's almost unimaginable to visualize life on Earth with very few possessions, living more as hunter-foragers did. Yet this was the human experience for far longer than domestication.
To say that our civilized way of life is better than indigenous culture is an assumption, a philosophical belief of sorts. We live our lives by the principle that we have the right to cut down 90% of the world's forests, to engage in large scale mining for minerals and ore, to dam rivers, enmesh the world in wires, to dump toxic waste into the rivers and scoop every last fish out of the ocean. We believe so strongly in our right to treat all other living things as if they can be our property that we are killing our planet, and making ourselves very sick in the process. This assumption, this first world privilege, is a delusion, and it will not last. It's end will be a time of great tumult. We shall certainly not survive if we do not quickly wake up and start redesigning our culture now while we still have great privilege and opportunity.
This philosophy of dominion over the earth is at the root of statism and militarism. It is only in a material oriented culture that we need complex systems of authority to manage disputes over property or military power to guard our wealth. The wealth of natural cultures comes from nature, from a natural economic system that is so abundant that all can share it, none need control it all. Nature doesn't charge you to walk through the forest, drink from the stream, or pick the berries. It produces enough for everyone. The wealth of empire culture is hoarded, being artificial and scarce. It makes for a sort of musical chairs situation (except only one person gets the chair, instead of all but one) where we all have to scramble like mad to get what we can. Those other 85% who don't make it, well there's not much we can do for them.
One thing that my anarcho-capitalist friends might not like to consider is that a truly free, voluntaryist society will never be possible until we reexamine our assumptions about property and wealth. As long as we have a culture of material wealth and industrial consumerism, we will always need soldiers to guard the infrastructure that generates and distributes the wealth. As long as this mentality of resource control and exploitation exists, people are going to fight over the spoils, ignoring their consciences and seeking to dominate others so that they can grow in their wealth and position.
But I digress. I very much enjoyed the Ethiopian food, and having thought about all this, I sent out my silent apologies to all who live in a lower station, knowing that I am blessed with such extravagant privilege to live as I do. I'm trying my best to make good use of what opportunities I've been given, and to work towards changes that will make the world better for all of us.