Lincoln, Food, and the Freedom to Know

Being an entrepreneur requires a certain leap of faith into the issues of your time. You place a bet that you sometimes do not even fully articulate to yourself. When Dale Sims and I started our company, CleanFish, we believed that people would increasingly care about the sources of their food. We sensed that better seafood producers were out there and that by promoting only select ecologically responsible products we could establish a new kind of market platform, one that would be part of sparking a return to healthier land-and-ocean ecosystem solutions. All the work we put toward our company was based on this simple belief that people did care about being more connected to the sources of all food, including our seafood.

The fish and seafood business is tough. The practices and the general attitudes of many in our commercial seafood sector make it tougher than it needs to be. The U.S. market has multiple levels of disconnection between those producing most seafood and those consuming seafood products. This disconnection favors the seller over the buyer of most seafood products, this is not unique to seafood. Indeed, most of us have very little sense of what we are really buying as we check out of supermarkets and restaurants throughout this nation.

This past week the nation celebrated the life and the lessons of two specific presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln; respectively the first and the sixteenth President of the United States of America.

It is interesting that Lincoln is reconfigured by many historians as another a Founding Father, as it was the task of Lincoln to guide this nation through the rough waters of the Civil War and set down in word and law a next wave of responses to challenges of freedom in his time. Lincoln's words reach out to touch us still as he engaged the challenges of his time as intensely connected and personal. He, therefore, made his inner struggles and his insights regarding our freedoms, lasting ones that many still hold dear.

Lincoln stated the issues of his time in this manner: "the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country...It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says-- you toil and work, and earn bread; and I'll eat it. No matter in what shape it comes; whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor; or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle. As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy."

Lincoln called on the people of our nation to think hard on the meaning of those who died in battle. The Civil War touched the lives of most every family of that time. Subsequent wars by this nation up to and including Vietnam were efforts that touched the lives of each community in the land. The sense of honoring that loss was a major connecting element throughout this nation.

This is not true today. In this season, we too often watch TV, or go to movies to become aware of the enormous personal price being paid by others. A mere 1% of our citizenry carries out our soldiering. The volunteer army has many consequences. The most profound, perhaps, is that it permits the visceral disconnection of most of our citizenry from the blood and treasure costs of war. Not so long ago we had a summer of "Occupy". The rallying cry was a calling out of Wall Street and the banking industry's executive criminals who stole money from each and every community in this nation. Again seeking to make awareness of that loss a point of connection the call went out: "We are the 99%". That calling out was intended to wake up the nation to the fact that access to wealth was becoming increasingly disconnected from the people of the nation.

There are a string of disconnections that we would do well to awaken from.

"We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country", said Lincoln. We must wake up from a period in which the trend to accept disconnection and the inequality that is its consequence becomes a given.

This Great Disconnection as I shall call it, is robbing us of our pursuit of happiness, of our health, of that sense of common-wealth that has been our strength in times past. This characteristic of people benefiting from elements of finance, of defense, of food convenience to the detriment of their true wealth, freedom, and nutritional health is all part of this Great Disconnection.

Next, there is, also, that hard-working 1% of us producing food for the 99% of us who are eating. This is a consequence of trading connection for convenience and it is a costly and traumatic disconnect. This aspect of the Great Disconnection is allowed to discontinue the value and the knowledge any people who want to survive must have about our food. As this knowledge dramatically drifts away from us there is a great loss, as part of the essential ground of interdependence of all things is as if taken away. This is a disconnection of connections of people, by people and for people that deals with how we feed ourselves and nurture our communities.

"We must disenthrall ourselves and then we can save our country", said Abe Lincoln of those elements that allow and extend the emptiness of this disconnection if we are to revitalize and make certain that "this nation of the people, for the people, and by the people...does not perish from (what we know see as an increasingly depleted) earth."

As his version of calling out an inconvenient truth about rights and freedoms, Lincoln stated, "we cannot escape history." The call that many sense today is to revitalize and redeem our political system, our social systems, and our food market system. We all benefit when we honor our desire to know where our food comes from. We delight in our fish that much more when we know how it comes to us. Today as we, each one of us, wake up from this Great Disconnection, "we must think anew and act anew."

Learn about the natural cycle of foods upon which you, and all of us depend; and, then, act to express your freedom of choice: vote with your fork.