Freedom, for Gandhi, always begins with basic needs. When we let our ability to meet our needs in community atrophy, we make ourselves vulnerable to those who wish to turn our very basic needs into commodities (and often reduce us to dependency in the process). Bread labor is therefore more than just a strategy in Gandhiji’s mind: it’s our duty. Freedom in any meaningful sense demands our participation in the production of our basic needs.
Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of the world’s most respected voices in favor of bread labor, which for her comes in the form of sustainable agriculture and seed protection. She raises awareness about the intentions of large multi-national corporations who wish to control our sources of food globally by patenting seeds. This commoditization of our food supply, she maintains, is dangerous and short-sighted. Why should we reduce tens of thousands of years of culture and diversity– that is the history of the seed– to monoculture and wealth making? Like all forms of violence, we have a choice to participate in it, and we are not obliged to give over our food supply, ever. Drawing from the legacy of Gandhi, Dr. Shiva encourages us to take up our duty of bread labor “and all it connotes,” which includes protecting it by direct resistance when necessary.
Today opportunities for even urbanites to participate in bread labor are starting to crop up: urban gardens, weaving cooperatives, etc. Find one near you: or start one yourself and experience the satisfaction of bread labor and the freedom it promises.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org