Local, Organic, Sustainable, Progressive, Small Business, and Cooperative are buzzwords we often hear in association with horizontally structured projects such as The Flaming Café. We want to acknowledge that although these are things we value, we also want to challenge and subvert capitalism as an economic and sociopolitical system that exploits all of us who have to sell our labor to survive within it.
As a restaurant that strives to serve ecologically and socially just, accessible food, we know it is impossible to compromise our desire to live without capitalism while also running a business, but we have the responsibility to address oppression and injustice so long as we are in conflict with “business as usual” practices that perpetuate extreme misery, greed, and poverty around the world.
In the United States and beyond, farm workers are held at gunpoint, sexually assaulted, and abused to pick and package crops in dangerous and inhumane conditions for little pay. Labels like “local,” “organic,” or “sustainable” do not ensure that people are treated with dignity and their work is compensated fairly and their health and safety is a top priority. This violence is not acknowledged, even when we tout nourishing local economies and purchasing organic products. When the rights and dignity of farm workers take precedence, we all benefit.
Typically, “GMO-Free,” “Fair-Trade”, and “Organic” are most accessible to those who are privileged enough to have autonomy in their food choices. We reject the existence of a pure or ethical consumer; we cannot buy our way to a better economic system when we don’t want to buy or sell anything ever again. One cannot purchase solidarity with those who carry the world on their backs. We do not want to create another consumer-niche. When we give capitalism the illusion of appearing humane and efficient we are dressing the wolf in sheep’s clothing all on our own. Instead, we want to expose capitalism as the driving force of violence, domination, and ecological degradation. Our unique ability to control our workplace does not negate capitalism, but we will strive to align ourselves in ways where we are free from competition and hierarchy while we mutually support and respect each other in all of our complex identities and experiences. Additionally, we will ensure that our products and vendors follow a strict guideline to minimize damage to people and the environment as much as possible, although we know it is impossible to eliminate harm and exploitation in an economic system that is inherently so. We hope the café will serve as a space where we continue to educate ourselves and others around the issue of farm worker justice as we attempt to create a more egalitarian society together, beginning with the act of eating.
Some Members of the Flaming Eggplant Café Collective