[This is a special online view of the newest printed version of The Reader Magazine published this month]
This issue is about our relationship with food and as we began to investigate it, what emerged was a story connected to many things, including the story of our relationship with truth.
Our search even led us to the cramped cabins of a Soviet submarine, fifty years ago, hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean, during the height of the Cuban Missile crisis. Consider the name Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet Colonel on that submarine, his role in human history and what it means that you have likely never heard his name before.
His story tells us we live in a system in which the truth-- about food, about our government's policies-- is much more carefully controlled than we are led to believe. And what is real is the perception of openness which masks a concerted effort to distort and omit the most vital of facts.
In a recent interview, three-time Oscar winning director Oliver Stone describes the scene that transpired on the submarine in 1962.
"On October 27th, 1962 an incident occurred that Arthur Schlesinger described as not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War, it was "the most dangerous moment in human history." Russian ships were heading toward the quarantine line. One of four Soviet submarines sent to protect the ships was being hunted all day by the carrier, USS Randolph. More than a hundred miles outside the blockade, the Randolph began dropping depth charges, unaware the sub was carrying nuclear weapons. The explosion rocked the submarine, which went dark except for emergency lights. The temperature rose sharply. The carbon dioxide in the air reached near-lethal levels, and people could barely breathe. Men began to faint and fall down.
The suffering went on for four hours. Then, the Americans hit us with something stronger. We thought, "That’s it. The end." Panic ensued. Commander Valentin Savitsky tried, without success, to reach the general staff [in Moscow]. He assumed the war had already started, and they were going to die in disgrace for having done nothing. He ordered the nuclear weapon to be prepared for firing. He turned to the other two officers aboard. Fortunately for mankind, the political officer, Vasili Arkhipov, was able to calm him down and convince him not to launch—probably single-handedly preventing nuclear war.
The question we should be asking is what does my personal acceptance of my own lack of power-- maintained by my lack of knowledge-- mean for my own life and that of my family?
That we would not have access to information about what we are eating, how our food system works (or doesn't) is connected to the same reason we have not known for 50 years what transpired in the cramped cabin of a Soviet submarine: we exist in a system that does not have faith in us and requires our ignorance.
Perhaps talking about what we put in our bodies as food is an appropriate starting point to learning about ourselves, and what we have chosen to accept in the system we are part of. Wasn't it Colonel's Vasili Arkhipov's self-awareness that enabled him to not simply "go along" with the insanity considered "proper course of action", which may have been the factor that led him to not only save himself but possibly the entire human race?
We begin our issue in the hot confines of a Soviet sub, at "the most dangerous moment in human history", because our failure to learn from the truth of our own history is part of a disease we have let run rampant through our culture, in which the truth does not matter, or is judged "unknowable". Today our food, that which makes us who we are, is tainted by the same lack of sufficient demand to know the truth.
This Reader seeks to bring to light some of the work done by people for whom food and health have been their life's work, who see it as the potential starting point of reclaiming what it means to be alive, and how society should be structured. You'll hear voices from the food revolution, including Joel Salatin, a farmer from the Shenandoah Valley in Virgnia and John Robbins, the heir to the Baskin Robbins fortune who, decades ago, turned his back on this fortune to learn about food and share his knowledge with others. Bon Appetit!
-- Chris Theodore