Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I suspect that when Ms. Lappe was discussing experts she meant the ones who have managed to get a degree or some sort of certification that can be presented to prove that they’ve successfully passed the tests to prove that they know what earlier experts knew.

There are other kinds of experts. They don’t have degrees, they haven’t been certified. Their area of expertise may not be very wide. They know a river because they’ve fished it, worked by it, live by it, maybe took a boat down it a time or two.

Dad was a logger and he loved to tell stories about the job. During the late fifties and early sixties trained foresters went around the units telling the loggers to pull all the logs out of the rivers because it was bad for the fish and it was assumed that all the logs in the river were the result of trees being cut and allowed to fall into the streams. They pretty much ignored the guys who told them that some of those logs had been there for years and the best fishing was usually near the fallen logs.

Out came the logs, away went the fish partly because there were no shady places to hide, and no still places for insects to lay their eggs. So a few years later the forest service came back and said to put the logs back in. For the record, I don’t believe in logging next to streams, believe logging should be done very carefully, that a tree that’s allowed to fall on its own and rot is not wasted, and that clear cutting as it’s currently done is an abomination.

We had a nice little dust up last year between a forestry grad student at OSU and about half the faculty of said forestry school. The student was part of a study on recovery after a fire. Hehelped author a report that showed evidence that a forest will recover just about as fast if it’s left alone as it would if salvage logging took place. You would have thought that he was advocating drowning puppies and kittens. See, a lot of funding for the forestry school comes from the logging companies. And logging companies sell logs. That's another funny thing about the experts who get interviewed in the media or act as spokesmen for the status quo. Many were trained at schools funded by industry donations, have tenure on faculties at those schools, or work for think tanks funded by those industries.

I'll be the first to say that we need people with expert knowledge. The current administration is sad proof of what happens when party loyalty is put above needed expertise. We just need to remember that the expert opinion may come with a built in bias and that not all experts have degrees or certificates. Some of them have dirt under their fingernails and callouses on their hands. They may not dress very well and they may not even speak our language. Doesn't mean they don't know what they're talking about if they could just be heard above the din of Fox News, political pundits, and the development at any cost crowd.

And I’ve noticed that the current administration will defer to “expert” opinion only when it agrees with the programs it’s pushing.

Never mind that abstinence only programs don’t work any better than any other sex ed program. Never mind that teaching to the test is geared to turning out good little cogs for the corporate machine. Never mind that people who actually live in other countries don’t really want to shop at WalMart. Never mind that the farmers who actually farm the land in third world countries just might know what grows best on their land. Never mind that these people would just as soon grow the food they eat instead of growing crops for export cash so they can then buy imported food. The list is endless.

One of the events that helped crystallize the Mahatma’s beliefs involved a famine in the Bihar province of India. Haven’t found an exact date but probably the late teen early twenties. Most of farmers were tenant farmers and they were required to plant part of their land in indigo for the dye. It was part of their rent payments. And many of the landlords were British. When chemical dyes came on the market, the market for indigo collapsed and the landlords refused to take the indigo when the rents came due.

Instead they seized the farmers’ food crops and livestock when they didn’t have the money to pay the rent and when there were no more crops or animals to take, the farmers’ seed, tools and other possessions were taken. The situation blew up in the governments' face, Gandhi spent some more time in jail using the time to plan on how to kick the Brits out of India and an agreement was reached to allow the farmers to plant part of their land in crops that couldn’t be taken.

And curiously, India which our elected hired help never really supported because the first government’s policies were a bit too “socialist” for out tastes, is doing fairly well. Well enough to be targeted by WalMart and the big multi national ag comapanies at least. While Pakistan, the result of the partition of the sub continent, has gone from dictatorship to dictatorship usually with US support. The country also appears on the verge of blowing up in our faces. As you sow has never been truer.

From academic experts to indigo, how’d that happen? Except to say that India is the next big market the capitalist experts have in their sights and many of the peasant groups are mobilizing to help each other find another way to go. They are the ones with their sandals on the ground. They are the ones that will get ground under the wheels of the “progress” the academic, European American experts are so “expert” at.

For the record I'd like to say that if India or any other country actually wants the Wal Mart shopping experience they have the right to try it. Personally, I'd rather be smeared with honey and staked out on an anthill, but hey that's just my opinion. But, it should be an Indian company, run by her people, with the profits staying in India. Not a bunch of American carpet baggers pulling everything they can out of another country.


mlraminiak said...

The current administration goes so far as to tell their own "experts" what to think, say and publish...

Great little essay here, dear.  Lots to think about. Lisa  :-]

toonguykc said...

I don't even trust this administration's qualifications for "expert".  Is it 2009 yet?


tenyearnap said...

With every college degree I was handed came the realization that I now knew less than when I started. --Cin

hestiahomeschool said...

The same thing happened to the Native Americans, too, they started hunting to have trade goods, overhunted and overfished...then didn't have food but had lots of pretty glass beads...