10 July 2012

Two Essays by Rebecca Solnit

Lately I've come across two essays by Rebecca Solnit, whose work I admire. The first is here at Orion and sings the praises of gardening for raising, but not fully addressing a whole set of political matters.
You can argue that vegetable seeds are the seeds of the new revolution. But the garden is an uneasy entity for our time, a way both to address the biggest questions and to duck them. “Some gardens are described as retreats, when they are really attacks,” famously said the gardener, artist, and provocateur Ian Hamilton Finlay. A garden as a retreat means a refuge, a place to withdraw from the world. A garden as an attack means an intervention in the world, a political statement, a way in which the small space of the garden can participate in the larger space that is society, politics, and ideas. Every garden negotiates its own relationship between retreat and attack and in so doing illuminates—or maybe we should say engages—the political questions of our time.
In particular, Solnit connects the preoccupation with local agriculture and gardening to the larger struggle against corporations like Monsanto who hope to patent as much of the growing process as they might.

Monsanto makes a cameo in the second essay, here at TomDispatch, which takes the form of an apology letter to the Mexican nation. In her letter Solnit is mostly concerned with the drug trade and attendant violence that beset Mexico mostly as a result of American demand. In part, that demand reflects an alienation from place that is the converse of gardening. So, in the end the two essays intersect not just at corporate headquarters but elsewhere (or nowhere?) as well.

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