Braised Rabbit, State Violence and Deprivation

This is a comment I left on an Irish Times article -no link, usual story- about the responsibility of poor people for eating unhealthy food. It suggested that it ought to be possible to provide healthy nutritious food to children even if you are impoverished, on account of the fact that the author knew one poor family in particular who, years ago, displayed great inventiveness in putting food on the table, including 'wild puffball mushrooms or braised rabbit'. I am not making this up.

In the author's attempt at myth-busting so as to épater les bourgeois, she has installed a myth of her own. The myth is that 'no-one is forcing less-well off people to buy and eat this guff'.

This is only true in so far as there is no-one standing in the supermarket or convenience store threatening physical violence if they do not buy cheap frozen burgers.

However, what would happen if a parent chose -through the autonomy and agency that this author wishes to attribute to them- to lift an organic chicken and walk out of Tesco's whilst throwing the cashier the couple of euro she had in her pocket that she might otherwise spend on cheap food? She would be arrested, and possibly even jailed. Therefore the threat of State violence places limits on people's food choices, and what they feed to their children. The 'therapeutic, protective intervention from the state' the author decries would all be in the service of Tesco.

In the 'Society of the Great Middle-Class Newspaper', such limits are seen as entirely natural and organic. If you can't feed your children properly, it's your own responsibility.

But official figures recently released show that more than a quarter of people in this State are experiencing enforced deprivation. Enforced: that means they are literally forced into it. But let's forget about what that means, about how the choices of the powerful are serving to enforce that deprivation -through cuts in wages and welfare payments, through privileging the health of the financial sector over the health of the public- and let's pretend that being poor is all part of the natural order.

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