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Monday, August 26, 2013


In this little pod is a history of water and grain, of expansion, of poverty, of slave trades, of civil rights and wrongs, of genetic capitalism, of famine and of food mountains. Rice is corrupt. Rice is evil. Rice is indispensable.

You buy rice in a supermarket, ignorant of the pain in its process. It is a packet of survival. It is like a person you meet for the first time. Every day a new person looms before us and we decide whether we wish to pursue this person. We analyse their glossy exterior, and decide if it appeals to us. Much like choosing a packet of rice in the supermarket. There are rows and rows of the same product. We select only one, that speaks to us, and take it home. Our new friend we shall consume.

We place it on the counter. It comes tightly-packed. That vacuum is satisfying somehow. It holds promise. You gingerly take the seam in your hands and try to prise it open. It has been packaged, after all, to open this way. The seam parts between your fingers till it reaches a mysterious place where the plastic folds in on itself and seals reality inside. We tug. It does not budge. We become nervous. We have been through this before, after all. We curse, and wish things were different somehow. Surely it is easy for them to make it easy on us? We wonder if the manufacturers of this little wondergrain are smirking somewhere. When so many have suffered, over generations, to bring this innocuous pod to their table, why shouldn't we have a little fun at their expense? That's life, after all. We begin to lose our patience. The water is boiling and we don't have time for this. We tug harder and the packet resists. The seam slips and slides in our grasp. That's it - we've had enough.

Maybe we attack it with scissors but in this case, say, we pull violently at the packet and the seam rips savagely open. The plastic unbends and lacerates, tearing a gaping wound in its perfect circumference. That's it, that's all the moment needed; a little nudge of chaos into our perfect lives, and our kitchens. Rice pours out. It is hard, brittle, inedible. It flies, it has kinetic energy of its own. We have no control over this. Rice clatters onto the countertop and scatters in every direction. It is on the floor. It inserts itself into the dirty grey gaps between our sink and our stove, where moisture and microbes make their homes. Each grain of rice has become our responsibility. They are all a nuisance, every one. They resist your fingernails in their little hidey-holes. They do not cooperate with the dustpan and brush.

The package is now useless to us, gashed and weak. We pull a jar from a cupboard and try to pour the rest inside. The rice tumbles out over the counter, over everything again. We cup our hands and try to scoop the individual grains into a pile, before directing them into the jar held over the edge of the counter. More rice tumbles onto the floor. We get there in the end, but there's waste, so much waste. A drop of sweat far away, once trickled down gaunt cheekbones for this little innocuous grain. We clean up, and drop the lid on the garbage pale with a clatter.

Tomorrow we have to pick new people off the shelf and try and tug them open. We need their nutrients to survive.