RT @JulianHunt Impressive piece of work on ‘food and fairness’ by the Food Ethics Council, worth a quick read: http://tinyurl.com/2dyfgq9

Quote from The Spirit Level – Why Equality is Better for everyone

Two sides of the same coin

???In our research for this book, social status and friendship have kept cropping up together, linked inextricably as a pair of opposites. First, they are linked as determinants of the health of each individual. …friendship and involvement in social life are highly protective of good health, while low social status, or bigger status differences and more inequality, are harmful. Second, the two are again linked as they vary in societies. …as inequality increases, sociability as measured by the strength of community life, how much people trust each other, and the frequency of violence, declines. They crop up together for a third time in people’s tendency to choose friends from among their near equals: larger differences in status or wealth create a social gulf between people.

What binds social status and friendship together in these different ways? The explanation is simple. They represent the two opposite ways in which human beings can come together. Social status stratification, like ranking systems or pecking orders among animals, are fundamentally orderings based on power and coercion, on privileged access to resources, regardless of others’ needs. In its most naked and animal form, might is right and the weakest eat last.

Friendship is almost exactly the opposite kind of relationship. It is about reciprocity, mutuality, sharing, social obligations, co-operation and recognition of each other’s needs. Gifts are symbols of friendship because they demonstrate that the giver and receiver do not compete for access to necessities, but instead recognize and respond to each other’s needs. In the well chosen words of Marshall Sahlins, a social anthropologist, ???gifts make friends and friends make gifts.??? Food sharing and eating together carry the same symbolic message, and they do so particularly powerfully because food is the most fundamental of all material necessities. In times of scarcity, competition for food has the potential to be extraordinarily socially destructive.???

pp199-200

Available here.

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