Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Dumpster dive, photo from Gleaning by Lorissa Rinehart
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.
— Leviticus 19:9-10
This passage describes an early form of taxation, and is consistent with the concept of distributive justice as promoted by Mosaic law. Those with land will leave some of their crop to be gleaned by the poor and the stranger, landless sojourners dwelling among the Hebrews. The best known story of this practice is from the Book of Ruth where Ruth, a widow and a sojourner from Moab gleans the fields of Boaz to feed herself and her widowed mother-in-law. Without this law both Ruth and Naomi would surely have died.
Although the book of Leviticus is preoccupied with strange, archaic laws around bodily fluids, skin disorders, deviant sexual practices, food and fabric prohibitions, priestly rituals and animal dissection—mostly incomprehensible in today's society, and largely ignored except in strict orthodox Jewish communities—among these laws are sprinkled the makings of a socialist society, laws to live by that we'd do well to pay attention to today. Leviticus is a complex book, and not one to be taken wholesale either in acceptance or rejection.
The law of fair distribution described here is one we have lost sight of since the industrial revolution, and quite likely much earlier. Today, it is well known that food producers and sellers, along with other industries such as clothing and cosmetics, deliberately destroy an inordinate amount of product rather than donate it to the poor, going so far as to ensure that should any item be found it will be destroyed and unusable.1 Worse this practice is endorsed (or simply ignored) by governments around the world, France being the only EU country where this is illegal, and then only within the last five years. The situation seems to have got worse during the current pandemic, at a time of such hardship for so many that we'd hope distributive justice was more apparent than ever. Not so.2
Happily, there is a small, fringe movement of people attempting to counter industrial-level waste.3 Of course, it will take a complete mind-shift of fairness over profit for this to become commonplace and mainstream, but it's an encouraging start.
1 There are too many articles on this practice to pick a particular one. Any search such as this one for food, or this one for clothing will yield hundreds of results. Skip past the ads and elect a few to read.
2 Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic, New York Times, 11 April 2020
3 For example, Food Tank and Too Good to Go.