Green River Drift - A History of the Upper Green River Cattle Association by V. H. Hammer
debate raged about how U.S. cattle were going to be identified. Traditionalists
who wanted a permanent mark on their cattle insisted that only by branding a
beast's flesh could ownership of an animal be safely maintained. A California
rancher puts it this way, "I
don't brand my cattle to just brand them for fun," he said. "I'm not doing it
just to burn an animal. I'm doing it because it's a permanent mark of
identification. It's scarred into the hide, and it's there forever."
The U.S. Department
of Agriculture and those who manufacture the tags, argued that ear tags were a
more efficient and less painful way to identify an animal's rancher. An owner
of a California livestock market summed up the usefulness of ear-tags as, "I raised this animal, it came from my place and
I identified it, so if there is a problem you can trace it back to me and I
stand behind it." http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/us/ear-tagging-proposal-may-mean-fewer-branded-cattle.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 . Cattle are raised for profit. Establishing who
owns the animal is integral to reaping that profit.
Wouldn't it be great if branding remained a tool used only to identify animals?
This preamble is, perhaps, a weird way to begin an essay that attempts to decide what political point of view best fits with my beliefs and values. Scrolling through my email and surveying my notes on a variety of articles, though, I realized that groups 'out there' were very invested in determining what brand I was going to wear. What social cause was I going to most passionately fight for? With what political party would I identify myself? What is my favorite store, shoe, or town, for that matter? To what church do I 'belong'? Am I a Marxist, socialist, capitalist, or a democrat, with a small [d]? And once an entity 'out there' became convinced that it knew me, what strategy would it pursue to guarantee that I would spend some of my money in its name. Yes, folks, affiliating with 'brands' like these is very much about the bottom line.
Check your closet. What objects do you own with brands on them, logos visible when you wear, carry, or drive the product? What sports team do you support? Do you have one of its caps, or water bottles, or tote bags? What whiskey do you drink? Do you have a little warm-up jacket with the manufacturer's logo on the front? What school does your son or daughter attend? Do you have the window or bumper sticker? If you own and display these objects, you've been branded just as sure as a rancher's steer. And you've been branded, in part, to improve an entity's economic advantage in the marketplace.
But, see, with the last sentence above it would seem that someone could brand me as anti-capitalist. And, yes, much of what I write on this blog falls within that mindset. I'm not much enamored with business as so often practiced today. But to accept the label of anti-capitalist would mean other aspects of how I think and believe would be excluded. For example, I relish creativity and personal initiative. I would not want to be stuck within a system that sacrificed those human qualities to someone's idea of the greater social good. And yet I don't want the greater social good to be sacrificed to the great god of profit either.
So who am I? What am I? Can I celebrate and further clarify the complexity of what I believe even as I resist the incredible number of groups, businesses, organizations, political parties--I need not go on here--that would like to stick me in a slot and count on my yearly contribution?
Here's an example to be more specific about all of this. For years, I was a supporter of public radio. But then I started looking carefully at the list of corporate sponsors to my local radio station. As that list grew, it seemed to me that the hard-hitting questions of its local reporters began to get a little less hard, if you get my meaning. When a story was written not long ago about a little demonstration held at the local chamber of commerce it seemed to me the public-radio reporter was a bit biased in his coverage of the story. So now I support that radio station a little less, and my opinion of that radio station has become somewhat qualified.