Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free lunch

Learned another new word today: freegan. The freegan (a word crafted in emulation of the moral paragon du jour, the vegan) opts out of the consumerist economy by never paying for food. Instead, freegans forage for discarded but unspoiled food behind supermarkets (also known as dumpster diving). There's a glâneur-like romance to it, I guess, at least in pictures like the one at left (which I found here).

Freegans (I learned on a New York website) are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.

But I learned about it in a less romantic context. One of our first year students is in a snit at her freegan suitemate, who apparently dives not only into dumpsters but into her suitemates' larders. When confronted, the freegan responded with conviction: "I never pay for food!" This left the victim of the freeloading perplexed - for she's a tolerant person and wants to respect her suitemate's principles and convictions.

Hearing about this from a peer adviser who was also in perplexity, I had a hard time being sympathetic. It's theft, I wanted to say, plain and simple! But for these students it's clearly not that simple. There's something commendable and inspiring about the freegan's free spirit, I guess. You do want to respect people's convictions and especially, perhaps, the most idealistic ones.

Still, the peer adviser counseled, you might want to lock up your food.

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