Meet the Modern Urban Hobo

Wayne passes along a link today to a story about my favorite urban subculture of the moment: the freegans. Los Angeles Times staff writer Erika Hayasaki reports from New York about this unusual band of anti-capitalist crusaders who try to live entirely off of food (and other products) that have been thrown away by businesses. That’s right – they dumpster dive for dinner.

Of course there’s something a little quixotic about condemning capitalism and corporate-produced food while subsisting entirely off of its products, even if they are accessed in trash form. It used to be that people like this became hippies and moved to the country where they grew their own (free range, organic) food. Of course, if you do that you can’t then take advantage of all of the rich hipster culture of downtown Manhattan and the Williamsburg/Park Slope neighborhoods, so it seems that consuming the detritus of capitalism is the second-best alternative to actually producing something yourself.

The story notes this amusing hypocrisy while describing the origins of the movement (emphasis added):

Freeganism was born out of environmental justice and anti-globalization movements dating to the 1980s. The concept was inspired in part by groups like “Food Not Bombs,” an international organization that feeds the homeless with surplus food that’s often donated by businesses.

One can certainly understand why the freegans are so reflexively anti-business, what with the food companies’ sordid and revolting history of feeding the homeless. And they say the Exxon Valdez spill was a corporate crime.