I guess I’m feeling a lot of gratitude these days. Last week, I was thanking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for clarifying its position on food and health rights (that we have none). Today, I want to express thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

After reading the comments following my previous post, I’ve come to realize MDAR, with its 5 p.m. Friday press release, provided us with an important “teachable moment.” What can we learn?

Most important, we learned, once again, that the opposition to the Food Right movement whether MDAR, MDPH, NY Ag & Markets, WI DATCP, FDA, is playing hard ball. If you don’t know what I mean by hard ball, read, or re-read, “The Prince” by Machiavelli.

Guys like Scott Soares are good players, because they have plenty of practice. They play among themselves, and with other agencies, every day. Fighting for budgets, authority, new rules, old rules, and so forth. The people who make it to the top of their bureaucracies are the ones who play best, have the sharpest elbows, as it were.

We ordinary people generally have little practice in bureaucratic in-fighting. So when MDAR puts out a press release at 5 p.m. on Friday evening preceding a major confrontation with the opposition (us Food Rights people), you know that it’s about more than informing the public.

This MDAR press release was about two things: sowing confusion and divide-and-conquer. Little League stuff by bureaucratic standards.

But for people who don’t play regularly, it can be like the hidden-ball trick. You get fooled…at first.

A few people in the Food Rights movement were initially fooled. They thought they had won a victory of some sort. But they have begun to understand what’s really going on, that the people in charge are totally cynical. Moreover, this is a very serious business to them. It’s about the core of their existence: power and control.

The important point is that those of us fighting for the right to access the foods of our choice–in the current case, raw milk–learned at least two important lessons.

1. The importance of unity. There’s no such thing as striking a separate deal with people like Scott Soares and MDAR. It’s a losing proposition, as these people never honor their word in the long run. Moreover, they see the willingness to strike separate deals as a sign of weaknessj, as an invitation to push for more. In the Massachusetts situation, that could mean laying off the buying clubs for a short time, before closing in more harshly than ever, and adding in additional obstacles, like new requirements for buildings, equipment, and testing by raw dairies.

2. The importance of being firm and insistent. Just because MDAR says we can’t testify about MDAR’s commitment to putting the buying clubs out of business (as was originally ordained) doesn’t mean it is so. As Gary Cox points out in his comment following my previous post, there is something in our legal system known as “due process,” and MDAR conveniently ignored that. They can’t, after putting out a notice of a hearing, simply opt out of the major part of it with literally no notice.

Now, because the bureaucrats we are fighting are professionals, we must expect them to have some more tricks up their sleeve when people assemble tomorrow (Monday) for a rally (8:30 a.m. Boston Common) and for the hearing (10 a.m. 100 Cambridge St.). That’s why it’s important that lots of us show up, and send them a message: We are quick learners. ?