The Princess or the Pioneer, some ramblings about work and self-sufficiency
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:22 PM [+]
I'm sure that you, like me, have heard of the notion of a "protestant work ethic." I'm not really sure I understand the origins of the word, but I suspect it may have something to do with those who packed up from the old world and headed off to the "New World", the majority of whom were initially Protestants.
I often hear about how much better European workers have it, since it is said that they get far far more vacation time than we Americans typically do. But, if you think about our country's history, I think you might see how such a difference of perspectives may have evolved.
Having read a lot about modern homesteading (a curious phenomena), I can assure you that it cannot be accomplished by people who lack a very very very strong work ethic. For early settlers here in America, those who couldn't "hack it" were weeded out in a very literal Darwinian fashion. One cannot stand amidst a dense forest, imagining their future farm, and accomplish that vision without an unfathomable amount of work...perpetual work. Compared to Europe, our pioneer homesteading days were not so long ago.
Even today farmers will often snicker about notions of vacation or weekends. For instance, my wife has close ties to dairy farmers for whom there is no such things as vacation or weekends - even Christmas day is a day of perhaps limited work. The cows will not, alas, milk and feed themselves.
And of course, in the early days, work was often a furious race against the approaching winter. Life was at stake, and no one stood beneath you with any governmental safety net. You worked or you starved...a principal found in the Bible.
Modern Homesteaders, and I must make clear that I do not consider myself one, find virtue in carving out their own living. I deeply affirm this notion. I think that most of us Americans have lost touch with this virtue and have become princesses instead of pioneers. Despite the revisionists who love to deride America and insist that we are where we are today (fiscally) because of exploitation and slavery, I believe that to a large extent we stand upon the backs of damn hard working Americans who did indeed carve out a living, and we benefit from their handiwork. And having so much already done for us has perhaps rendered us a generation of people who've hardly ever been told no, who feel a grand sense of entitlement: princesses.
The book "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" describes the differences between princesses and pioneers wonderfully as the author tries to dissuade Dad's from letting their little girls grow up into mega-princesses. As I read I was reminded of these silly cgi Barbie movies which are so horribly princess-y. At one point I jumped up in front of my girls and shouted, "Blech! Who wants these frilly ballet do-nothing princesses....give me Eowyn, a REAL princess!" Actually, Eowyn is more of a pioneer than a princess. A princess has no skill with a blade, while a pioneer woman has no need or desire to get someone to do her work for her - she has no delusions of entitlement.
This article, isn't terribly encouraging. In it a survey of college freshmen reveals "that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed in 2006 thought it was essential or very important to be 'very well-off financially.' That compares with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966, the first year the survey was done."
Clearly this reflects changing values which are sad to begin with, but piled atop of this: I seriously doubt these freshmen are prepared to do the hard work necessary to be "very well-off financially." They may be Princesses who will be unable to face hard reality and then what will become of them? How will their unfulfilled expectations affect their family, their friends, their community?
We really have become complete and utter wusses. A giant paper tiger as Osama says...I have no doubt he is right. We expect our iPods to appear magically in our Christmas stocking and when it doesn't we cry out and the government is forced to change policy in order to attend to the wailing masses of crybaby princesses. Entitlement is like a disease, and boy are we afflicted by it.
I am not ranting here without any acknowledgment of my own hypocrisy, my own choice to suffer under the disease of entitlement. I know I have the disease because I often spend money I don't really have, and I cling to certain unnecessary comforts as if they were the Ring of Power...my precious.
God forgive us for letting the hard work of our ancestors (however distant) spoil us and turn us into princesses. May we learn to be pioneers, and if not, may we learn how to teach our children a better way. Maybe we do need to become modern homesteaders. While I could try and argue that that is exactly what we are doing in the country, I know I cannot seriously stake the claim with a satellite dish staked in my yard. But, we have made some baby steps that have indeed led me to work more than I ever did before. It's a start, I suppose.