I am continuing to read through Stephen Graham’s book Undiscovered Russia online. It is a fascinating to go along with him on his journey through northern Russia as he meets many interesting characters, not the least of which are the exiled revolutionaries he seems to frequently find. One such encounter prompted this brief east vs. west debate:
But think of the danger inherent in the oppressed and in the thoughts of these men and women. Think what they were ready for — Ready to rush into all the errors of the West, ready to raise up the image of Baal once more, ready to rebuild the slums, ready to give the sweet peasant girls to the streets, ready to build a new Chicago, ready to make London an exemplar of blessedness.
They look towards England. They call out land civilised, not knowing that it long ago ceased to be civilised and became commercialised. "The English are free," said a Pinyega revolutionary to me. "We are still slaves." But we are all slaves. I put the question to him, "Which would you rather be, slave of God or slave of Capital?" But he could not choose because he knew nothing of the latter slavery. I quoted the words of Neitzsche to him with regard to the wedding of democracy and plutocracy —
"Once men played with gold, but now gold plays with men and has enslaved them."
But he could not understand what was meant. He went off to talk of the English Parliament, and the glorious traditions of the Anglo-Saxon race.
"What are those traditions?" I asked. "Just think! Once we were bold yeomen, we became a nation of shop-keepers; now we have become a nation of clerks and shopmen. Even our women have become clerks! Once we were content to live for life itself, for eating and drinking, marrying and bringing up children, now we live for a purpose, for a position in life, for an ambition. And marriage, which was once the significance of our life, has become merely the foundation of our pleasures."
Marriage and family were once the significance of our lives…sometimes it seems as if they are just something we do, like a hobby. Looking through Graham’s written lenses I see that Peasants know something we do not, however unintentional it may be. They do seem to live life for life’s sake and that the so called “simple things” are what really mattered. Much for us to learn from their lifestyle, much that we have forgotten.
Now please, all you cynics out there, do not imply in your comments that I may be too much romanticizing the life of the peasant. I would not give up my indoor plumbing and my beetle-free bed. But I will look to their lives and glean what lessons I may as I continue to read.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:37 AM [+]