...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:41 AM [+]
Our new American is responsible for little property, other than his mortgaged house and car; his neighbors and friends – indeed his very community – are more likely ephemeral than traditional and rooted. Although not an aristocrat, he is esteemed by his peers to the degree he is polished and secure, avoided once he is at odds with comfortable consensus. He depends on someone else for everything from his food to his safety. Lapses in his language and manners can end his livelihood; obsequiousness, rather than independence, is more likely to feed his family. The direction of the wind, the phases of the moon, and the dew point are as unnatural to the new American as his keyboard and cell phone are organic.
At some point we have to start to wonder what have our advances wrought? Of course I personally would not trade any of our modern conveniences, but as noted before what can we say of ourselves when we live three feet from our neighbors and know nothing of them? And at the same time we are so utterly dependent on them - in terms of the extent to which we rely on the government to take care of us. We have little or no ties to the land around us and this I think is a sad thing - you should agree especially so if you fancy yourself an environmentalist. Independence, or better yet, self-dependence is something I find very appealing, as you all know. But VDH's point is that the loss of our family farmer has taken from us the yeomans of our nation who have been like the "fool for Christ" was to the Church (and other nations).
With the loss of this country's agrarian and conservative profile also goes a tradition of using agrarian life to critique contemporary culture, a tradition of farming as moral touchstone of some 2,500 years' duration in the West beginning with Hesiod, Xenophon, and Aristotle and ending with us. Agrarian wisdom - man using and fighting against nature to produce food that ensured his family stayed on the land and his community was safe - was never fair or nicely presented. Family farmers prefer to be at loggerheads with society, yet they are neither autocrats nor disillusioned Nietzschean demigods sneering at the growing mediocrity of the inferiors in their midsts....they bother us with their "judgments" and "absolutes" and "unnecessary" and "hurtful" assessments that derive from meeting and conquering real challenge. But they also bother us in order to save, not to destroy, us by giving a paradigm of a different, an older way that once was in all of us. They want us to slow down, not to implode, to find and equilibrium between brutality and delicacy, as they themselves have with their orchards and vines. They want us to try something out ourselves before advocating it for others. It is very hard at this age to pump your own water, drain out your family's feces, grow food for others from the ground, live where your great-grandparents were born, be buried beside your sister and great aunt - and know that right now should the electricity cease, the phone go dead, the battery vanish, you and your own could still eat and drink, and survive for one more season - and as citizens, not recluses or survivalists. Such folk who are ready to do...just that each day, look at the world radically differently from the rest of us. They laugh at most of our politicians, television programs, movies, and universities, where all mena dn women are to lead clean, safe, happy, and long lives. Their perspective, for all its involvement with universal needs of life, is the most distant, and their worldview the most basic. In a democratic America, agrarians even now are more akin to the polis greeks - the architects of Western constitutional governemnt - than they are to the people of Los Angeles.
Do we need to be called back to our senses? I think so.