Quoting Berry from Word and Flesh:
“The religion and the environmentalism of the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something that they do not really want to destroy. We all live by robbing nature, but our standard of living demands that the robbery shall continue.
We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make.”
The title of this post comes from the mini-snapshots exposed in my always busy mind this week. It will be a little bit ranty and jump around a bit. I hope you can find the threads of connection 🙂
To say that work has been brutal lately would be a slight understatement some days. I look around at the stress many workers perform under today and it is not surprising when one of our PM’s collapse with heart issues; it is concerning when another quite young person from another department is hospitalized with chest pains. These events run concurrent with the corporate announcement that we’ve had our strongest financial month ever, we’ve reduced administrative expenses (that’s employee count, btw), and our profit margin surged to 35%. I struggle with this, as the owner is a good man – honest, caring and concerned. Yet what our industry requires from its workers is pathological. People work eighteen hours straight. When fellow employees fall in the trenches, others shoulder that workload in addition to their normal duties. And customers quite frankly don’t give a damn, as long as their business rocks on. The new mantra of “Do more with less” is taking its toll, and it is painful to watch; more painful to be one of those pawns. The lifestyles we think we need to maintain call for this sacrifice of bodies and minds on the altar of consumerism in the religion of progress and it seems unstoppable. I have son-in-laws in the trades, and it is even running amok there – husbands and fathers not getting home until nine or ten o’clock at night after starting their days at five a.m.
Alongside of this work week I’ve been finishing up another one of Wendall Berry’s incredible books, hence the opening quote – a huge study in contrast if there ever was one. More than thirty years ago this tender of the land foresaw what we are doing, where we are heading, how people would be consumable parts of the whole, to be raped, pillaged, drilled, strip-mined of their intellectual and skill value and left as scarred occupants of our even more scarred natural landscapes. It isn’t that farming and cottage industries of the home actually called for less hours of work. Nature is a tempestuous task mistress and can force your hand when it is time to bring in the hay; when ewes and hogs birth in a bunch and during bad weather; when drought or flooding overturns your best laid plans; when a scourge of hungry coyotes overrun and consume your laying hens. Where it does differ is that it is your work, your desires, your vision. It is the plan of your mind, the blisters on your hands and the tired muscles of your back, to achieve something of value to you. At the end of the day you can look at food on the table, shelter for animals, a tight fence, clean water supply, and there is something tangible there to mark your hours and effort. In my humble mind-space, this is what we lack today. If the grid went down tomorrow, every single thing I’ve done related to work would be gone and useless (along with these words as well). At the end of MY day, I’ve created nothing tangible.
I am not naive enough to think that everyone wants to build their own shelter, grow their own vegetables and grains, catch, preserve and raise their own protein sources. There used to be a better balance though I feel. Farming and animal husbandry used to be admired skill sets; honest professions that gave quality food back into their communities, led by generations who understood and nurtured the land with dignity and inherited knowledge. We valued all things more – products, people, food and land. We understood that resources were finite. Today we live in a funhouse of illusion that things can continue as they are and that science and technology will save us from our own hubris. While I dearly love science and make my living from technology (and type this via technology to boot!), those are not our hope for the future. It is we the people, that are the hope for the future.
Everyone understands the concept of KISS- Keep it simple stupid. We just don’t practice it with intent. Our intellects are amazing. Sadly, they are not coupled with long-term forethought. Computer modeling is fabulous, but we cannot account for all of the unknowns. Yet we use them to peer into the future at our own extinction, and then quibble because there are too many fortunes at stake in the consumption of things. The interior of our country is falling by the wayside, undervalued except for forestry kingpins, monster corporate farming, and commercial developers.
The most frustrating thing about all of this and my constant mental companion, is that I do not have the answers. Dissonance is constantly bouncing around inside of me. I only know how to try to make one little space on the planet work with nature, not against it. How to reduce my own consumption and value things differently. But I am a wage slave for industries that contribute to the decimation of our resources! I don’t want to see a series of cataclysmic events force us to re-learn how to truly live. There will be young people that read this and think “Crazy back-to-lander hippie type, I dig my iPhone and big screen TV”. There will be older people who think “Been there. Done that. Like my Walmart and indoor plumbing, thanks.” There will be corporatists and scientific minds that think “She doesn’t know what we’re planning, ye of little faith.” And there will be religionists who nod sagely and think “The apocalypse will come and all will be rebuilt.”
To all of you I say this: Look around you. Look at our land, water and air. Look at our people, drugged up, discontent, suffering from more mental and physical maladies than we can keep up with. Look at our fish and fowl, our mammals and insects. Look at our bankrupt inner cities and our countryside full of abandoned barns and homes. Ask yourself “When?” Right. We all look, have no answer, and bury ourselves back in whatever it is that we do.
I do it too. Tying myself to a tree will help only one tree. Picketing fracking will put me in jail and I’ll be broke. Showing up at a city council meeting to argue against fluoridation will take time away from work. I’m not independently (or dependently) wealthy enough to travel around for cause after cause. And while I used to think that government could help, it is now too entangled with industry to really hear us any more even though we are supposed to BE the voice.
That this is a first world dilemma is not unrealized by me. That we have set the flagship standard for up and coming countries is also not lost on me. How rude to say “Oh, no, you shan’t do as we did.” People dropping dead of Ebola, people being slain in the streets for their differing faiths, people watching drought decimate their livestock, they aren’t thinking on these things. They are trying to survive THIS day. Sadly, most of them have more skills to survive than any of us in first world countries. We could learn from them I believe.
My boss always says to me “Don’t come to me with a problem without bringing solutions.” But to the lovely few of you who will read this today, that’s exactly what I’ve done. How do YOU deal with the dissonance that any thought on these things must cause to burble up in you? What changes have you made? And if you think I’m chicken little, I’d like to know that too 🙂 Some really bright, giving, thoughtful people read my blog, so I’d love to hear your thoughts, truly.
Because I like to leave some beauty behind, some positive thing (and there is damn little of that in here, lol!) I’ve also attached some of my flowers this week, which keep me sane (questionable status, but we’ll pretend for the moment).
~SE (Whose brain is currently trying to solve world problems in order to run away from bits and pieces of grief rattling around in her)
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Oh good, it did not make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a pencil 🙂 I’m jesting of course, but thankful that it evoked something positive. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond, and your thoughtful response. One never knows when they write on topics of weight if people will run away or continue the read 🙂
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I enjoyed reading it very much! Didn’t want to run away! : )
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Thank you 🙂
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It seems we have known all along. Much is written and agreed on. But, we continue at an unsustainable pace, virulent and all consuming. My geology professor told me decades ago not to worry. Earth was here long before man and will heal herself after she monkey stomps us off the planet. Maybe another life form will evolve and dig up our bones and wonder just what the heck happened. What went wrong. Its hard to dig up an answer that reads. We went wrong, not nature.
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If I were to have a headstone (I won’t) it would read “Here lies hubris. Back to dust, ash, those things that continue on” and it would be overtaken by ivy, dandelions, wild violets and plantain which actually heal the planet, unlike us. But I have hope. I know I am not alone, just sorely outnumbered 🙂
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