Thursday, January 15, 2009

i can't get no satisfaction

pistachios from this week's produce box from terra firma

"the whole horse: the preservation of the agrarian mind" is a poetic essay by wendell berry. in it, he beautifully explains the problem of industrial economy:
One of the primary results—and one of the primary needs—of industrialism is the separation of people and places and products from their histories. To the extent that we participate in the industrial economy, we do not know the histories of our families or of our habitats or of our meals. This is an economy, and in fact a culture, of the one-night stand...

...In this condition we have many commodities, but little satisfaction, little sense of the sufficiency of anything...the industrial economy's most-marketed commodity is satisfaction...this commodity, which is repeatedly promised, bought and paid for, is never delivered...

...The persistent want of satisfaction is directly and completely related to the dissociation of ourselves and all our goods from our and their histories...

...When there is no reliable accounting and therefor no competent knowledge of the economic and ecological effects of our lives, we cannot live lives that are economically and ecologically responsible.
he goes on to explain that the way to live economically and ecologically responsible lives is to build an agrarian economy, a local economy based on land. this is a subsistence economy and is a culture before it is an economy. (makes me think of this documentary i wrote about here.) he writes about how agrarianism is concerned with figuring out what is best (for the land, people, animals). "What is the best location for a particular building or fence? What is the best way to plow this field?..." All the questions are entirely site specific. local. and to answer them, one has to study the history of the place. knowledge must be passed down.

i tried to find a link to the whole essay online, but couldn't. it's very worth checking out from the library though. the essay can be found in the book fatal harvest and in the art of the commonplace: the agrarian essays of wendell berry. my summing up here, does not do the essay justice.

anyway, i think about all of this when i listen to economists and politicians talking about how americans need to start consuming again to get the economy back on track. just put more money into the system. makes me a bit sick to my stomach. seems to me that berry is right. we need an entirely different kind of economy. and now when our current economy is failing we should be looking at the deeper causes of the economic problems.


sarai said...

I have been thinking over these same types of issues lately. I'll have to see if I can find this essay at the berkeley library.

kusink said...

Hear, hear!

fog said...

i just checked out the same wendell berry book. i have become very interested in many of these issues myself, and have been on a reading quest. some of the books we've read over lap. i can also recommend masanobu fukuoka's one straw revolution. it may be hard to find although i managed to get a copy that was printed in india. he's a really wonderful revolutionary spirit, hardcore and idealistic, but with amazing commentary on our society.

another book, written by a new york state native, is "this organic life" by joan dye gussow. she is just a down to earth woman talking about her garden and concern for the earth and our food sources.

the book that actually started me on the journey of altering my eating habits was a cook book "unpluggged kitchen" by vianna laplace. she inspired me by describing simple, local, unprocessed foods and how to tamper with them as little as possible.

i'm glad to read what you've been writing.