Wendell's Wisdom...

Dateline: 11 July 2005

Wendell Berry is the foremost of Agrarian writers. His perspicuity is rare, refreshing, inspiring and, at the same time, sobering. Berry is an expert when it comes to pointing out that the Industrial Emperor has no clothes on. So it’s only natural that what little I’ve read of Berry’s writings, I’ve liked (I hope to read more soon). Mr. Berry has an article in the recent issue of Orion Magazine. Here are a few quotes....

“We agrarians are involved in a hard, long, momentous contest, in which we are so far, and by a considerable margin, the losers. What we have undertaken to defend is... “good farming.” I mean farming as defined by agrarianism as opposed to farming as defined by industrialism; farming as the proper use and care of an immeasurable gift.”

“...Because industrialism cannot understand living things except as machines, and can grant them no value that is not utilitarian, it conceives of farming and forestry as forms of mining; it cannot use the land without abusing it.”

“...one of the primary principles in industrialism has always been to get the worker away from home. From the beginning it has been destructive of home employment and home economies. The economic function of the household has been increasingly the consumption of purchased goods. Under industrialism, the farm too has become increasingly consumptive, and farms fail as the costs of consumption overpower the income from production.”

“I said awhile ago that to agrarianism farming is the proper use and care of an immeasurable gift. The shortest way to understand this, I suppose, is the religious way. Among the commonplaces of the Bible, for example, are the admonitions that the world is made and approved by God, that it belongs to Him, and that its good things come to us as gifts.... The world, Gerald Manley Hopkins said, is charged with the grandeur of God. Some such thoughts would have been familiar to most people during most of human history. They seem strange to us, and what has estranged us from them is our economy. The industrial economy could not have been derived from such thoughts...”

“Even now, if they cared, I think agricultural economists could find small farmers who have prospered,not by “getting big,” but by practicing the ancient rules of thrift and subsistence, by accepting the limits of their small farms, and by knowing well the value of having a little land.”

“If you have no land, you have nothing; no food, no shelter, no warmth, no freedom, no life.”

“To be landless in an industrial society obviously is not at all times to be jobless and homeless. But the ability of the industrial economy to provide jobs and homes depends on prosperity, and on a very shaky kind of prosperity too...”

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