Sunday, August 31, 2008


The Peasant Dance (1568)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569)

It’s high time for a reevaluation of the unjustly pilloried peasant in the scheme of social values in modern life to bring it full circle out from the thrall of responsibility abdicated to oblivious authority.

Ayn Rand’s tale of Atlas Shrugged told of corporate giants withdrawing their genius from the commonweal to found a hidden community away from the inevitable collapse of common society thus bereft of them. As a budding freshman engineer in 1962 on the way to an eight year career with IBM, I was enchanted by her championing the responsible individual dedicated to creating a better world as distinguished from the indistinguishable morass of moronic leeches whose addictive meddling in acts of genius kept their blue print Nirvana from fruition.

The fact that her heroes were quite scrupulously ethical served to justify her raising them so far above the rabble she modeled after the communism she had just escaped in Russia. She was my introduction to social sciences beyond my loss of patriotism through four years of the leatherneck life. To the proto-yuppie I was fashioning myself to be at 20, her philosophy was like a light in the long night of collectivism during the cold war.

Experience of years in the real world of unscrupulous corporate greed began betraying the reality of Rand’s heroes and of being supervisor of assembly lines made me reassess the rabble I had assumed manned them. I have been deconstructing that myopic view from the pedestal that I inherited as a white, male in the US ever since, and may die before I’m done. I have learned in the 36 years since contributing to the corporate dominance of modern life that one must get in touch with one’s own essential core of being to have an inkling of where others are coming from.

I make this statement in full realization that, although I am a unique individual, I am a combination of the same natural stuff as everything I observe and am, therefore, not exceptional. The view from atop Ayn’s pyramid of unregulated capitalism observes only dependent peasant beggars among their unexceptional inferiors. I have come to see peasants everywhere, plying their various skills and services with and to whatever level of ethics and competence they choose and for which they will enjoy or suffer the natural results.

Seeing as how some of those peasants consider themselves superior authorities on life and some of these peasants do fit Ayn’s collective masses and prefer to rely on that authority than their own, we have remaining an entire unconsidered population of folks who are glad to be the peasants who defy the odor and ordure of both the control freaks and their sycophants and remain their own authority to exercise their creativity and skills at a more personally responsible, more effectively involved level in the sphere of their own local community where faith in being fairly represented in a huge, remote society is obviated by their acquaintance with whomever they deal.

The latest example of the efficacy of the peasant is a finding by a study of the world food crisis demonstrating that a ten acre farm tended by a single farming family for consumption and income is likely to be ten times as productive and nutritious than any ten acres selected from a giant, mechanized, agribusiness farm. Give a man food today and you will be feeding him forever, teach him to grow his own food and he might feed you someday.

So long as individuals’ wealth was an equal share of the commonweal from which they drew and to which they contributed, respect for the nature that supplied them and for neighbors who helped in stocking remained naturally symbiotic. Once totalitarian farming increased the birth rate to an acceleration reliable enough to justify growing and stocking more than enough food and the inventing, manufacturing and warehousing more tools and toys to allay fears of deprivation or inconvenience, the necessity for social contact with more than one’s places of getting and spending tokens diminished social concern for the commonweal to the resented enforcement of religious and legal regulations. Nothing is done to heal the rift with nature.

The most effective tool in the history of mankind’s ingenious abdication of individual responsibility to external authority in the developing the thingathon western culture has become is the creation and selling of innovative necessities of life. The most insidious aspect of such evil genius is that the transformation was done less through the manipulation of Earth’s resources to manufacture endless assembly lines of crap than through the manipulation of the insecurities of the gullible compliant clients from which tokens are extracted at the rate of 10,000% markup per mark.Why else would Bush’s first message of advise after 911 be, “GO SHOPPING,” to cope with our grief?!!?? WTF


troutsky said...

I'm assuming that peasant and farmer are interchangeable terms in this context? (rather than implying a fuedal system) I like farmers and farming but don't romanticize them or the "proletariat" as being particularly enlightened.

As for Rand, I don't think she could ever envision society, the individual within the collective.Her rejection of communism became a rejection of communalism and even community and ended up as a fetishistic reverence of the individual (individualism). In her world Property becomes the principle relation between social agents, with exchange being the medium.

Us "old guard" still assert individual autonomy and all the attendant rights, we are just looking for an expanded politics and democracy (into the economic realm) Call it socialism, because profit is eliminated, but without the associations (from history) of authoritarian hierarchy. Sustainability is a key concept and it is here our visions come together.

Yodood said...

I'm assuming farmer and manager of agribusiness food production are not interchangeable in your context contest so that I may agree. I also appreciate how, while championing the individual, she denied the existence of individuals within communism, which fit right in with cold war propaganda.

So I hope I made it clear that, to me, it seems to be a case of striving to be Ayn's self sufficient individual with an ethical consciousness of the commonweal or making a morass of the collective idea by falling on the strength of people whose emphasis on social conscience left out considering what holes in the social bucket having no sense self sufficiency makes.

Completion of the vision quest and the rigors of facing nature alone is what insured the tribe that this one had enough personal energy to contribute to warm even their cold ones among Native Americans and Australian Aborigines. The Hindus recommend Minahana, control of ones own little boat before taking an oar in the Mahayana, the big boat of society.

I'm reminded of a wonderful fellow, Hobbit, who hung out at our communal house as faithfully as any resident until his banking on charm alone as the way to his stomach began to wear thin on the most benevolent of we brothers and sisters. We put up a "There is no free lunch" sign on the refrigerator door. In discussion with him over this impasse it was realized by all that the line was drawn less as an exercise of our belief in ownership or lack of love, than as an expression of true concern for his willful lack of self reliance and our contribution to it.

Seems like the worm Orroborros eating its own tail, eh?

If, when you say, "…expanded politics and democracy (into the economic realm)" you mean a larger government I couldn't disagree more. If you are talking about the evolution of a paradigm leading to a central government intelligent enough to allow tribes to deal with their own welfare and step in only if requested to settle inter-tribal disagreements, I couldn't agree more. Government is a church for atheists get behind without noticing.

troutsky said...

The difference between the pejoritive 'Big Government" ie Big Brother, and good governence is one of hierarchy and degree of coercion, eh? So we are looking for a form of authority tp prevent inter-tribal disputes from spilling over.Economic democracy refers to individual decision making regarding production and allocation which hopefully eliminates many of those inter-tribal disputes.I turn to Murray Bookchin or Michael Albert for models.