In the midst of all the controversy and loud discussion about safety and gun rights, I started reading "The Art of Loading Brush" by Kentucky poet and essayist Wendell Berry. I have only read a few pages but the book has been written to begin a conversation about agrarian culture, especially in the South, its beginnings, its relationship to racism and perceptions outside the South and how a dialogue based on local, neighborly economic systems and changing the pursuit of one's life work from job to vocation can make significant strides in reversing an out of control military as well as a materialistic, corporate controlled economy that is at the root of the continual destruction of our physical environment as well as the peaceful, social fabric in this country So far, and I have only started, the book seems to be in line with what I attempted to write about when I wrote “The Peacemaker” and its sequel “New Pangaea – An Evolution into the Fifth World.”
Berry begins the book with a series of quotes and assessments of the misperceptions prevalent in American society based on the loss of any basic knowledge of agrarian society due to the rise of urban economies based on accumulation of money and wealth from a job as opposed to a vocation. As I read these initial quotes and intellectual musings I thought of how Hitler rose to power by shutting down institutions of learning and muting the voices and writings of the intellectuals attempting to get the people of Germany to remember. Hitler captured the youth of Germany with his propaganda about Aryan superiority and the need for “lebensraum” all the while burning books and sending those intellectuals to concentration camps along with the Jewish population. So much of that is happening in our society today. I read with horror President Trump’s appointment of the new CIA director who has been shown to support water boarding and other tortures while interrogating our “enemies.”
Although I have great compassion for the trauma of high school students rising to action against a fear for their safety in school, I am hesitant to think they should label themselves as leaders and voices of the future when they are so disconnected from their past and rely on social media and peers to move through this trauma instead of looking for the causes of this disease that is sweeping our nation and cannot be cured simply by getting rid of the National Rifle Association and its control over our legislators preventing sensible gun control. As leaders and parents of those killed at Columbine and Newton have discovered over the years, the cures lie in the creation of a school culture and climate that promotes values of dialogue based on reading and critical thinking, accountability for actions, respect for all living beings and the value of life in general. Addressing these issues in their microcosm of society would send a larger message to society as a whole and after graduation from high school they can be the leaders of a new revolution of meaningful change.
Therefore, I offer some quotes and assessments of our society presented at the beginning of “The Art of Learning Brush” for you to think about as I have done so over the past twenty-four hours that have not been free of noise and conflict from neighbors living in the apartment across the hall from me and, in conjunction with the school walk-outs have prompted me to share these thoughts with you as our nation and families continue facing violence and loss on a daily basis.
· “You had to be here then to be able to don’t see it and don’t hear it (anymore) now. But I was there then, and I don’t see it now . . .” Ernest J. Gaines, “A Gathering of Old Men.”
· “We are responsible for what we remember.” Professor John Lukas talking with students at the University of Louisville, March 9, 2011.
· “Whatever agrarianism is, it is too important to be a movement. Movements leave little room or dissent.” Wendell Berry
· Leaders of movements have tunnel vision- their ideas are right and the others are wrong. They leave no room for debate to come together to create meaningful solutions. Wendell Berry.
· Agrarianism is about home, field, garden, stable, prairie, forest, tribe, village . . . and cottage rather than castle. It is not about money, it is about culture and how that culture sustains itself with its relationship to land and community. No public conversation about this exists now nor has it existed for the last 60 or 70 years. Wendell Berry. Therefore, if our young are to know about this, they will have to read and study history and relearn these relationships. Brenda Duffey.
· Our language needs to develop into a local, neighborly language that speaks about a vocation instead of a job and a local instead of global economy. Wendell Berry. This means we need to initiate programs and methods of food production and jobs that begin within individual neighborhoods and communities and neighbors need to come together for the good of the neighborhood first. Brenda Duffey.
· “. . . it has now been a long time since an agrarian or any advocate for the good and economic and ecological health of rural America could be listened to or understood or represented by either of the political parties.” Wendell Berry.
I intend to do a series of blogs as I read “The Art of Loading Brush” to share with you my thoughts, my remembering and stimulate your thoughts and remembering as well that you might like to share with me.