Carter, Eisenhower, and my neo-agrarian vision

Pres. Jimmy Carter – (1979):

Don’t know much about Jimmy Carter aside from him being a Southern peanut farmer and later in life volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in building homes. His isn’t a popular name within my wider family — all are Republicans so far as I’m aware. So forgive my ignorance about the man. Not sure I’ve ever really listened to him speak before. And that speech was amazing. Much more honesty than we’ve heard out of a president in … how long?

Eisenhower’s farewell address is the only other speech of its kind that springs to mind:

I appreciate what both men had to say. Both are warning future Americans (us) of the gravity of the choices and possibilities we’re faced with — on one hand the formation of the military-industrial complex, on the other the energy crisis. Both pointed to the social and ‘spiritual’ crises that would accompany these radically-changing times, and their words ring true.

What Jimmy Carter said up above speaks to this idea I’m continuing to play around with involving intentional communities branching off and reclaiming power in the hands of common people by producing more for our own selves and the communities we belong to and/or trade with, particularly in terms of the necessities (namely, food generation). Let me very briefly outline the benefits of the setup I envision:

  1. Providing for our own necessities within our own homes and communities to the greatest extent possible, particularly when it comes to sustaining foods, reduces our dependence on the Corporate State (that is, major corporations being backed by government).
  2. By implementing this form of neo-agrarianism and making better use of the land we have access to, we can reduce the amount of petrol otherwise required in Big Ag’s pesticide-laden monoculture megafarms (as well as the transportation costs typically involved). Through the use of new technologies surely modern farming of this nature can be made very productive with little or no harmful chemicals and big-brand fertilizers needed and while utilizing knowledge of biodiversity and the introduction of animals and insects useful in the process. (Farmer Joel Salatin could surely be of help in explaining this aspect in better detail to those who are curious — he’s mentioned in a few agriculture-related books and documentaries.)
  3. Our current dependence on Big Ag to supply us with food unfortunately is made possible through its heavy use of petrol in various stages of the food production process. It is said that at least 45% of oil used in the U.S. is imported, and we’re well aware where much of it comes from. The military has had a hand in gaining us access to the oil needed to fuel our economy, and this is having disastrous effects throughout the globe, injuring our relations with peoples in other countries to the point where our government stands on high alert, nonstop, ready to defend against probable attacks from foreigners. We as a nation are coming to be reviled, and this will have repercussions eventually. Whether we’ve hit peak oil already or will someday, the fact remains that the competition over oil is harming us, yet is currently needed to prop up the lifestyles we’ve grown accustomed to as well as to make the foods many of us otherwise would starve without. If we somehow lose out on procuring enough oil, it won’t only result in a social reset in this country (and others that wind up affected as well), but rather complete chaos and competition on a savage level. People will starve. And all because we rely too heavily on fossil fuels to maintain our modern ways of life. If we can reduce this dependency by providing for ourselves and take back a big measure of control over our own lives in the process, why not aim in that direction?
  4. Through learning modern farming and urban gardening techniques, we will likely become better acquainted with sciences and technologies, further broadening our awareness and enhancing our own power as individuals. The skills needed there calls for all kinds of creativity and innovation, particularly of the jerry-rigged variety, and this opens us up to so many possibilities and learning experiences. Atheists and others frustrated by others’ lack of scientific understanding should be pleased by this likely outcome.
  5. People desiring simpler lives with more straight-forward expectations (like myself) may find solace in this saner way of living. But it’s all in how each community and each individual therein chooses to bring it about. As always, we can pave the way to hell if we’re not careful.
  6. It’s come to my mind that slavery will always exist. And what I mean by this is we humans will either wind up slaves to one another or ‘slaves’ to the earth in terms of living within nature’s parameters (or possibly both if we’re as unlucky once again). The castle made of sand that we’re working and living within today is not sustainable — not ecologically but also not socially and psychologically. Debt slavery has a long history, but it is a human construct, not a condition imposed on us by the natural world itself. For as much drudgery that may be involved in farming and directly utilizing our own labor to provide for our own needs, it at least comes with the benefit of tuckering us out enough to where we, with any luck, will use what energy we have remaining more wisely and not waste so much of it bickering over our differences. The intentional communities going their own ways also helps reduce tensions by allowing groups of people breathing room who otherwise stay locked in irreconcilable arguments.
  7. The gender issue can be abated because, again, people are kept busy with creating something they do want instead of arguing nonstop with one another over what they do not want. Furthermore, men and women would need to contribute to the extent their capable, and this competitive environment can be put to productive use through struggling to prove themselves as able-bodied and relatively independent (and to admit where one or the other may generally be better-suited to certain tasks, however that may shake out).
  8. It is my belief that a greater peace than many of us experience today can be found through engaging in productive work that serves a real and necessary purpose. When we pull our own weight, so to speak, this boosts our sense of pride and satisfaction with living. And through observing the dedication in others, we may kindle respect and admiration for one another and go a step further toward solidifying community bonds. Because the notion of community exists only when it revolves around some sort of commonality, like shared life experiences and working toward common goals. Through working together we may also learn the importance of charity, as well as why shame deservedly accompanies abusing charities provided. Because people then see how, up-close and personally, that charity was brought about through the labors of others. Those who lack empathy in this manner should be noted and never promoted to positions involving much power.
  9. Love matters. And love involves respect, knowledge, responsibility, and care. Reacquainting ourselves with the land may go a long way toward healing our social wounds as we learn to see one another in the context of individuals we see and come to know rather than mere statistics printed somewhere. We need to bond, just as we also have a need for a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, something greater. It is not about stepping back into the past so much as it is inquiring into what life has taught us thus far and see how we, individually and collectively, might do better. But it starts in the hearts and minds of individual people and spreads from there. The connections forged along the way may make the entire process worthwhile, even if humankind winds up beset by obstacles we prove ultimately unable to overcome. To genuinely become friends and loved ones and neighbors — is that not what gives living so much of its meaning and authenticity?
  10. If we are indeed facing “end times” or the emergence of a new Dark Age, self-reliant communities will likely have a better chance of surviving or at least winding out their days striving to make amends internally and get right with our creator. I do not envision a God as any that have been described so far, but something beyond that, the unknowable yet the intuitively felt. Everyone understands this in their own way, and I won’t elaborate further. If that creator is viewed simply as nature itself, that works too. The point is that it may help mitigate the suffering that may befall us and give what lives we have remaining greater quality. Maybe. Depends on a lot of variables, sure. But maybe.

I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” He also said: “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” As well as this: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

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4 Responses to Carter, Eisenhower, and my neo-agrarian vision

  1. Larry says:

    “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do.” I like the Ten Years After reference… and a very good article to boot, thanks!

    • Byenia says:

      I viewed that link a couple weeks back for the first time. It’s not a term I’m terribly familiar with, though I understand it ties into “paleoconservative” thought, which I do lean toward. I’ll look into it further though, as it does sound very much along the lines of what I’m considering here. Thanks for sharing.

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