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Thursday, February 4, 2010

What I underlined: Berry, The Unsettling of America, Ch 5 edition:

Chapter 5: Living in the future: The "Modern" Agricultural Ideal

When people do not live where they work, they do not feel the effects of what they do. The people who make wars do not fight them. ... The people responsible for the various depredations of "agribusiness" do not live on farms. They-- like many others of less wealth and power-- live in ghettos of their own kind in homes full of "conveniences" which signify that all is well.

The most characteristically modern behavior, or misbehavior, was made possible by a redefinition of humanity which allowed it to claim, not the sovereignty of its place, neither godly nor beastly, in the order of things, but rather an absolute sovereignty, placing the human will in charge of itself and of the universe.

Politicians understand very well the power of the promise to build a better or more prosperous or more secure future. Parents characteristically strive and sacrifice to make a better or more secure future for their children. Workers work toward a secure future in which they will retire and enjoy themselves. Our obsession with security is a measure of the power we have granted the future to hold over us.

The future, so full of material blessings, is nevertheless threatened with dire shortages of food, energy, and security unless we exploit the earth even more "freely," with greater speed and less caution. The obvious paradoxes involved in this-- that we are using up future necessities in order to make a more abundant future; that final loss has been made a calculated strategy of annual gain-- have so far been understood to no great effect.

farming has been harder to industrialize than manufacturing, and when industrialization has come, it has not brought shorter hours or greater ease or less worry. ... In the practical circumstances of the modern farm, the popular yearning for the future is directly felt as a yearning for relief from weariness and worry.

In addition to the ethical questions involved, the use of animals as machines-- penning them in feed lots and cages-- creates an enormous pollution problem. ... Mr Billard forgot, or he never knew, that once plants and animals were raised together on the same farms-- which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer.

This is the favorite law of the exploiter. It holds that for every loss there is a gain that is opposite and at least equal. This law is good fortune itself, for it means that you can do no wrong.

Recycling human, animal and crop wastes will be a key to the operation of the farm.

Confronted with the living substance of farming-- the complexity, even mysteriously interrelated lives on which it depends, from the microorganisms in the soil to the human consumers-- the agriculture specialist can think only of subjecting it to total control, of turning it into a machine.

In the modern city unprecedented organization and unprecedented disorder exist side by side; one could argue that they have a symbiotic relationship, that they feed and thrive upon each other.

The specialist puts himself in charge of one possibility. By leaving out all other possibilities, he enfranchises his little fiction of total control. Leaving out all the "non-functional" or otherwise undesirable possibilities, he makes a rigid, exclusive boundary within the absolute control becomes, if not possible, at least conceivable.

having chosen the possibility of total control within a small and highly simplified enclosure, he simply abandons the rest, leaves it totally out of control; that is, he forsakes or even repudiates the complex partly mysterious patterns of interdependence and cooperation, controllable only within limits, by which human culture joins itself to its sources in the natural world.

The control by which a tomato plant lives through January is much more problematic than the natural order by which an oak tree or a titmouse lives through January. The patterns of cooperation are safer than the mechanisms of exclusion, even thought they lack the illusory safety of "control."

Therefore, if one is going to make a "model farm," one must give it a boundary, if possible a roof, that will keep out whatever does not "work." Weeds, insects, diseases do not work; leave them out. The weather works only sometimes, or on the average; leave the weather out. The work can be done by machines; leave the people out. But chemicals and drugs, no matter how dangerous; do work; they are part of the boundary, so they can be let in.

People are not going to be free or dignified or even well fed just because some specialist says that they will be. Or says that whey will be allowed to be, in certain areas-- for that is what these "agribusiness" visionaries are in fact saying. People will be allowed to be free to do certain things in certain places prescribed by other people. They will be free to work in the places set aside for work, free to play or relax in places set aside for recreation, free to live (whatever that may mean) in places set aside for living.

They will not live where they work or work where they live. They will not work where they play. And they will not, above all, play where they work.

They will have nothing to say about how the land is used or the kind or quality of its produce. ... The people will eat what the corporations decide for them to eat. They will be detached and remote from the sources of their life, joined to them only by corporate tolerance.

as a society we have abandoned any interest in the survival of anything small.

The crucial concept here is that of "limitless" or "infinite" quantity. ... Mr. Esfandiary's unlimited, if theoretical, gluttony is licensed and given an illusory respectability because of its claim to be "scientific" -- godly appetite may be within the competence of a computer-- and because, as a "long-range planner," he does his theorizing in the future, where it cannot very handily be called into account.
It is nevertheless clear that Mr. Esfandiary's "future" calls for unprecedented violence. It would require the secrifice of every value that is not quantitative. ... The machine would become an anti-god-- if not infinite, at least absolute.

To propose to blend such a farm with human values is simply to acknowledge that it has no human values, that human values have been removed from it.

If we do not live where we work, and when we work, we are wasting our lives, and our work too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What I underlined: Berry, The Unsettling of America, chapter 7 edition

I don't care if I bore others with this stuff, it makes me happy. Now then:

It is hardly surprising, then, that there should be some profound resemblances between our treatment of our bodies and our treatment of the earth.

And yet these works that so magnify us also dwarf us, reduce s to insignificance. They magnify us because we are capable of them. The diminish us because, say what we will, once we build beyond a human scale, once we conceive ourselves as Titans or as gods, we are lost in magnitude; we cannot control or limit what we do.

[Berry quoting a letter he received] "Healing, it seems to me, is a necessary and useful word when we talk about agriculture. ... The theme of suicide belongs in a book about agriculture ..."

By health, in other words, we mean merely the absence of disease. ... But the concept of health is rooted in the concept of wholeness. ... But how can it be whole and yet be dependent, as it obviously is, upon other bodies and upon the earth, upon all the rest of Creation, in fact?... Our bodies are also not distinct from the bodies of other people, on which they depend in a complexity of ways from biological to spiritual. They are not distinct from the bodies of plants and animals, with which we are involved in the cycles of feeding and in the intricate companionships of ecological systems and of the spirit. They are not distinct from the earth, the sun and moon, the the other heavenly bodies.

Persons cannot be whole alone. ... Intelectually, we know that these patterns of interdependence exist; we understand them better now perhaps than we wver have before; yet modern social and cultural patterns contradict them and make it difficult or impossible to honor them in practice.

Healing is impossible in loneliness ... To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation. ... They cut off access to the wilderness of Ceration where we must go to be reborn-- to receive the awareness, at once humbling and exhilarating, grievous and joyful, that we are a part of Creation, one with all that we live from and all that, in turn, lives from us. They destroy the communal rites of passage that turn us toward the wilderness and bring us home again.

At some point we began to assume that the life of the body would be the business of grocers and medical doctors, who need take no interest in the spirit, whereas the life of the spirit would be the business of churches, which would have at best only a negative interest in the body.

The isolation of the body sets it into direct conflict with everything else in Creation. It gives it a value that is destructive of every other value. That this has happened is paradoxical, for the body was set apart from the soul in order that the soul should triumph over the body.

You cannot devalue the body and value the soul-- or value anything else. ... Relationships with all other creatures become competitive and exploitive rather than collaborative and convivial.

By dividing body and soul, we divide both from all else. We thus condemn ourselves to a loneliness for which the only compensation is violence-- against other creatures, against the earth, against ourselves.

After the games and idle flourishes of modern youth, we use them only as shipping cartons to transport our brains and our few employable muscles back and forth to work.
As for our spirits, they seem more and more to comfort themselves by buying things.

what is the burden of the Bible if not a sense of the mutuality of influence, rising out of an essential unity, among soul and body and community and world? These are all the works of God, and it is therefore the work of virtue to make or restore harmony among them. ... The Bible's aim, as I read it, is not the freeing of the spirit from the world. It is the handbook of their interaction. It says that they cannot be divided; that their mutuality, their unity, is inescapable; that they are not reconciled in division, but in harmony. What else can be meant by the resurrection of the body? The body should be "filled with light," perfected in understanding. ... We are to treat others as we would want to be treated; thought is thus barred from any easy escape into aspiration or ideal, is turned around and forced into action. The following verses from Proverbs are not very likely the original work of a philosopher-king; the are overheard from generations of agrarian grandparents whose experience taught them that spiritual qualities become earthly events

this is a network, a spiritual network, by which each part is connected to every other part.

Healing, on the other hand, complicates the system by opening and restoring connections among the various parts-- in this way restoring the ultimate simplicity of their union.

fragmentation is a disease

One's "identity" is apparently the immaterial part of one's being ... Treatment, it might be thought, would logically consisit in the restoration of these connections: the lost identity would find itself by recognizing physical landmarks, by connecting itself responsibly to practical circumstances; it would learn to stay put in the body to which it belongs and in the place to which preference or history or accident has brought it; it would, in short, find itself in finding its work.

There is, in practice, no such thing as autonomy.

The result is another absurd pseudo-ritual, "accepting one's body," which may take years or may be the distraction of a lifetime. ... she will see her own beauty only by a difficult rebellion.

The concerns of the body-- all that is comprehended in the term nurture-- are thus degraded, denied any respected place among the "higher things" and even among the more exigent practicalities.
The first sexual division comes about when nurture is made the exclusive concern of women.

Thinkers do not act. ... Workers are simplified or specialized into machine parts to do the wage-work of the body, which they were initially permitted to think of as "manly" because for the most part women did not do it.

In the urban-industrial situation the confinement of these traditional tasks divided women more and more from the "important" activities of the new economy. ... This determination that nurturing should become exclusively a concern of women served to signify to both sexed that neither nurture nor womanhood was very important.

As the persons exclusively in charge of the tasks of nurture, women often came into sole charge of the household budget; they became family purchasing agents. ... Women had become customers ... The modern housewife was isolated from her husband, from her school-age children, and from other women. She was saddled with work from which much of the skill, hence much of the dignity, had been withdrawn, and which she herself was less and less able to consider important. ... Such a woman must be told-- or subtly made to understand-- that she must not be a drudge; that she must not let her work affect her looks, that she must not become "unattractive," that she must always be fresh, cheerful, young, shapely, and pretty. All her sexual and mortal fears would thus be given voice, and she would be made to reach for money.

Motivated no longer by practical needs, but by loneliness and fear, women began to identify themselves by what they bought rather than by what they did. ... All these "improvements" involved a radical simplification of mind that was bound to have complicated, and ironic, results.

The division of sexual energy from the functions of household and community that it ought both to empower and to grace is analogous to that other modern division between hunger and the earth.

The sacrament of sexual union, which in the time of the household was a communion of workmates, and afterward tried to be a lovers' paradise, has now become a kind of marketplace in which husband and wife represent each other as sexual property.

The model of economic competition proved as false to marriage as to farming. ... Sexual romance cannot bear to acknowledge the generality of instinct, whereas sexual capitalism cannot acknowledge its particularity. But sexuality appears to be both general and particular. One cannot love a particular woman, for instance, unless one loves womankind-- if not all women, at least other women. The capsule of sexual romance leaves out this generality, this generosity of instinct; it excludes Aphrodite and Dionysus. And it fails for that reason. Though sexual love can endure between the same two people for a long time, it cannot do so on the basis of this pretense of the exclusiveness of affection.

Husbands and wives become competitors necessarily, for their only freedom is to exploit each other or to escape.

The idea of fidelity is perverted beyond redemption by understanding it as a grim, literal duty enforced only by willpower. This is the "religious" insanity of making a victim of the body as a victory of the soul.

Virtue, like harmony, cannot exist alone; a virtue must lead to harmony between one creature and another. ... We heard the words "forsaking all others" repeated over and over again for so long that we lost the sense of their practical justification. They assumed the force of superstition: people came to be faithful in marriage not out of any understanding of the meaning of faith or of marriage, but out of the same fear of obscure retribution that made one careful not to break a mirror or spill the salt.

It is possible to open this issue of the practicality of fidelity by considering that the modern age was made possible by the freeing, and concurrently by the cheapening, of energy. ... In modern times we have never been able to subject our use of energy to a sense of responsibility anywhere near complex enough to be equal to its effects.
It may be that the principle of sexual fidelity, once it is again fully understood, will provide us with as good an example as we can find of the responsible use of energy.

At the root of culture must be the realization that uncontrolled energy is disorderly-- that in nature all energies move in forms; that, therefore, in a human order energies must be given forms. ... The forsaking of all others is a keeping of faith, not just with the chosen one, but with the ones forsaken.

Another use of fidelity is to preserve the possibility of devotion against the distractions of novelty. ... But fidelity prepares us for the return of these moments, which give us the highest joy we can know: that of union, communion, atonement

To forsake all others does not mean-- because it cannot mean-- to ignore or neglect all others, to hide or be hidden from all others, or to desire or love no others. ... One cannot enact or fulfill one's love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted. If one is to have the power and delight of one's sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to a particular person. ... No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. ... the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one's partiality.

One lives in marriage and in sexuality; at home and in the world. It is impossible, for instance, to conceive tha ta man could despise women and yet love his wife, or love his own place in the world and yet deal destructively with other places.

more to come...

Monday, February 1, 2010

What I underlined: Berry, The Unsettling of America, Ch 6 edition:

Chapter 6: The Use of Energy
(just assume these are all quotes, unless otherwise noted)

In speaking of the use of energy, then, we are speaking of an issue of religion, whether we like it or not.

Religion, in the root sense of the word, is what binds us back to the source of life. ... The lives that feed us have to be killed before they enter our mouths; we can only use the fossil fuels by burning them up.

The human pattern of cyclic use is exemplified in the small Oriental peasant farms described in F. H. King's Farmers of Forty Centuries, in which all organic residues, plant and animal and human, are returned to the soil, thus keeping intact the natural cycle of "birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay" that Sir Albert Howard identified as the "Wheel of Life."

Technology joins us to energy, to life.

Lives, skills, and tools were culturally indivisible.

The question at issue, then, is not of distinction but of balance.

The energy that comes from living things is produced by combining the four elements of medieval science: earth, air, fire (sunlight), and water. This is current energy. ... It is not available in long-term supplies; in any form in which it can be preserved, as in humus, in the flesh of living animals, in cans or freezers or grain elevators, it still perishes fairly quickly in comparison, say , to coal or plutonium. It lasts over long term only in the living cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay. The technology appropriate to the use of this energy, therefore, preserves its cycles. It is a technology that never escapes into its own logic but remains bound in analogy to natural law.
The energy that is made available, and consumed, by machines is typically energy that can be accumulated in stockpiles or reservoirs. Energy from wind and water obviously does not fit this category, but it suggests the possibility of bigger and better storage batteries, which one must assume will sooner or later be produced. ... This mechanically derived energy is supposed to have set people free from work and other difficulties once considered native to the human condition. whether or not it has done so in any meaningful sense is questionable ... We now have a purely mechanical technology that is very nearly a law unto itself.

Mechanical technology is based on quantities of materials and fuels that are finite. If the prophets of science foresee "limitless abundance" and "infinite resources," one must assume that they are speaking figuratively, meaning simply that they cannot comprehend how much there may be. In that sense, they are right; there are sources of energy that, given the necessary machinery, are inexhaustible as far as we can see.

we are trustworthy only so far as we can see. The length of our vision is our moral boundary. ... It is already certain that our planet alone-- not to mention potential sources in space-- can provide us with more energy and materials than we can use safely or well.

It is typical of the mentality of our age that we cannot conceive of infinity except as an enormous quantity. We cannot conceive of it as orderly process, as pattern or cycle, as shapeliness. We conceive of it as inconceivable quantity-- that is, as the immeasurable. ... If we think, for instance, of infinite energy as immeasurable fuel. We are committed in the same thought to its destruction, for fuel must be destroyed to be used.

But who will control the use of that energy? How and for what purposes will it be used? How much can be used without overthrowing ecological or social or political balance? Nobody knows.
The energy that is made available to us by living things, on the other hand, is made available not as an inconceivable quantity, but as a conceivable pattern And for the mastery of this pattern-- that is, the ability to see its absolute importance and to preserve it in use-- one does not need a PH.D. or a laboratory or a computer. One can master it in this sense, in fact, without having any analytic or scientific understanding of it at all. It was mastered, better than our scientific experts have mastered it, by "primitive" peasants and tribesmen thousands of years before modern science.

The moral order by which we use machine-derived energy is comparatively simple. Whatever uses this sort of energy works simply as a conduit that carries it beyond use: the energy goes in as "fuel" and comes out as "waste".

The moral order appropriate to the use of biological energy, on the other hand, requires the addition of a third term: production, consumption, and return. It is the principle of return that complicates matters, for it requires responsibility, care, of a different and higher order than that required by production and consumption alone, and it calls for methods and economies of a different kind. In an energy economy appropriate to the use of biological energy, all bodies, plant and animal and human, are joined in a kind of energy community. ... They die into each other's life, live into each other's death. They do not consume in the sense of using up. They do not produce waste. What they take in they change, but they change it always into a form necessary for its use by a living body of another kind. And this exchange goes on and on, round and round, the Wheel of Life rising out of the soil, descending into it, through the bodies of creatures.

The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.

It is alive itself. It is a grave, too, of course. ... Within this powerful economy, it seems that death occurs only for the good of life. And having followed the cycle around, we see that we have not only a description of the fundamental biological process, but also a metaphor of great beauty and power.

Because soil is alive, various, intricate, and because its processes yield more readily to imitation than to analysis, more readily to care than to coercion, agriculture can never be an exact science. There is an inescapable kinship between farming and are, for farming depends as much on character, devotion, imagination, and the sense of structure, as on knowledge. It is a practical art.
But it is also a practical religion, a practice of religion, a rite. By farming we enact our fundamental connection with energy and matter, light and darkness. In the cycles of farming, which carry the elemental energy again and again through the seasons and the bodies of living things, we recognize the only infinitude within reach of the imagination.

Cultivation is at the root of the sense both of culture and of cult. The ideas of tillage and worship are thus joined in culture. And these words all come from an Indo-European root meaning both "to revolve" and "to dwell". To live, survive on the earth, to care for the soil, and to worship, all are bound at the root to the idea of a cycle.

food is therefore a cultural product

agriculture is not only not a concern of culture, but not even a concern of science, for they have abandoned interest in teh health of the farming communities on the one and in the health of the land on the other. They appear to have concluded that agriculture is purely a commercial concern; its purpose is to provide as much feel as quickly and cheaply and with as few man-hours as possible and to be a market for machines and chemicals.

it seems to me that the way was prepared when the specialized shapers or makers of agricultural thought simplified their understanding of energy and began to treat current, living, biological energy as if it were a store of energy extractable by machinery. At that point the living part of the technology began to be overpowered by the mechanical. ... growth apart from life... Let loose from any moral standard or limit, the machine was also let loose in another way: it replaced the Wheel of Life as the governing cultural metaphor. Life came to be seen as a road, to be traveled as fast as possible, never to return. Or, to put it another way, the Wheel of Life became an industrial metaphor; rather than turning in place, revolving in order to dwell, it began to roll in the "highway or progress" toward an ever-receding horizon.