There are Luddites Lurking Amongst Us
Sometimes your readers can see right through you, hard as you try to cover up your true self.
Anyway, that’s what appeared to happen to moi yesterday, when yet another well-known agricultural writer apparently discovered this site for the first time and promoted it on Twitter.
You see, Tom Philpott, who writes for Mother Jones and has a fairly extensive writing résumé, has nearly 18,000 twitter followers as compared to my 1,400. He’s a talented writer and I’ve enjoyed reading what he has to say, even if I don’t always agree with it. Because he’s such a Luddite.
Imagine my surprise when he tweeted this:
This is very 2006: Just discovered a very cool independent ag blog called @BigPictureAg: Check it out: http://www.bigpictureagriculture.com/
OK. Let me get this straight. He said, “this is very 2006.” Talk about a backhanded compliment. Then again, considering the Luddite source, perhaps it’s the best compliment possible.
That fits me about right, Tom. I’ve always been about six or seven years “behind.”
But we do have a situation here where a bona fide Luddite has implied that I’m a Luddite. That is a bit much to bear, given how I view him, with his newsboy cap and the old-fashioned farm values he embraces which some refer to as “romanticized” old-style farming. I can assure you, dear reader, that Philpott is way, way more of a Luddite than I am.
Yeah, sure, I dedicate Thursday’s to Luddite photo day and it has surprised me to find out which people seem to enjoy the Luddite photos the most. Like my friend and relative through marriage, an architect in the twin cities, who had a brightly painted fish head attached to her dining room ceiling the last time I was there. Who knew? I thought she was into modernism. But, she leaves comments saying she loves the old tractors that I feature in Luddite-day photos and videos and wants to own them, in fact.
In another recent happening behind the scenes here at b.p.a., I was interviewed by a large farm journal in the Netherlands this month. I didn’t know that the Netherlands had Luddite inhabitants with their petri dish meat and color-specific LED lighted greenhouses and all of that. I had previously viewed them as a modern liberal progressive nation, but now I know better. Because my interview took place by land line phone for an hour while the journalist took notes by hand, and I was later contacted for my physical address so he could send me a print copy. Would that I could “translate” a digital copy instead. We Luddites have a way of finding each other, don’t we? And to add to the irony, the subject of the interview was futurism. Go grab yourself a copy if Luddite futurism is a subject that interests you.
So why do people who are modern and progressive, seem to have a hidden Luddite inside of them just trying to get out?
I think what’s happening here is that we as humans are having trouble catching up to the rapid technological changes that have occurred in the past number of decades. We are all part of the system, yet none of us can individually control what the whole rest of the system is doing or where it is headed. I like to rely on my gut feelings and sometimes some of our advances just don’t feel right.
It bothers me a great deal that the average urban dweller, and farm family, too, doesn’t know how to grow their own food. To me, that just doesn’t feel right. And it bothers me that monster machinery can conquer the land to the point that the whole Midwest looks like one giant outdoor factory. That doesn’t feel right. And no one cares, because it’s just fly-over country. That doesn’t feel right, either.
And, in farming, it bothers me that the people who over-think all of these things, like myself, all seem to come to the same conclusion, and that is that the farming methods of the mid-twentieth century were about the best systems ever.
Please don’t say I’m just romanticizing the past.
In the mid-century, we employed machinery to produce the food that we needed, but we did so while rotating crops and livestock through our fields. Pigs were fed slop from the house, and reveled in the mud. Cattle were set free to roam the corn fields following the harvest which contained enough fallen ears and fodder to make them happy cows. And farm kids learned to grow a garden and “put food by” from their grandparents. On Saturday nights the whole family headed to their vibrant local town to shop and visit with one another. It felt very real. Today, things don’t always feel so real.
And the complexity of it all is making us anxious. Again, it doesn’t feel right. It’s as if we’re in a race between technology saving us and we humans tripping some tipping point that our living breathing planet will be forced to respond to in some sudden and unexpected way.
There is good and bad in everything. Always has been, and always will be. No amount of wishful idealism is ever going to change that. Not everything going on today is bad. Not everything that was going on in the past middle of the century was good. No doubt the world is unfolding as it is supposed to, so our job is simply to do our own best and then be a witness to it. We’re each a necessary cog in the wheel, a vital ant in the colony. And the only 20/20 vision is hindsight, so who can be so arrogant to say what is right or wrong today for paving the way to the future?
Oh. One last thing. Did I mention that I detest cell phones?