Debunking the Pastoral Myth

pastoralmyth

Most of us are a few generations off the farm.  We are probably living in a metropolitain area.  We are probably earning decent incomes.  We have insulated homes, heat, electricity, running water.  We buy our organic groceries at a supermarket.  We don’t realize that most of the people who work on farms do so hoping that their children will get a good education and get a job living in the city.  This includes our forefathers. Why?  Because farming is a shitty way to make a living.  It is not a hobby you perform on your off time with a $60,000 a year salary to earn during the day or a pension check coming in each month.

Californians are living in a complete delusion.  They look at the pastoral pictures thinking that those people living in borderline poverty performing manual labor from dawn to dusk have the good life.  Agriculture for most people in the world is a second or third world existence.  They wish it on no one.

A majority of our food comes from industrial agriculture.  Our quality of life and our ability to feed ourselves is dependent on large scale agriculture and agricultural science.  And because of industrial agriculture only a few percent of the developed world’s population works on farms.  Even today most farmers in the developed world want their children to live and work in the city so they can enjoy a better quality of life.  When we ask farmers to produce “organic” products we are actually reducing yield and the farmers are making less money.  Our romantic notions about agriculture are actually imposing more work for less return upon the world’s farmers.  Organic agriculture is a formula for poverty.

For most of the world, growing and eating locally is not viable.  Many regions have short growing seasons that greatly reduce the number and type of crops that can be grown.  Yes, staples can often be grown locally during one season, but winter and the need for nutrition and variety of diet requires long distance transport of produce.  California is the exception, not the rule, and should not dictate agricultural policy for the rest of the world.  Fuck local.

The world does not want to be hungry.  In many cases scarcity in other countries is due to our food fetishes or our food phobias.  Let the people of the world coordinate the growing of crops to feed themselves using the latest techniques of agriculture and aquaculture.  Yes, one company owning all seed varieties is a crime against humanity.  However, there are good agriculturalists who can apply large scale agriculture for our benefit.

Think Global.  Let Us All Eat Bread, Meat, Poultry, Fish, Fruit and Vegetables Year Round.  Cake, too.

Malcolm Gladwell: The True Meaning of “Gifted”

outliers

Outliers is definitely Malcolm Gladwell’s finest book to date.  And I am going to keep this review really simple, because the simplicity of Malcolm’s book has earned it.  I read the book in one sitting and found myself welcoming the morining sun as I read the last sentences.  I simply could not put the book down.

According to Malcolm, there are two things that make you gifted.  First, why, how, when, who, where, what and how much you were born into and lived in, the gift of your environment.  Second, how many hours you practiced, the gift of hard work.  And the two were interdependent.  There were no born prodigies or self-made successes in this world.  There were instead many world-made, effort-made successes, and repeating world-made, effort-made success was not that difficult.  The world could be tailored to gift most children by grouping them by narrower margins of maturity, going over the material slowly to develop comprehension and then practice, practice, practice at school and at home.  And if the children need a summer break, a change is better than a rest.  Give them two months of educational field trips or meaningful apprenticeships.

There is even a good argument that we should adopt the Cantonese verbal language for our number system.  It would be the greatest leap forward since we adopted Arabic numerals.

I think Outliers is not only recognition that individuals are gifted by the world and practice, it is also a recognition that we are now in a world of competing agri-cultural philosophies.  The West is accustomed to one planting, a unhurried summer, one harvest and a winter’s hibernation.  The East is accustomed to two to three intense plantings, two to three intense cultivations, two to three intense harvests and an intense preparation over a dry season for the next first planting.  Where the West may only have worked 1000 hours annually the East worked 3000 hours annually.  The gap between Western and Eastern philosophies regarding work are just as profound.

Eastern agricultural philosophy makes the Western agricultural philosophy leisurely and statistics make the self-made man delusional.

The one thing left out is which offers the greater quantity and quality of life?  How much time is spent in the play state as opposed to the work state?  Which gifts us a better world?