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Monday, September 19, 2011

Life and Death on the Farm

When I was six or seven years old there were still many "farm families" in the area where I lived.  A "farm family" usually had 8 or more children.  On Sunday they often took up a whole pew - mom and dad on the left, the children arrayed oldest next to mom or dad down to the youngest who could stand.  Babes in arms were held by mom or older sisters.

I those day it was common for "children who died" to be buried on the family farm.  Most of my farm friends had lost a sibling in some way - disease, birth defects, and so on.

I was talking to a friend the other day who grew up as the "youngest" on a family farm around the same time.  He told similar a similar story including how he remembered that a couple of siblings who had died as infants or small children that were buried "somewhere" on the farm.

In grade school I knew a girl who's dad had found someone dead behind their barn twenty or thirty years after "that bad winter in '38."  No police, no crime, just the skeleton of some old bum who didn't make it through a hard winter.

Now what's interesting here is that in those days - a mere forty or so years ago - the commodity of life was handled much differently than it is today.

That's not to say it wasn't precious - it was just hard.

Today my friend's dad would be in jail for not reporting a death, and these families would all be broken up by the state - mom and dad would be in prison, the siblings all sent off to foster care.


Because they had not properly reported the death, and no doubt conducted a burial without a license.

Felons all most likely...

But were these people criminals in any way?

No, of course not.

They lived like nearly all of humanity had for the last one hundred fifty thousand years - doing the best they could to survive.  If a child died, you hand another one - particularly on a farm - where everyone was necessary for the survival of the family.  If you found someone that had died a long time ago, you buried them.  Anthropological mom and all that.

Most of these farm kids had no contact with anyone outside of their extended family until they reached school age.

Today this is still the case in countries like India where efforts are underway to identify everyone in its population - many of whom are poor, have only one name, have no knowledge of how old they are, when they were born, and so on.

At the bottom of all this is this: "When did it become a crime not be civilized?"

I put civilized in italics because I wonder who was more civilized.

The farmer of 1958 or the "modern man" of 2011.

The farmer of 1958 paid the taxes for the development of the space program, the interstate highway systems, bought and paid for things that drove the industrial and computer age of the 1960's and 70's.  They (the farmers) wondered about what was happening to the world they lived in (I was there at the kitchen table listening).  Were computers a good thing?  Was Medicare a good thing?  Was so much government a good thing?

Little did they know that their very lifestyle that had built and paid would turn against them.

Make them criminals and their lifestyle a crime.

In the '50's and '60's people worked and they worked hard.  They took care of their own and themselves and their children.

Today people don't work as hard, don't take care of their children like they did then, and let the state server as their "family" - covering their expenses, their medical care, and so on.  Legions of "social workers", police, local, state and federal bureaucrats make decisions and rules covering everything from fertilizers that can be used to how farm animals can be treated to just about everything else.

Today the "social pressure" of video, TV, and the internet press everyone to be the same.  The old farmers were all different, were all independent, were all uninterested in being "just like everyone else."

Today's concept of "family" is far, far different from the one I grew up with - one with several generations living under one roof or in a small enclave.  Living and working together for their own common good.

Are we really better off today?

With children raised in daycare by people we don't know?  Is his better than the kids sitting in the car at the side of the field while dad plowed the back 40?

Today everyone takes everything for granted.  

Farmers sold what they ate for the profits they could get - if the rains came and the crops grew - you bought food that the farms had raised for they themselves to eat.  Today you have a poultry farm where the chickens cannot even walk.  No one working the poulty farm eats what's produced there unless they go off the factory for "processing".  And the animals are pumped full of "chemicals" to make them healthy.

There was not need for endless bureaucrats to help you raise your child.  You did it yourself, often with little help, using skills you gained watching your parents and relatives raise their children.  You had a vested interest in the child - both as your child and as a member of the "family" - the "family" that would work the fields to feed you and the rest of humanity.

You made your own decisions and lived by them.  Life and death were constant companions along the way.  No one had the nerve or felt it was their place to "second guess" your decisions.  They were your decisions and you lived with them.

At least until someone from the government showed up to pay you not to live this way, not to grow crops.

Today I have to call the local chain store about an appliance I ordered.  I speak to a computer that, just like a person, transfers me to another extension with yet another computer, which transfers me to India so I can have someone there tell me that I called the wrong number or made the wrong menu choice somewhere along the way and I have to start over.

Soon no Indian's at all will be involved - I'll probably just talk to a computerized voice in India instead.

The appliance I will buy might last a decade.  When I bought the house I was living in in the late 1990's there were still working appliances there from the 1950's - they weren't great but I could still use them and they still did their jobs.  The appliance I will pick up today (if it even shows up) will probably not last ten years and, to make it last that long, I will probably have to buy an extra "warranty" to help it along.

But it has really good insulation the salesman tells me.  I guess that means ten years hence when I heave it into the scrap yard it will be lighter than it might otherwise be...

I call back and ask for "merchandise pickup."  Some guy in the warehouse answers the phone.  "No, the appliance truck is not in until after 1:00 PM or so."  Well at least I know when to call.  Why did I have to call India to find this out.  This guy is sitting less than two miles from my house and no doubt has to unload the truck, log the items on it into a computer, and line them up along the wall.

What are the chance my appliance is going to be on the truck like its supposed to be?

Probably 50/50 at best...

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