Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The First Brick

Rural people are different. It's really that simple. Yet, when you think about it, it's a bit more complicated than that. Rural people, despite being equally simple at first impression, are, on further study, incredibly complex folk. We are, by nature, jacks of all trades, and aces of none. We are, by necessity masters of our own lives, because in rural places, people on whom we could depend are further apart, and likely have the same problems of their own, anyway. For rural people, time moves differently – we'll probably do something tomorrow that's not unlike what we're doing today, and in a year, we'll be doing the same thing, too. From month to month, however, everything changes. Daily, there's a slow progress of things, that's almost imperceptible at times. Monthly, there's a natural movement of nature and of our lives. Yearly, however, we're reminded that the monthly appearance of progress doesn't change things much, at all.

This non-progressing progress of time has placed rural life at a unique place in this world. From the beginning, farmers and herders, Cain and Abel, were at odds. Farmers had their plots to tend, and were situated in one place. Herders had their herds to tend, and moved about the world. And the plots of farmers were probably pretty tasty to the flocks of the herders. If you travel to poorer countries, you can see the difference rather starkly, even today. In modernized countries, however, that eternal battle is over. It ended with the invention of barbed wire – an creation which separated forever the crops of the farmer and the pastures of the herder.

There is, however, another eternal conflict in which both the herders and farmers are involved. That conflict is the struggle between urban and rural, for land, for law, and for culture. Even in Greek tragedies, this fundamental difference is evident in the way “backward” country folks are portrayed by the playwrights of the urban elite. Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, saw the same conflict, but identified the differences in nature between the parties, and put it somewhat differently:

The nature of agriculture, indeed, does not admit of so many subdivisions of labour, nor of so complete a separation of one business from another, as manufactures. It is impossible to separate so entirely the business of the grazier from that of the corn-farmer, as the trade of the carpenter is commonly separated from that of the smith. The spinner is almost always a distinct person from the, weaver; but the ploughman, the harrower, the sower of the seed, and the reaper of the corn, are often the same. The occasions for those different sorts of labour returning with the different seasons of the year, it is impossible that one man should be constantly employed in any one of them. This impossibility of making so complete and entire a separation of all the different branches of labour employed in agriculture, is perhaps the reason why the improvement of the productive powers of labour, in this art, does not always keep pace with their improvement in manufactures.

If this describes you, as someone who has many talents for shaping the world, and labor in the different seasons in different ways, if you identify with the rural lifestyle, or even if you respect the unique culture and lifestyle of such people, you're a citizen of the Rural Republic. We recognize those unique talents, skills and cultures in the Rural Republic, and have created this community as a place where fellow citizens can share their thoughts, feelings and concerns – be they practical, political, or cultural – together with other citizens. Thanks for joining, and welcome to the Rural Republic!

1 comment:

  1. Jimmy-Former writer of the RBHAugust 4, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    I always thought I was in a unique situation. Being from North Platte, Nebraska, there is a sizable population(about 23,000) with hospitals, ample grocery stores, and actually things to do if you have the right attitude. Also, I was not a farmer, although I had several friends and relatives who were. I was not a rancher either.

    Several people would call my life "suburban" yet North Platte is about 5 hours away from Omaha.

    Anyhow, I identify with being a jack of all trades, master of none. I am active in my community because without me, several organizations I'm in would suffer. In my job I teach a wide variety of grades and need to be skilled in a lot of areas.

    I'd have to say that rural people like me really are ignored by many. People think of inner city people, suburbanites, rust belt blue collar workers, agricultural people, rednecks, and white trash.

    Although I live in a rural area, I almost have a masters degree, so that doesn't make me redneck or white trash.

    Anyhow, I'm glad this blog is up. When I wrote my last blog, Rural Black Hole, one of the rewarding parts was that due to me posting on a message board where many people were from the NY/NJ area, was that people were learning what it was like to be rural, and I hope your blog continues what I was trying to do.