Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More from Wendell Berry

"Our speech has drifted out of the world into a realm of fantasy in which whatever we say is true. The President of the republic [Nixon] openly admits that there is no connection between what he says and what he does - this in spite of his evident wish to be re-elected on the strength of what he says. We find it not extraordinary that lovers of America are strip mining in Appalachia, that lovers of peace are bombing in...Asia, that lovers of freedom are underwriting dictatorships. If we say we are lovers of America and peace and freedom, then this must be what lovers of America and peace and freedom do. Having no need to account for anything they have done, our politicians do not find it necessary to trouble us with either evidence or argument, or to confess their errors, or to subtract their losses from their gains; they speak like the gods of Olympus, assured that if they say they are our servants anything they do in their own interest is right. Our public discourse has been reduced to the manipulation of uprooted symbols: good words, bad words, the names of gods and devils, emblems, slogans, flags. For some the flag no longer stands for the country, it is the country; they plant their crops and bury their dead in it." A Continuous Harmony, pp. 122-123, in an essay entitled "Discipline and Hope."

It is amazing to me that words written in 1971 still ring true today, perhaps even truer today than in 1971. Here are some more of Berry's words:

"Though I can see no way to defend [our] economy, I recognize the need to be concerned for the suffering that would be produced by its failure. But I ask if it is necessary for it to fail in order to change; I am assuming that if it does not change it must sooner or later fail, and that a great deal that is more valuable will fail with it. As a deity the economy is a sort of egotistical French monarch, for it apparently can see no alternative to itself except chaos, and perhaps that is its chief weakness. For, of course, chaos is not the only alternative to it. A better alternative is a better economy. But we will not conceive the possibility of a better economy and therefore will not begin to change, until we quit deifying the present one." Same source, pp. 116-117.

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