Monday, December 06, 2004

Wendell Berry: Compromise, Hell!

Here is a true conservative who always challenges us to consider what it means to be an American and to consider the consequences of our actions for the future of our country, its citizens, and its places. Those who insist that progressives are only "liberal" are missing the point and perpetuating a dangerous myth.

"Compromise, Hell"
Wendell Berry

WE ARE DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY -- I mean our country itself, our land. This is a terrible thing to know, but it is not a reason for despair unless we decide to continue the destruction. If we decide to continue the destruction, that will not be because we have no other choice. This destruction is not necessary. It is not inevitable, except that by our submissiveness we make it so.

We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all -- by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians -- be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us.

How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.

Since the beginning of the conservation effort in our country, conservationists have too often believed that we could protect the land without protecting the people. This has begun to change, but for a while yet we will have to reckon with the old assumption that we can preserve the natural world by protecting wilderness areas while we neglect or destroy the economic landscapes -- the farms and ranches and working forests -- and the people who use them. That assumption is understandable in view of the worsening threats to wilderness areas, but it is wrong. If conservationists hope to save even the wild lands and wild creatures, they are going to have to address issues of economy, which is to say issues of the health of the landscapes and the towns and cities where we do our work, and the quality of that work, and the well-being of the people who do the work.

To Read the Entire Essay

More Wendell Berry:

The Work of Local Culture

Why Wendell Berry Matters

"Thoughts in the Presence of Fear" and "The Idea of a Local Economy"


oso said...

I completely agree ... and find myself agreeing with most of what Berry says. And yet when ever I try to convince my fellow progressives that there are in fact conservative concepts worth pursuing, they look at me like I've gone crazy, like I'm about to jump to the other side. It's interesting that coservative and conservation have very similar meanings.

Michael said...

I also struggle with this problem. Trying to escape the echo-chamber by developing the widest range of sources possible.

I'm going to be sending out a CFP for a journal issue on blogging that I am editing in a couple of days--are you interested? Know any conservatives bloggers that would be interested in submitting? (Hispanic Pundit?)

More later...