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Back in my early secondary school days, as a country lad heading off to mix it with the townies, it was common for the latter to mock us. We were farmer boys, or rednecks, as they say in some parts. It was generally a bit of innocent slagging but no doubt it had its origins in the long-held belief that workers of the land were a bit «behind», simple if you will, compared to those from urban settings.
Of course, the townies of Ballaghaderreen, along with everybody else from «down the country», were derogatorily seen as bog folk, «culchies» being the precise word, by those from the capital Dublin.
Zoom out even more and the whole of Ireland was traditionally viewed as being backward by our «superior» neighbours in Britain. «Strange specimens those Irish, aren’t they?»
City fat cats
Modern, advanced, «rich» societies emanate from urban strongholds with their schools of excellence and such like. Rural areas only get the crumbs, enough to keep them ticking over, from the power brokers seated around that grandiose table. So it goes anyway.
Nonetheless, keeping those seated at the urban table well-fed and content with «affordable» food is nigh-on impossible without the simple country folk doing their bit to provide it.
“We’re just a few consecutive disasters away from very troubling times.”
The irony here is that while the great advancements in communications and technology have made the world a smaller place, many urban dwellers have become quite removed, mentally at least, from the rural areas that they rely on to stay alive.
OK, they have other, «more complicated, complex» concerns to worry about. The country serves simply as escapism from the concrete jungle. Engagement with it is at a superficial level only.
What’s more, aren’t the technological improvements in agriculture and the like, urban brainchildren as most have been, resulting in greater yields and reduced workloads for those who farm the land?
There’s merit to that.
Yet, to continue providing for the growing urban masses, more engagement with, and investment in, the countryside are required, not less.
Whether one believes in man-made climate change or not (Donald Trump, considering his age, doesn’t have to concern himself with it), we can’t deny the fact that we have been experiencing extreme weather events that threaten our precious food supply. We could be just a few consecutive disasters away from quite troubling times.
How many of us would be able to survive in a kind of post-apocalyptic planet, something akin to what we often see portrayed in Hollywood movies?
It would seem fair to say that a majority of «First Worlders» have become too reliant on our modern comforts, on a lifestyle where we can get pretty much anything we want when we want it.
«We won’t be too concerned about our mental health when our very existence is under threat.»
As a species, we could also be accused of vastly overvaluing non-essentials at the expense of the essentials. Think Hollywood again, that whole world of showbiz and fame.
Heck, I left the land I was reared on (as the majority of rural-born people do these days) to go on to pursue a career (can I call it that?!) in media. Fair enough, journalism plays — or at least used to play — an important role as the fourth estate, it can be a force of positive change.
However, the counter-argument here is that this vocation has lost its way and relevance in recent times (whisper it, «#FakeNews». Thanks Donald). And don’t get me started again on the evil incarnate that is marketing!
On a similar note, a Colombian psychologist friend told me how he wanted to get «back to the land», fearing that without preventative action now he would be useless when faced with a future scenario where one had to fend for oneself for the bare necessities.
As he put it, when it’s a simple matter of life or death, very few people will be looking to take the time to think deeply about it all, teasing out the pros and cons. His profession would be practically surplus to requirements.
Basically, and as much as I’m not a fan of Christianity (or any religion really), the old mantra of ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust and dust you shall return’ rings true.
The land, the planet will have the last laugh.
Those old backward rednecks who understand it a little better than most mightn’t seem so repulsive then.
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