PROGRESS?

12 12 2005

About 35 years ago, my friends and I came to Tennessee from all around America. We landed in a little place called Lewis County, where nothing much had ever happened—Hohenwald, the county seat, hadn’t even been founded ’till after the Civil War. The lay of the land was steep, narrow ridges and steep, narrow hollows with clear running creeks in them, and oak trees covered everything.

We felt as if we had done the next best thing to leaving the country—we were isolated enough, physically and politically, to be left alone to work out our lives as we saw fit. We delivered, raised, and educated our own children, grew most of our own food (and sometimes didn’t eat all that well). Hohenwald was happy to leave us alone—they didn’t want the burden of extra children in school and an extra culture to deal with. No social workers came knocking on our doors, concerned about what we were doing, and for the most part no law enforcement officers came to investigate the funny smelling smoke that sometimes hung around us and brought a twinkle to our reddened eyes. We were as far back in the woods as a person could get in Tennessee, and we felt mighty, mighty happy about it. Over in Hohenwald, life went on as it always had. Small town merchants, small town banks, a community of people who knew each other and knew each others’ daddies and mommas and children.

Much of the land in Lewis County was owned by these old-time, long-time families. Old people lived on the land and with the land and had the skills they needed to live in a world where you couldn’t just run to the store for everything. We learned a lot from them.

All this started to change in the 1980′s. The old folks died off and their children sold their land to timber companies, who started in clearcutting. The big farmers in the county went under, and their flat, open land was sold for subdivisions and industrial parks. Our 1700 acres was no longer a drop in a sea of green. It became an island in a sea of stumps. Walmart moved into Hohenwald, and sucked the downtown dry. Our friendly banker, who had always been so relaxed about whether we made our monthly payments, was arrested just before boarding a flight to Brazil, and I believe he is in prison still. The bank was taken over by the FDIC, and suddenly our relaxed way of life evaporated and we had to hustle to make payments to keep our land, had to find ways to work with the system we had once aspired to replace.

Now Hohenwald is an outlying suburb of Nashville. There is no food to speak of grown in Lewis County anymore, no local sawmills cutting local trees for local housing. Since NAFTA, the industrial park has emptied out, and there are no jobs outside of the deadend Walmart type. It could be argued that there never were that many jobs to begin with, but there was a community and a culture and a way of life, and all that has been swept aside by pursuit of the almighty dollar. And they call this progress.

If we ever get serious about corporate crime, some corporate persons are going to be put away for the murder of rural America. Lewis County is only one example of a string of serial killings. I would like to break through people’s established patterns of thinking, that cause them to persist in this downward corporate spiral, and give them the Green tools they need to create a truly better future for everyone on this small and limited planet. Sustainability, responsibility, and community can only be created one relationship, one day, at a time. Compared to the rate at which the world is degenerating, it can seem like an agonizingly slow process. But it’s the only thing that will work.

music: Joan Baez, “Children of Darkness”

Comments

Hey sweetie, net time is really expensive here in McLeod Ganj so I haven’t read your entry properly. But India is hell bent on going the same way as the US, in half the time, with about 100 times the population. They are embracing slash and burn consumerism so fast, and complain that we’re hypocrites for criticizing them. However, there’s 1 BILLION of them so even half that many people consuming on a US level will be devastating. Already the # of individually owned vehicles is skyrocketing thanks to the new prosperity, with very few emissions laws to protect the lungs of ordinary people riding bicycles through the smoggy streets. Just went to Delhi and the smog was unbearable. Thirty years ago a lot of these folks didn’t know what money was. I guess I am a condescending neocolonial for thinking that in some ways they were better off. love, CM
Posted by sirensongs on 12/24/2005 08:10:59 AM

one way or another, the human population of the planet WILL decline….
Posted by brothermartin on 12/24/2005 10:24:38 PM








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