The wonderful movie “Idiocracy”deals with a comic-tragic throwaway American society of the future. The dystopian future looks a lot like a simple exaggeration of the contracting American warfare-welfare empire we live in today, so watching the movie is disconcerting to those of us who have our eyes open. Part of the explanation as to how the future got that way was that in the 21st century, wiser and more conscientious people failed to reproduce, and the unwise and less conscientious reproduced very successfully. It’s not politically correct in this day and age, but the family planners and eugenicists of the 1930s would certainly recognize the argument. Those worried today about the cultural takeovers via reproduction in Europe and the US would also recognize this line of reasoning.
Idiocracy – rule by idiots – isn’t something we will have in the future. We have it today. The premise of the movie is right out of H.L. Mencken, in the early 20th century when he wrote,
As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Mencken also is known for saying, “For every complex problem there is a simple solution …and it is wrong. “ The collapse of a large governmental system, the transformation of a corporate state sustained by global military aspirations and meddling into what comes next, it is a complex problem. Devolution from an independent-minded people who instinctively distrusted kings and their armies into an atomized anti-social throng of democratic egalitarian thugs eager to slaughter what is left of liberty in hopes of getting all the golden eggs at once didn’t happen overnight. It won’t be corrected overnight, either.
I spent twenty years in the Air Force, getting my education and starting my family. My simple dream all through that time was probably like that of many people of my era who have spent years in vaults and behind desks in air-conditioned buildings. I wanted land, a garden, an orchard, chickens, dogs and cats. This was “America” to me, and my husband fortunately shared the vision. We had no real idea of what it would really be like, but in 2003 we moved to a rundown farm 14 miles from town in the upper Shenandoah Valley and started bushhogging multiflora rose and Russian olive, pulling up rusty barbed wire and digging new postholes for new fences, and trying to restore sagging buildings. We rototilled the old garden space for the first time in 15 years.
We had it in mind that this would be for the children – and in so many ways it was, but the impetus, the driver for our activities, was our personal obsession with being able to do things for ourselves. But while I had grown up on a small farm, I look back and am amazed at how little I knew about anything and how much I learned, and how much I am still learning. My teenagers at home in the beginning also learned, and in some ways the best thing was that instead of going off to various jobs that were largely intangible and unexplainable, we could work on projects that we could understand and talk about, debate, critique, succeed and fail, tangibly and visibly. My children and grandchildren will expect that what people do in life have a certain rationality and transparency. This hopefully will keep them from working in government, or if they do, doing so with a healthy cynicism and a qualified contempt.
Failures on a farmstead are visible, in your face, and everything is experimental. It’s a learning laboratory. The internet – for content and for networking and for supplies and books and feedback and education – partially makes up for what we might have learned if we had grown up like our 86 year old neighbor who has spent his whole life here except for a stint in the Navy in World War II. We don’t feel our age here, because we are just starting out on a path, that ten years later is still new. We learn new things about making a living in the country every day. My children and grandchildren know that learning and experimenting and trying new things does not stop because you have grown up, or passed a certain calendar age. We I hope are demonstrating to our children that starting over can be done on a daily basis, and that this can be a good thing. A radically larger sense of the possible will serve them well as our larger economy and government faces death throes and destructive transitions.
I could list the many things we’ve tried and accomplished, tried and failed, and haven’t tried yet. It would take a book with many chapters to capture it all, but the Paul Harvey article in 1975 “What It Is To Be A Farmer” is meaningful to us in a way it wasn’t before, and we sometimes wonder what we are doing and why.
We aren’t solving a complex problem, per se. But what we are doing, for ourselves and for our children and the grandchildren I have been blessed with in just the past five years, is observable, if not measurable.
Unlike how it was when we worked in a government bureaucracy or a large corporation, we are demonstrating to our kids how not to be afraid of making mistakes. Embrace them, dissect them, analyze them objectively, and move on. Mistakes happen, things don’t always turn out the way you would like, but you do learn what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes doing things unsuccessfully leads to new discoveries that would have remained unrevealed otherwise. In the Marines, this might be overcome, improvise and adapt, every day with big things and small things. Persistence, without stubbornness and without arrogance, pays dividends. I think we are living that, and it’s an example to our children and grandchildren. I’m not saying we are not stubborn and arrogant! I’m saying, our kids and us together are learning and eyewitnessing that those traits don’t help! Humility – earned and practiced – is awesome.
We know where a lot of our food comes from, and while it is a simple thing, there is a logic that is imparted to our children on the farm and in the garden that is fundamental and necessary in a world where Newspeak has declared a two-minute hate on the current Enemy of the People. Or to leave Orwell behind, just watching our Congress conduct its “business” or listening to the President talk about his plans for our health care, our economy, our lives is surreal to them. We live in an environment where things happen for a reason, and where husbanding resources and creating value takes hard work and pays real dividends. I like to think that even though my grandchildren don’t yet know what a Federal Reserve Bank is, when they find out they will consider it ludicrous, illogical and corrupt. Not because I say so, but because they understand how work and value and capital and trade relate. My babies are Austrian economists, and the absurdity of state capitalism and empire and Paul Krugman will amuse, not convince.
On the farm, far from imperial battlefields with high-powered computerized weapons, we have learned a lot about life and death, and we take it seriously. Death is waste, and the loss of a calf or a cow, chicken, turkey, piglet or lamb, from accident or sickness or predators is a concern to us. The whole idea of not wasting the gift of life is inherent in farming, yet strikingly different from the driving motivation of a state-driven society, like that of the US empire. My children and grandchildren will instinctively find Obamacare, war-loving preachers in pulpits, and standing armies all on the same plane of existence, at direct odds with the fundamentals of love and life.
So Mencken says that complex problems can’t be solved with simple solutions. He’s absolutely right about the arrogance of the central planners, and their pretensions. But in a complex world, exposing our children to life and raw fundamentals is a simple solution. Showing them that we create and cultivate and husband and care for our material resources and the life around us is a simple solution. Being in a place where liberty can be lived and clocks don’t drive time, where ownership and responsibility can be practiced, where our kids can see how value is created, how problems are solved, how things are made and how they are destroyed – these are simple solutions.
Imagine if one of ten children today absorbed even some of these lessons. Trusting their eyes, their logic, their knowledge of how things really work – what a powerful step we’d be taking to having a country filled with independent minded people. We’d be simply unrulable by faraway kings, and understanding the heavy responsibility of husbandry, we’d be hesitate to seek that kind of power over large numbers of people. We’d think it was wrong to steal and murder, and we’d not tolerate a government that did so.
Where is John Galt? Well, he’s everywhere we are.