The discussions I have seen here recently on this site lead me to invite as many of you as possible to take up farming, or at minimum some gardening. Such activity has benefits to the individual beyond the exercise and fresh air attained in its practice. Specifically, I speak about patience and perseverance, two items that are doled out "the hard way" in farming.
There is no "instant gratification" in farming. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an endeavor with less instant gratification. Don’t come out the next morning after planting and expect to see little seedlings popping up—you’re more likely to see where the birds have scratched the soil and eaten many of the seeds. If you do see a small plant popping up, it’s more likely to be a weed at this early date.
I hear people complain about the pace of reform in government and I wonder if any of them have tried farming. Farming takes forever before you reap any benefits. You must have patience to be successful. And there are many routes to crop failure—drought, flood, hail, weeds, pestilence, unable to plant, unable to harvest, crop rots in the bin... You must have perseverance to be successful. Now I think I’m pretty liberal, and if you knew me you would say there is no way possible that I am a blind follower of authority. But after my ordeals in farming, and seeing my parents farm for the last 4 decades, I just don’t think I could ever say, "My god, its been a YEAR, or TWO YEARS, and little has changed. We need to get someone better in there."
Now I’m sure all the Einsteins out there will point out that you plant seeds in the spring, and (hopefully) you reap the benefits in the fall. If we’re using an agricultural metaphor to talk about politics then two years is plenty of time. This is indeed true of many crops. But what about trees? You won’t get any good shade from them for many, many years after you plant them, and most don’t put on fruit until they are many years old. But in either case, IT’S A METAPHOR.
One’s assumptions almost certainly (and sometimes determine entirely) one’s conclusions. Moreover, pick your metaphors carefully as they determine what you take to be "the moral of the story."
So what is the best metaphor for politics, political and/or societal change? Well, that’s a difficult and perhaps an impossible question to fully answer, but one way attempt it is through the asking of simple questions, with answers from simple observations; then making some general conclusions from said observations. For example:
Q: What is the likely lifespan of a country or an empire? Well, if it’s successful at all, it can last centuries. Some do last for shorter times, but unless they survive for at least a few years, they probably didn’t have much effect, nor get recorded by history that much.
Q: How long does a political system of any one country or empire last? Well its possible a particular government could last as short as just a few months, but its much more likely to be at least a few years, up to the life of the country--as long as many centuries.
Q: How long does it take to enact change on established cultural, societal, and political norms? Well it depends on the issue, but many important ones take decades to centuries to change. Nothing firmly established changes easily. Some would say that it takes as long to change (and or heal from) a norm as said norm had been in existence. Societal or political institutions, cultural norms or even just mindsets or notions in our psyche that last decades will take decades to change. Those lasting centuries will take centuries to change.
Q: In our gut, which metaphor do we feel is more correct to describe our country or political movement, a metaphor of an annual cash crop, or a metaphor of a tree?
We could go on, but I’m with the tree metaphor easily over the annual cash crop metaphor. The timeframe that I think is reasonable to look for a "harvest" in political matters is a few years, to decades, to a lifetime. It’s not that I don’t wish some things would change quicker—I do. But I also wish that the crops would just appear, full and robust, uneaten on by insects or the local wild animals, and most importantly without the long season of work and wait that farming entails. Now I could dwell on these wishes, but would that really be productive?
I will not argue with you that some things need immediate attention. Many people need help now. They’re not going to make it to the next spring. Perhaps there’s even someone with a chainsaw ready to cut the tree down. But for all the people holding a chainsaw, there seem to be just as many others ready to plow up the seeds because the seedlings aren’t growing fast enough.
Of course, there are no finite answers or conclusions to any of this discussion, and thus such discussion is easily criticized. Abstract points, regardless of their relevance, importance, or truth, are always easily ridiculed by that which appears to be to concrete.
But I’d like to leave you with this. The human beings ultimately have just two jobs:
- Love one another
- Live in harmony with your environment
A great way to make progress towards Number 2 is through farming and gardening. This does not mean merely living in a rural area (especially if you are just bring a suburban attitude to that rural area). This does not mean just reading about it, or maintaining the green philosophy du jour. This means the hard work of actually planting, weeding, defending from raid, harvesting, and storing a crop, before even the chance of eating it. This certainly doesn’t mean you pay someone else to do the dirty work either; the dirt must get under YOUR fingernails to count.
And as I stated before, not only will you gain the benefit of exercise and fresh air, you will (likely) get a large dose of patience and perseverance, something in my humble opinion, is greatly lacking in our society today.