Watch this video, a commercial from the recent Super Bowl:
I saw this in FaceBook City a couple of days ago and I thought to myself “what utter bullshit.” I watched it again, then downloaded it for repeated viewings, my blood rising and my heart pounding. Bullshit, I thought again. Lies. Fairytales. Half-truths.
I couldn’t ask for a more concise encapsulation of the foundational stories of the world-spanning culture we call Empire than is present in this commercial. It’s about putting humans in charge and ruling the Earth. It’s about how that role was supposedly given to us by God His-Own-Self. It’s about the endless hard work and devotion required to extract a living, to extract our very lives, from an inhospitable “natural world.” It’s about “God and country, about community, loyalty, steadfastness, and resolve.” It’s about bootstrapping, about order and control, about never giving up and getting ‘er done.
And it’s about selling Dodge Ram Trucks.
Please understand that some of my best friends are farmers. Sally, my own wife, can now fairly claim that label. (And maybe even I, as the chief chicken-kisser, should try on that hat to see if it fits.) I was born and raised on farms, surrounded by Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles and Great Aunts and Uncles, most of whom worked the vast stretches of rolling farmland which comprised my haunts and my playgrounds. I grew up feeding orphaned lambs and making tunnels in the hayloft and growing vegetables in our garden and running through the tall corn. My memories of this are fond and wistful. There was beauty in that life.
But when I look at it all through my current habitual lenses, I see the global ecological consequences of our devotion to these stories. I see species extinction and climate change and depletions of forests and topsoil and water. I see greed and corruption and denial and debt. I see toxins and technofixes and terminator seeds. And I see that, while there are now many farmers trying to find a better way, working hard to bring good, clean food to their local markets without destroying their landbase, and while we are now doing that out of seeming necessity as we seek to transition from what clearly does not work to something else which might, I see little questioning of the foundational stories that undergird our assumptions about life and death and power and collaboration and what it means to be a human being on this planet.
You see, from what I think I know, God did not make a farmer, no matter what Paul Harvey said. Certainly not the sort of farmer that we’ve become. I think both science and the Judeo-Christian scriptures are in complete agreement on this point. Evolution made hunter-gatherers, who lived for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years (depending on your definitions), before some of them began to tell themselves the Planet-Ruling stories that now shape and inform both our “agriculture” and our Dodge Ram commercials. God made Adam and Eve, who lived in a garden that provided everything they needed, a world of “low hanging fruit” there for the easy plucking. It was not until Adam and Eve were banished from that garden that the “sons of Adam” got into the whole farming thang, and we all know how that ended. Whether it was snakes and sin, global catastrophe and trauma, alien influence, the “parable of the tribes,” or simply the scarcity that resulted from overpopulation, whether it was inevitable or avoidable, human beings left the garden and entered into what Daniel Quinn calls the most labor-intensive lifestyle yet invented. For whatever reason, it seems we humans made the farmer. And ever since, we’ve been telling ourselves that this hard-working, land-destroying, extra-people-producing work is not only good, but blessed by the Almighty.
Which is why we get to have one of those trucks: we’re on a mission from God.
Okay. Stop. Having made that point, I want to stop and step away from it. All of the above? I’ve done that for years. That sort of analysis comes as easy as cake to me. Piece of pie. Been there done that and all that and amen. It’s my automatic setting. And I’m good at it.
But what really interests me here is this suite of questions: what the hell is that blood-rising, heart-pounding feeling inside of me all about? And why am I so strongly compelled to rant and rage? Does such ranting help any more? Did it ever help? Or have I been spending my own life energy to little avail? If I stopped spending my energy in this way, what else might I do? What’s needed now? What’s wanted? What will help? Can I help? Am I supposed to help? Is it good to help? Is the rant above even correct? Or are there much larger perspectives to take into account, and different lenses through which to look, which might shed some very different light on these issues?
I won’t go any further today than to ask these questions. I have too many juicy things on my plate right now, and they require my attention. But this is a beginning, and a way to simply release that ranting energy from my body, knowing that I can come back to it when the time is right.
I want to take off my habitual glasses and see what else is there. I have not found that ranting and being Right™ has served me in the way I would have hoped.