I waver between great hope and great despair when I consider our American future.
Older generations lament the lack of skills possessed by young people. Are they right? Is the fact that young people are commonly poor spellers, slipping between texting shorthand and written English language indicative of lower aspirational fiber?
Are young people being coddled and praised to the point of handicap and lacking in face to face character and loyalty? Or are they being liberated from limitations being placed upon them by society and location and empowered by freedom from frequent slaps to their self esteem?
Or, could it be that older Americans are just judgmental and closed-minded? Honestly, who knows? Probably both. And neither. Human nature is what it is and will manipulate the surrounding data to reflect what it wants to believe about itself much of the time. Confirmation bias is a fact of human thinking.
One grace I do fear is suffering is the capacity for open-minded communication. My suspicion is that humans are no more or less endowed with selflessness, manners, character or intelligence than they ever were. Pining for the morals of yesteryear is quite possibly a misguided nostalgia for an American society that never was. We are just now liberated from the limitations created by having just one traditional media system. Today, everyone is free to let ‘er rip all over the internet, courtesy and manners be damned. No one will know who you are anyway, so why bother with niceties and respect?
Once, in order to get your opinion published in your local newspaper, you had to write a letter to the editor, which had to be selected by some critical process before being selected for print. You had to take the time to actually write or type the letter on actual paper, sign your name boldly to it, address it to the proper party, place a stamp on it and get it to the post office. Of course, it is true that the quality control of the editorial selection process could be as simple as refusing to print any pesky though valid differences of opinion.
Today, blogging and online journals accepting comments remove the filters between brain and Publish that allow time for second thoughts to prevail. And it seems the higher brow the publication, the more cleverly crafted, closed-minded and dismissive the comments. The comments section feels more like a stage for performance art than a place of true communication and considered exchange.
Yes, we see how highly educated you are. And how firmly closed your minds are too.
Recently, I read this article by Nicolette Hahn Niman in The Atlantic about farms needing people to work on them. When I first read the article, I really didn’t give it much deep thought – from my perspective, it’s pretty obvious and right on.
But, apparently not so to many other people. Let me just say, The Atlantic readers are a tough crowd, especially towards a small, sustainable farmer like me. Someone with a very different basis for evaluating information. If you doubt it, go on to read some of the comments to Hahn Niman’s other articles there. I hope she sticks to her guns and soldiers on; clearly she’s taking a serious ego-flogging.
What floored me was the staggering slew of responses from intellectual Snarks that to me, illustrate a big part of the future challenge to sustainable agriculture.
And oh my, the descriptive drama created to support the learned objections to the article. People being ripped against their will to be thrust back to the 18th century. Khmer Rouge comparisons, a forced return to serfdom, the complete elimination of industrial agriculture, the responsibility to feed the world and obvious snobbery against dirt and physical labor. None of which has any real contact with ideas presented in the actual article.
Speak for yourselves highly-educated-and-want-everyone-to-know-it-people, I find it satisfying to work outside, to care for the land and animals and to cook food I’ve grown myself. As do many young people who will be discouraged by friends and family for aspiring to such socially disdain-worthy careers. You don’t know it, and few actual farmers will take the time to address it, but your lack of deep knowledge is showing.
I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, but I propose a small social experiment:
1. Drop the snarky, dismissive attitude
2. Google-ing is not authoritative research
3. There’s data somewhere to support just about anything
4. State the simple facts without the cynical drama for effect
5. Critically consider the article and your response to it before going off
6. Spending time on the internet firing off criticism of other people’s work is not the same as making a contribution
7. Make room for doubt in your perspective. America’s most divisive issues are not ones with a simple black or white solution
8. Don’t minimize the efforts of other people. If they aren’t harming anyone, don’t discourage them with all the ways their idea could be better or will fail. They’re creating something; don’t kill their joy
9. Knowledge comes from everywhere. Don’t dismiss it because the lesson comes from a source you don’t admire
10. Everything is a spectrum; what seems ludicrous today may save your life tomorrow
OK, I’m stepping down now. From my soapbox that is. It’s a beautiful fall day, I’m happy to choose to go outside and get dirty performing all my unsophisticated serf-like manual labor. Scorn us if you will my learned friends, the Ladies and I can take it.