This is apparently a new post. You could have fooled me. I have been hauling posts around all day and I’ve even handled a few new ones over the years. The big difference between new posts and old posts is the number of electric fence insulators and wire staples and especially cow-sh1t. Trust me on this. Otherwise posts are posts. I hauled 105 of them out of the burn pile (they’re re-fencing – where labor is expensive (here) it’s quicker and cheaper just to uproot the entire fence -good and bad poles together and start again – when you’re doing 10-50 miles of fence, that is). I’ve only got a mile or so to do – and I am not a big commercial farmer, and can’t write this off against my profits and reduce my tax burden and get a new fence.
So: I have had a day of scavenging good posts from tangles of wire. I am very grateful to do it – it’s money I don’t have to spend – and posts I collected will see me out, and my conservationist and conservative ‘waste-not-want-not’ Scots soul rejoices in the knowledge, that I got a bargain and saved some trees for someone else to use. So I ache in a lot of places. And then I came home and carried firewood. A lot of heavy firewood. Story of my life.
Actually it is the story of 99.99% of all the humans that ever lived. Hard, backbreaking labor, a lot of their lives. Ok, so there are exceptions, mostly where women (see who tills the fields in Africa) or slaves – or the peasants do (or did) the hard work for a pittance if they were lucky. The modern world (not even just the first world) is a historical anomaly in terms of so many things, including just how much work – physical work – mere survival for so many takes, let alone building a civilization and improving on just surviving for the next few minutes.
I’m not starting in some utter wilderness, ignorant of local dangers, conditions, and even of what can be eaten – with only the most basic of hand-tools, often no recourse to buying what you needed… you had what you had or you did without or made a plan. I’ve just done it on a fairly low budget, with a ton of knowledge – both that I have and available to me, about the place, food, dangers etc. and with a fair bit of mechanical help. It’s as soft as goose-grease compared to the pioneer or the colonist who ensured that the human race didn’t die out in some obscure cave somewhere in Africa. I at least have some inkling of just how hard it is, of what they faced. I could give up and run back to civilization and stick out my hand to the Australian government tomorrow. They never had that choice, often as not. It was make it work or die – and open a softer path for those who followed.
The men and women – and the kids who started helping as soon as they could – not from choice but from need, who took on these challenges and built the world we now live in… well, we owe them everything. The pioneer – judged by today’s standards (and, look far enough, and all of us, black, white, and every shade between are descended from people who did this) have imperfections by those modern standards. You have spoiled brats who derive their very pampered existence, and the freedom to make an ass out of themselves without the historical norm consequence (being dead) from those very men and women, scornfully deriding them. Hell, they scorn people that work and protect them now, let alone the giants on whose shoulders they stand and make pipi.
Look, the one thing those who labored so hard and long to make civilization did, was make life easier and better – and that meant for everyone, including those who have never worked physically every hour they could to grow a crop or rear livestock, or build a home or a town, or school. Those who never have had cute little bambi eat the food that was going to keep them fed that winter, that they’d worked so hard for. (Been there. We ate bambi.) Those who never had the stock that was their livelihood preyed on and killed, or stolen. (Been there). Those who have never faced having their home attacked and threatened with destruction (yes, been there too) and the lives and well-being of all they held dear in real danger. I have to wonder how and what these pampered and inevitably loud-mouthed individuals who scream rage and disparagement at ‘colonialism’ (remembering that ALL humans are descended from colonists) would do if they faced the same situations those colonists did.
I’ve seen enough cases to have have a damn good idea, though. Seen enough bunny-huggers either flee as fast as possible back to the city when they tried the whole self-sufficiency bit… or become remarkably keen on bloody vengeance on the animal ( or the entire species) that just took a single bite out of every apple they had nurtured. I’ve seen people who derided firearms as barbaric and awful… suddenly become terribly keen on having one, when that is what stands between them and their families being attacked and their property destroyed. There were always men and women who stood against things we – safe in the civilization built on what our ancestors did – are appalled by now. Who looked wider and tried not to – to use an example — kill ALL possums because one ruined their apple crop. Good on them. It was always there – and it it was always a very few. That hasn’t changed all that much, in my opinion. I’ll bet the loudest now, if suddenly plonked into a primitive colonial situation with no way out, faced with a marauding group of young bucks from a local tribe, killing and robbing their families and burning their homes and leaving them to starve… would be among those calling loudest for retribution, if not genocide.
The human story is not all a pretty one. We’ve done some horrific things – to each other, as well as… possums. We have destroyed things. But humans both create and preserve -even when it is of no benefit to them (I’m trying to think of another animal that does this with intent, on even a remotely similar scale). We show traits like honor, kindness and altruism on a scale not seen elsewhere. We might meet aliens one day who do better… or worse.
One of the things about living in the greatest and most comfortable age – particularly for the vast majority of people who would have been working their backs sore and fingers worn out – is we tolerate its detractors. But tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with them, or not pointing out the stupidity – and cupidity – of their positions. Or pointing out that their own ability is non-existent, and that compared to the people they criticize, they are pygmies, physically, intellectually and morally. They could not walk in their shoes.
Our books need to reflect this. We’re going to face the new frontier. We need to hero people who can and will.