“It’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t endangered.” – Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry, 79, is a poet, farmer, and author of 40 books. He is also an outspoken advocate and activist for a radical change in our treatment of the earth. “We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not,” he says. “The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?”
In a rare TV interview with Bill Moyers released on October 4, this gentle poet, who works a Kentucky farm that has been in his family for 200 years, reveals the fire of his determination. Speaking of recent demonstrations against mountain top strip mining, which poisoned Kentucky rivers, Berry said, “This is intolerable. There’s no excuse for it…there’s no justification for the permanent destruction of the world.”
I invite everyone to watch this brief trailer and if interested, tune into the full interview, or read the transcript here: Wendell Berry on his hopes for humanity
Berry is eloquent in denouncing the “disaster of being governed by the corporations,” and he speaks of both the importance and the difficulty of holding onto hope. He finds hope in the growing number of people who share his views and in his certainty that the present order of things cannot last because it runs counter to “creation itself.” He also puts a lot of hope in “ordinary” people choosing to do the right thing.
There’s a eloquence in Wendell Berry’s interview, and there’s an equal eloquence in this poem, which fills me with hope and a sense of the love he feels for the forests and fields, the river and animals – the whole of creation – which he has spent a lifetime defending.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.