Where have all the rich men gone?-A A +A
Monday, November 4, 2013
"A MAN is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone."
That quote comes from Mr. Henry David Thoreau, American writer and genius of Concord, New England who brought the concept of conservation into the public consciousness in the early 1800s.
The quote can make our thoughts run in many ways. For one, it rebukes greed, self-centered pursuits and trivial pre-occupations. Some may glory in a reverse prosperity that is a testament to the artificiality and poverty of current ways of living. It does not take a man to have a doctorate in philosophy to understand Thoreau’s “rich man.” He is content with little and yet strives to give more of himself, his expertise and generated resources to the world.
Our concepts of what a “rich man” is, affect our work and strivings for advantage, honour and privilege. Do we not often say that our work and the income we earn define our self-worth? We work and earn significant income but many have quilt issues related to this. Many an Overseas Filipino worker has testified that the money they earned was not worth the time they spent overseas. Money cannot buy the loss of family values and the continuing pain it ultimately inflicts on individual and family lives or well-being.
We need not single out the OFWs to highlight this point. Many of us spend more time at work than doing any other activity except for sleep. Sometimes we work more than sleep and the wife has exhausted her complaints about her better-half “being present and yet absent.” The husband or the wife’s presence at home is felt only when they are sick. Really that is a sick way to relate with the family. Am I guilty? You bet.
It is not only in management where “giving more to manage less” is gospel truth. Giving more of yourself and your time to your subordinates and/or children in order to ground them and later take over your load if not assume greater responsibilities is as enduring and good as having peace and a good night sleep. Sadly, we take this truth for granted in our time. We are driven by selfish pursuits that are yielding for us and our communities reverse dividends. Collectively, we are “sleep-walking” through filth, polluted natural resources, and devastated morals.
Ayn Rand’s individualism suits well with the theory of “survival only for the fittest.” A century gone and the theory and the philosophy continue to titillate and magnify the image and status of learned men and leaders. It is a faith that makes the strong live well at the expense of the weaker species, most of which are already extinct. Before Ayn Rand’s creed conquered human ways, Thoreau argued that “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” As is the case with prophetic statements, it will pass unheeded. And when it is time, we work and try to save the world when we should have done better making ourselves worthy of the air we breathe. We need better models that challenge our capabilities not to curse or destroy the right of other species to co-exist with us.
One would scoff against that ideal and uphold the comforts of the mechanical and practical lifestyle. But the idealism of nature is doable.
I once had a neighbour who saw the conservation of nature and communal culture worth living. He had a large family and enjoyed a healthy lifestyle.
The children eventually got themselves a good education from an income generated from organic food production and forest products.
Unschooled in farming a hilly land in the lowlands, he often visited and taught me about the terrain of the land and how to manage it well. In rocky rolling terrain, he advised me to plant bananas first as shades for the fruit trees that I should grow in between later. The fast growing bananas will give you food and some to sell aside from serving as shade plants. That is simple economics.
This man also had a good sense of community and unselfish in sharing his time and ways with me. He grew up and was educated in the ways of nature. Some days, I would visit and work with him in his farm. I simply needed company too. He would return that visit and leave sound knowledge on how I should overcome the challenges of the land and live.
“Do not slash and burn. It would be too hot working the land without the bushes and trees. He told me to plant coffee in between the bushes. When the coffee has grown and needs more space, use the trees as fuel” he said. From him, I learned how to grow string beans and lowland vegetables in zero tillage and without inorganic inputs. I left the rats and snakes that live within the spaces under the exposed large roots of the old trees. The man was right. The rats and snakes did not bother me as pests except the scare they gave me from time to time. A can of kerosene bomb would have easily terminated their existence.
The man resided on the opposite side of a mountain that we shared then. We all left the place. The couple has since migrated to the great beyond and their children migrated and employed elsewhere.
When I left, the fast growing talahib grass easily took over the farm in a few months. The new occupant lighted a fire somewhere in the farm on a windy day and in a few hours razed down the trees. Later, he quit concluding that without the use of mechanical tools, the farm cannot be a profitable source of livelihood. I agreed with him then thinking that the ways of natural farming works in generational terms. Money can be had much easier by farming on any mountain, hill or flatland with the use of mechanical tools and commercial inputs.
I think about this mentor and our two-man community now long gone from time to time. He was right. A farm with much of nature lost to the farmer’s existence is a great gamble. I can place him at the mercy of others. It can cause him to lose control of his life and destiny. Overall, he was talking about farming in generational terms, a legacy of sacrifice and sustainable ways.- not taking or wasting it all in our lifetime. A farm has to be made and cared for like a child to yield its good fruits all the time throughout one’s life and the next. I say that in many ways, that man was not greedy and yet rich. Where have all his kind gone?
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on November 05, 2013.