Economy as Housekeeping
Herd About It?
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.
From “Manifesto: Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry”
Usually when people hear the word economy, they instantly think of money, Wall Street, giant corporations, and GDP (Gross Domestic Product). All of these aspects that come to mind are integral in order to maintain our system of living, however some might not realize that the word economy literally means “the principles to maintain our house”. Now, whether that “house” is government, Earth, or family is relative.
I just learned this today. When we think of our “economy in ruins” it takes on a whole new meaning when we picture it as our housekeeping gone bad, rather than as piles of money. Those piles of money which have been swept under rugs are now clogging our drains. Things that need fixing have been left to rust on the front lawn while we feed dollar bills into the flat screen tv. We have confused the economy of keeping our house with the busy-ness of business. We have wasted too much time in the frantic busy-ness of making money to keep our house in order. In agriculture we have ignored the duty we have toward stewardship of land and community while competing in the corporate marathon of greed.
I am reminded of the “old wive’s tales” of yesterdays good housekeepers: A wife that does not know how to keep house, throws out more with a teaspoon than a man can bring in with a shovel.
A mind that has confronted ruin for years
Is half or more a ruined mind. Nightmares
Inhabit it, and daily evidence
Of the clean country smeared for want of sense,
Of freedom slack and dull among the free,
Of faith subsumed in idiot luxury,
And beauty beggared in the marketplace
And clear-eyed wisdom bleary with dispraise.
(Wendell Berry Sabbath Poems 20010)