Monday, January 14, 2013

Boomers and stickers

In planning a course on food justice and farming, I listened to Wendell Berry's 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, "It All Turns on Affection." I adore anything Berry writes, and this talk was no different.

One point in particular stood out to me. He reminds us of the "boomers" and "stickers," a notion his great teacher, Wallace Stegner, imparted on him:

"Boomers, he [Stegner] said, are 'those who pillage and run,' who want 'to make a killing and end up on Easy Street,' whereas stickers are 'those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.' “Boomer” names a kind of person and a kind of ambition that is the major theme, so far, of the history of the European races in our country. “Sticker” names a kind of person and also a desire that is, so far, a minor theme of that history, but a theme persistent enough to remain significant and to offer, still, a significant hope."

And so, there's hope. And maybe there's even a little bit of "sticker" in all of us that has just gotten beaten down in this culture we've created. Indeed, there is little room to be a sticker if we owe thousands of dollars in interest to banks and other entities for the privilege of getting a college education, must purchase health insurance for ourselves and our family (or, more realistically, take a cut in salary so our employer can offer us coverage), have the "American Dream" of a home mortgage awaiting us, live in a place that has devalued community and extended kinship, grapple with rising costs of basic necessities, and are bombarded with messages that we need more, bigger, better...

Let's let our inner sticker shine. Let us be able to love the life we have and the place we have made it in. Let it start with us, because, as Berry also notes, we as individuals are implicated:

"That we live now in an economy that is not sustainable is not the fault only of a few mongers of power and heavy equipment. We all are implicated. We all, in the course of our daily economic life, consent to it, whether or not we approve of it. This is because of the increasing abstraction and unconsciousness of our connection to our economic sources in the land, the land-communities, and the land-use economies."

Food for thought.

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