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Inspiration from the peasant economy
I was born an urbanite, I grew up globalized and became a productivist. I was born in the city and only the summers brought me closer to the town of my grandparents. As the television said, my vacations were spent in an old and outdated place. Growing up I was globalized by an invisible sucking force; The culture of the USA on the horse of John Wayne won all the battles and monopolized all the areas of life. The college years filled my mind with abrasive substances like productivism, effectiveness, and competitiveness. With this baggage, the crisis installed in Europe is presented as the collapse of these myths; out of the blue and without turning back. The cowboys were a fabulous sham.
If the myths have led us to where we are, it may be time to raise the anti-myths. Is it possible to park effectiveness so that affectivity circulates? Do we close the spaces of competitiveness and open doors of cooperation? And the key question, rurality and its culture - considered a backwardness - does it keep true advances in its essence?
Observing many peasant experiences (some new, others present in towns and people who resisted defending their culture), some central and common elements are distinguished that can be inspiring to build new economic models beyond the current neoliberal capitalism:
- Faced with an economy on a global scale, where the price of Mozambique bread is decided on the Chicago stock exchanges according to what a financial instrument wants to earn, peasant economies are exercised in confined spaces, without leaving very far from the towns themselves. Raised on a local scale, it ensures that their impacts are spilled on the territory itself, as a first step to guarantee autonomy. A way of doing that indicates the importance of ‘Relocate the economy’ generating complete cells where life is lived and reproduced.
- If in the current delirium, 90% of the economy is financial for only 10% of productive economy, shouldn't the primary sector with a tangible (and edible) economy being, as the name suggests, a priority again? In any peasant economy, the main ingredient has always been the agricultural activities themselves directed to the production of a fundamental good, food. Furthermore, for industrialized countries where the peasantry does not even reach 5% of the workforce, boosting the primary sector would mean job creation, economic balance and less agricultural dependence on a crazy global market.
- Another of the difficulties of the prevailing economic model is the lack of diversification. All the eggs are put in construction or tourism baskets, for example. In capitalist agriculture the same thing happens mimetically, it is committed to monocultures that produce goods for an assembly line out of control. On the other hand, peasant economies that have been able to endure over time are designed in polyculture landscapes, seeking a good productive diversification, generating resilience and security. Let's take note.
- In a peasant community or family, productive activities seek practices that are linked to Nature, of which they feel part. They observe and understand it to imitate it in their agroecosystems, producing according to its rhythms. The ecological bases From this economic model, they manage to solve the challenge of sustainability: obtain food from the earth and water without exhausting their capacities. Faced with linear economies where waste is generated and energy is lost, it is necessary to think of systems that work circularly, mimicking living systems, where nothing is wasted, where all materials continue to flow. What is produced today will be a resource for tomorrow. Will we learn this lesson?
- The economy at the service of the people likes the more hands the better. If the capitalist and feverish economy renounces labor or enslaves it for its best yields, in the cultures and ways of doing peasant women the labor occupation family or community, in conditions of dignity. If more land can be produced or cultivated on the same peasant farm, it is based on more people, like a pot with more stew to feed more people.
- In the rural world, the wisdom necessary for the recipe to come out tasty has always been the result of observation, experimentation and brainstorming and knowledge with other people and regions. The magic wand of technological advances that some Science has wanted to impose on the field as the solution to everything, is shown to escape the control of the people themselves and is nothing more than a formula to exercise power.
- The social cooperation It is a key element to recover, like the traditions of many peoples of sharing work - building a house, clearing some mountains or organizing a planting. Competitiveness, which is not typical of these kitchens, is reduced to the card game in the tavern. Although for the minds colonized by capitalism it is difficult to understand, if we look at the rural environment we can relearn that the best formula for the management of natural resources, water, land, mountains, etc. it is community management thereof.
And added these characteristics, we appreciate how for centuries rural communities from all over the world, with their own institutions, have exercised control of their own economy and future. They have achieved autonomy and freedom. For this reason when the capitalist system has attacked the peasant peoples, the cry raised to regain collective control of agriculture is the defense of the ‘Food Sovereignty'. Isn't the deficit of the sovereignty of the peoples one of the elements to recover in any economy?
The urban, the productive and the globalization have reached the end of their careers, doped like those cyclists who were also myths to which we worship. Therefore, although not all peasant communities, nor all the history and experience of their economy is perfect and admirable, taking them as a reference for a new social and solidarity economy takes on an undeniable meaning. The taste for the good taste of edible recipes that have survived for many thousands of years, and are undoubtedly designed to continue to last.
Small towns have a future
At the end of a talk where, better or worse, I tried to convey the aforementioned values of the peasant economy, a philosophy professor raised his hand to explain that, according to the analysis, the first step was to rethink Politics. Yes, with capital letters and in its entirety, because until the time of classical Greece, he said, we have to go back to understand that already there small nuclei or towns were despised. Politics, is the administration of the cops, the city.
Of course, if we review the role of the majority of administrations of the Spanish State, we observe how their efforts have a way of thinking and acting radically opposed to valuing the peasant and rural world. Either because of an enormous blindness, or because of ending the vestiges of autonomy, in recent years a combination of laws, cuts and projects clearly aimed at ending life in small towns have been taking place.
The cuts, the star measure to weather this crisis, have a direct impact on many areas of the daily life of small towns, limiting or excluding their population from some fundamental Social Rights. The closures of rural schools in small municipalities are a deprivation of the right to education; and on many occasions it is the final procedure for the death of a people. The cuts in health that have closed many small regional health centers or have eliminated emergency services, force to travel some distances that, with the deficit of public transport also cut, are the difference between a care on time or not.
The new Territorial Planning Law designed to put an end to local governance models, such as open councils, especially meant to allow a management of the territory by the neighbors themselves, is another measure that disguised as a 'search for efficiency', leads to the dismantling of the rural world. The undisguised objective, as is already being seen in many places, is to put up for sale those common goods that these small administrations managed, such as public forests and other natural spaces.
But the projects presented as great solutions to overcome the crisis are also an attack on rural territories. The ‘fracking’ or the search through drilling and rock fracturing to obtain gas, if carried out, will be at the expense of agricultural land; The intentions to extract uranium in Catalonia or gold and silver in Galicia with open-pit mines would destroy the natural, cultural and landscape heritage, polluting the environment and putting the health of the people around it at risk, that is, the population that lives in the villages; the plans of all the new mega-projects of the Eurovegas type and other crazy things are always drawn on territories suitable for agriculture or livestock; or the installation of nuclear cemeteries are some examples.
If a sick patient, like our peoples, with decades of agrarian policies at the service of landowners and agribusiness, with high rates of depopulation and a very aging population, is harassed with such malignant pathogens, his future is very complicated. That is why the population of the towns in the Spanish State is progressively organizing itself.
With the motto ‘Small towns have a future’, different rural groups unite their voices indignant at these attacks, but in a re-apprehended exercise of Sovereignty, it goes one step further and details and explains to society their own proposals to defend and care for the most valuable and sensitive of the peoples: the lifetime.
Four are the lines defined in some of the recently organized meetings, in my opinion all of them in tune with their own peasant culture. First, defend the style of rural organization, various participatory formulas of the community itself, however small it may be; at the same time as betting on the community in the way of doing and living. Second, to make possible a rural medicine with a human face, and to take advantage of the competences that the law gives to the municipalities to design comprehensive healthcare and health care. Third, make the right to education a liberating practice. And fourth, a commitment from the collective to seek not a welfare state but a state of solidarity.
The struggle of small peoples to secure a future warns us that small peoples, their ways of life and coexistence, their economies and their cultures, are the future.
By Gustavo Duch
Le Monde Diplomatique