Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Category: Southern Agrarianism (Page 2 of 3)

Our Precarious Agriculture System

A lush crop of corn being grown for silage.

A lush crop of corn being grown for silage.

Last month, our family held its sixty-first annual family reunion. It’s a chance to talk with a number of my cousins who have been farmers in that area all their lives. When I remarked about how lush and beautiful the corn looked, I learned a lot about just how precarious our food supply is. It is almost entirely dependent on vast quantities of fertilizer and diesel fuel to work the land and to irrigate it.

The situation varies, of course, depending on the type of soil found in different parts of the country. The ideal combination of local climate and fertile, well-drained soil is really quite rare. The reason that the world’s farmers are able to feed a huge and rapidly growing population is the enormous input per acre, of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Much of today’s farmland is not a whole lot more than a growing medium to which water and nutrients are added – similar to hydroponics.

I will also point out here that we haven’t even touched on the complex system of transporting and delivering that food from the farm to your table. That is even more fragile than the agriculture system, with its near-total dependency on a functioning financial system, available credit, just-in-time ordering system, trucking system, and a coordinating system totally dependent upon the Internet.

There are plenty of exceptions, of course, but the fact remains that without the continuous flow of cheap diesel fuel, irrigation water, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, the food available to the consumer would be a tiny fraction of what is needed. Proponents of organic farming point to that as the solution; however, there simply isn’t enough organic matter available nor is there a high enough yield for organic farming to even approach the quantity of food needed. (I’m a big fan of organic gardening, but the issue here is one of scale rather than method.)

If you’re looking for a solution to the overall problem, I’m afraid that there is none. Mankind has grown completely dependent on highly mechanized, high-input farming to feed the population. There is simply no getting around that – as a wide scale issue, anyway. On an individual scale, it is a different story. Growing and producing a portion of our own food for our own family is something that we can all do. Very few will be able to produce more than a token amount of their food to begin with, but it is a learning process. When the day comes that our complex food system no longer functions, make sure that you have the skills and the tools to feed your family.

Irrigation, powered by diesel fuel, keeping that corn growing.

Irrigation, powered by diesel fuel, keeping that corn growing.

Family Reunions

While some would consider family reunions to be little more than a quaint tradition carried on by the “less sophisticated”, Southern culture takes a very different view. Family reunions are an opportunity for one generation to pass along the family heritage to the next generation. They strengthen man’s oldest form of social structure and the foundation of any civilized society.

This past weekend, our family held our 59th annual family reunion. I seem to recall missing one of those reunions about thirty years ago, but I can’t be sure. Missing a family reunion without a very good reason is something that is just not done in our family. It should be that way in every family.

The reunion is held on the first Saturday in June, so planning and scheduling is never a problem. The location is the family farm of my grandparents in a house built in the early 1920’s – long before there was electricity available in that area. At exactly 12:00 noon, the dinner bell is rung by one of the small children (usually with help from the parents). That is the same bell that was used to call the farm hands in from the fields for their noon meal many years ago.

I hope you enjoy these photos from our reunion. Even more, I hope they will serve to encourage you to hold your own family reunion.

Noblesse Oblige

NoblesseObligeIn February 2011, I wrote an essay titled White Privilege – Guilty As Charged, which is reproduced below. Closely linked to this “White Privilege” is the concept of Noblesse Oblige, which the dictionary defines as “The obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth.” White Privilege and Noblesse Oblige cannot be separated by honorable men. Privilege and Obligation go together.

Some would argue that Noblesse Oblige does not apply to them because “Noblesse” means “Nobility: Noble birth or condition,” and they are not “nobility.” That is just a vain attempt to escape the responsibility that goes with privilege. Are we to believe that because Noblesse Oblige has no legal standing that we have no obligation to do more than is required? Of course not. Noblesse Oblige is at the very core of what it means to be a Southern gentleman or a Southern lady.

John F. Kennedy said, “For of those whom much is given, much is required.” which is really just a rephrasing of the words of Jesus: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”(Luke 12:48)

Lest this discussion get sidetracked into racial issues, this applies every bit as much to “American Privilege.” For all her faults and failings, those of us fortunate enough to live in America have been blessed beyond measure. We have unsurpassed wealth and opportunity and a level of freedom seen in few other places. Such opportunity can be seized or it can be squandered. Education and opportunity to excel are freely available to all.

We have an “obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior.” Are we making good on that obligation? Do we truly appreciate the blessings that have been bestowed upon us? Are we doing all we can to pass those same blessings on to the next generation? If not, it’s time to get started.

 

White Privilege – Guilty As Charged

Stephen Clay McGehee
First published February 17, 2011

One cannot be a vocal advocate of Southern heritage and culture without encountering the topic of race on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be that way but it is, so it must be confronted head-on.

I have been reading recently about the concept of White Privilege – what our accusers define as an unearned, unmerited advantage that Whites have over other races. To that I answer, “Guilty As Charged.”

Let’s look at this White Privilege that gives me an “unfair” advantage over others:

I have the privilege of being raised by both my mother and my father in a stable home where drugs, alcohol, and crime never intruded.

I have the privilege of being raised by parents who understood the value of education and insisted that I and my siblings take learning seriously.

I have the privilege of being taught at an early age that making sacrifices today in order to have something better tomorrow is one of the keys to progress.

I have the privilege of having grandparents who taught my parents these same values – and generation upon generation before them.

I have the privilege of learning about the Western European culture – the music, the literature, the science, the art – that has enriched the lives of all who care to take advantage of that culture; freely bestowed on all who care for the finer things of mankind.

I have the privilege of having a strong work ethic instilled in me from a young age.

I have the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and taught about the wholly undeserved love of a God who would sacrifice His only Son to pay for my sins.

All these privileges were given to me, completely undeserved and unearned. They were given to me by the generations that came before me because they put the best interest of their children above all else. If other races or other groups of people choose to live for their own immediate gratification with little thought for the fate of their descendants, then that is their choice. It is my fondest hope – and expectation – that one day my grandchildren, when accused of White Privilege, will proudly proclaim “Guilty As Charged”.

Cultural Secession

NoTVThe idea of political secession is an interesting one, and one that is clearly a part of our Southern heritage. There are, however, so many problems with it today that it is best left in the realm of “something to consider” – for now, anyway. In the mean time, cultural secession is what we should be working toward.

Cultural secession is withdrawing our families from the corrupting influence of modern American society and instilling an appreciation for traditional Southern culture – Southern Agrarian culture. The single most effective thing we can do is to remove television from our homes. Not limiting use; not cutting back; not picking what shows to watch. No, I mean dumping it completely. Cold Turkey quitting. Cancel the cable subscription and disconnect the antenna. Keep the hardware if you want to be able to selectively watch DVDs, but stop allowing the Hollywood sewage into your home. We removed television from our home in the late 1990’s, and have never regretted that decision. What I still don’t understand is how people can find the time to waste sitting and staring at a TV.

The second most effective thing we can do is to home school our children. Ideally, some folks will form private schools that are based on instilling traditional Southern culture and a Biblical view of the world. Until then, home schooling is the only way to assure that the next generation is given the solid foundation that they will need to flourish rather that being pumped with propaganda that destroys the very culture we are trying to restore.

WeHaveMetTheEnemy

New Era Resolutions

The following is based on a post that I wrote on the Confederate Colonel blog in 2012. As many folks are making new year resolutions, perhaps it is time to look deeper than the usual lose a few pounds or quit a bad habit resolutions.

On November 6, 2012, America entered a new era – not because B. Hussein Obama was re-elected, but because a majority of American voters now follow the cult of collectivism that he represents. If this were just another political split, it would be a minor issue to be addressed in the next election. It is not. This represents a cultural split on a massive scale. Our task as Southern Gentlemen is to move as far away from the center as possible. We must stake out our cultural ground so that there can be no doubt as to which camp we belong.

To that end, this is a list of tangible things we can do, presented in no particular order.

  1. Boldly proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Leading a soul to eternal salvation is a greater accomplishment than anything else in this life.
  2. Live a virtuous life at home, at work, and in public. Always speak the truth. We are ambassadors of our great Southern culture and must serve as an example of what that culture stands for.
  3. Be part of a church that truly believes The Bible 1. as the literal word of God – and acts on it. There are far too many modernist churches that lower standards and try to become like the rest of the world. If you’re in one of those modernist churches, leave and find a real church that is not focused on entertaining the congregation.
  4. Use the power of the spoken and written word to advance the cause of restoring civility to America.
  5. Dress more formally than what is customary in today’s society. It demonstrates a respect for others – and for yourself.
  6. Pay close attention to manners and etiquette, and make them a part of your daily life.
  7. Pray – not a vain repetition, but pray like you are talking directly with The God who created the entire universe, because that’s exactly what you are doing. He listens to “specks of dust” like us.
  8. Seek out like-minded people, and form strong bonds with them.
  9. Treat others with respect. As conditions worsen, there will be those who proudly provided for their families in the past, but find themselves without work or, if they are fortunate, doing menial work. Your turn may come. While those who willingly live off of money stolen from the productive deserve our open contempt, resist the urge unless pressed.
  10. Follow the Boy Scout slogan of “Do a Good Turn Daily”. Find some way to help someone who would not expect it.
  11. Follow the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”. When hard times come, you can depend on no one but yourself and your closest friends and family.
  12. Produce some of your own food by gardening or small-scale farming, and raising chickens. Those are valuable skills that cannot be learned by just reading a book. It is also the key to our Southern Agrarian culture.
  13. Understand what Southern Agrarianism is by reading I’ll Take My Stand, by Twelve Southerners.
  14. If you are living in an urban area, move to a semi-rural or rural area. The cities are not only increasingly dangerous, they are corrosive to the soul.
  15. Arm yourself and learn and practice to become effective in the defense of yourself and your family. Armed men are free men – disarmed men are slaves.
  16. Turn off the TV, cancel the cable subscription, and disconnect the antenna. TV has done more than anything else to destroy our culture. Don’t allow the filth and propaganda into your home.
  17. Home-school your children and help and support other home-schoolers if you can.
  18. Take control of your future by investing your retirement savings yourself so that the government cannot gain control of it 2.
  19. Make your home more self-sufficient: put in a well, start a garden, own a sewing machine 3 to make and repair your clothes, install a wood heating stove, increase the insulation in your attic.
  20. Secure your home. Rampant crime is just one of the results of a decaying society where civility is no longer revered.
  21. Embrace old-school ways of doing things: use paper and pen rather than an electronic device for taking notes (bonus points for using a fountain pen 4); shave with a double-edge safety razor and brush and mug rather than the latest multi-blade gizmo; resist the temptation to automatically upgrade to the latest technology 5.
  22. Resolve to give no credibility to political correctness. When it comes up, question it and force the source to justify what was said or written. Don’t accept it.
  23. Watch your language. Make a conscious effort to avoid any obscene or profane word coming from your lips. Crude language identifies the speaker with the worst elements of any society. That such language is now commonly used by “celebrities” is reason enough to shun it.
  24. Cherish those who are close to you and resolve to repair any relationships that need repairing. Your family, your spouse, your friends – those are more important now than ever, and will become even more so in the future.
  25. Display the Confederate flag – any one of them – on a regular basis. (see the Code of Confederate Flag Etiquette)
  26. Sharing a meal as a family is a time-honored tradition. Make the extra effort to have a more formal, structured dinner.
  27. Resolve to take away the power that the word “racist” has over us; at the same time, remember to treat all men of every race and creed with the respect they deserve as men and as souls that Jesus died for.
  28. Language is an important part of any culture – the English language is the language of our people. Don’t allow yourself to slip into the sloppy language habits that have become a mark of modern popular culture. Writing and speaking well are the marks of a civilized man. Use correct English in your speech and writing. 6
  29. Collect books – not digital text, but real paper and ink books that can be read without batteries. As the popularity of digital text increases, there are bargains to be found in used books. 7
  30. Carry a pocket knife. A generation ago, every Southern male carried a pocket knife – it was almost a rite of passage. Somewhere along the way, the Nanny-state took over, and an incredibly useful tool came to be viewed as a dangerous weapon and a threat to be banned.
  31. Get out of debt as quickly as possible. Make it a top priority.
  32. Reduce or eliminate your income dependence by laying the foundation for your own business. Find something that you truly enjoy doing and that others are willing to pay for, and acquire the tools and the skills to provide that service or product at a profit. 8
  33. The Christmas season has become the emblem of materialism in America and a brief glance at the mayhem of “Black Friday” shopping will confirm that. Turning away from the greed and materialism is a wonderful opportunity for a family lesson in setting priorities. Rejecting materialism now will make life easier later when it is forced on America by a failing economy.
  34. Find something that you can grow or make at home to give away to others. For some, it is home-canned vegetables or preserves or home-made soap; for my wife and I, it is vanilla extract; for our son, it is egg nog in a variety of flavors. Turn back the clock a bit to a day when people didn’t buy everything from the store, but made it themselves. We also give away much of what our garden produces, and the surplus eggs from our chickens.

This list was inspired by a list posted at The Thinking Housewife blog. What can you add to this list?


Notes:

  1. Finding a church that insists on using only the King James Version is a big step in the right direction
  2. . There are currently efforts under way to nationalize IRA and 401(k) accounts
  3. The old cast iron sewing machines will last for generations. Treadle and hand-crank sewing machines in excellent condition are still readily available – we have several of them in our home.
  4. While a quality fountain pen is not inexpensive, they will last for generations if well cared for. I have my father’s fountain pen that he purchased in the 1950’s. I had it refurbished and it is now as “good as new”.
  5. At the very least, consider using open source software and Linux rather than falling into the Windows/Mac trap.
  6. There are, no doubt, plenty of errors in grammar scattered throughout this blog. If you find them, please let me know so I can correct them.
  7. A first-class library can be assembled by making regular visits to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store.
  8. I spent nine months of evenings and weekends developing the software package that has provided a comfortable living for my family since 1995 – it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Plan a Lee-Jackson Dinner

Robert_Edward_LeeThe Lee-Jackson Dinner is a tradition celebrated by MOS&B, SCV and UDC groups – but it need not be limited to that. Why not have your own Lee-Jackson Dinner at home? Robert E. Lee’s birthday is on January 19, and Stonewall Jackson’s is on January 21. This next year (2014), that will fall on Sunday and Tuesday.

We have scheduled this year’s dinner for Saturday, January 18. We like to serve something a bit special each year. Our original plan called for Roasted Goose, but we decided that we’ll be going with Standing Rib Roast this year. Standing Rib Roast is basically Prime Rib with the bone still on it (hence, it can “stand” up). A dinner like this is not the time to learn, so we picked up a small one from the grocery store and Laura prepared it for dinner last week. It turned out great, but we also learned a few things that will make it better for our Lee-Jackson Dinner.

Photo courtesy of A Southern Table (Facebook page)

Photo credit: A Southern Table

An occasion like this is one that calls for bringing out the silverware and fine china that usually stays closed up and unused. Make it a special occasion. It doesn’t have to be expensive – we found our set of china at the local Goodwill store several years ago.

You could do this as a family or you could invite as many guests as you can accommodate. You could invite your fellow Southerners who may already be familiar with Lee-Jackson Dinners, or you could invite your friends who are only vaguely aware of Lee and Jackson – and educate them in the process.

Why not turn this into a home school project? Assign your children to read and do reports on Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, have them research what a typical “fancy” meal would have been like in the 1860′s, have them learn what children of their ages might have worn then and dress in period clothes. There are all sorts of ways to approach this as a home school project.

What ideas do you have for a Lee-Jackson Dinner? With several weeks to go, there is still time left to plan a first-class Lee-Jackson Dinner, so mark your calendar and start planning!

If a Lee-Jackson dinner does not fit into your schedule, you can plan for a Confederate Independence Day dinner on February 22 – the date that President Jefferson Davis was inaugurated.

A Lee-Jackson Dinner by a Sons of Confederate Veterans. I am in the dark suit and red tie in front of the window. Photo © Shoin Fukui.

A Lee-Jackson Dinner by a Sons of Confederate Veterans. I am in the dark suit and red tie in front of the window. Photo © Shoin Fukui.


The following photos were provided by A Southern Table to demonstrate that you can set up for an elegant dinner worthy of honoring Lee and Jackson without spending a lot of money. All of the items shown were purchased at thrift stores such as Salvation Army and Habitat and Goodwill stores. While the colors are not appropriate for a Lee-Jackson dinner, the point here is to not let money stop you from celebrating your Southern heritage.

Photo credit – A Southern Table (Facebook page)

Complex Societies vs. Southern Agrarianism

Southern Agrarianism encompasses many things – it has aspects of politics, literature, culture, and industry/agriculture. While it is not merely a nostalgia for simpler times, simplicity is a major part of it. The opposite of the simplicity of Southern Agrarianism is the complexity of the civilization that we now have.

In this brief video, Dr. Joseph Tainter explains the collapse of complex civilizations. Dr. Tainter is the author of The Collapse of Complex Societies. Following this brief video is a series of seven videos of a lecture that explain this in a very scholarly manner.


For a more thorough discussion by Dr. Tainter, see the following seven-part series of videos:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

A World Without Electricity

A series of comments following a recent post got me thinking about just how recent things like hand-pumped water and animal power are.

  1. I am 58 years old
  2. My father was born in 1914
  3. His father was born in 1877
  4. His grandfather was born in 1846

I could go on, but my point is that my father, as a child talking with his grandfather, connects me with a man who served in the Army of the Confederate States of America. Let’s look at the way life worked in just my father’s era.

  • He was born on a farm in Alabama and moved to Florida in 1920 in a covered wagon pulled by a team of mules. His father knew that covered wagons worked fine for those who settled the American West, so he simply copied the idea to move his own family farther South.
  • He was raised on a farm that had no electricity until the time he returned home from college (late 1930’s).
  • The running water the family had was furnished by a windmill. The shower was a water spigot beneath the water tank.
  • The family plowed the fields using a mule until they could afford a tractor.
  • As was commonly done in the early 20th Century, the family produced much of their own food, and would trade and buy and sell for other items they needed.

As we sit in an air-conditioned room, using a computer giving instant communications to just about anywhere in the world, it is easy to forget just how recent this is. Even though I have not yet reached the age of 60, computers were hardly known by most folks when I was in school. It was the slide rule – not the computer or even the calculator – that represented technology for most people.

What prompted this line of thought was considering how radical a shift it would be to live in a world without electricity. There are several scenarios that could result in the near-total loss of electrical power. These are not some wild science fiction plots, but very real possibilities. Low probability perhaps, but very real and very possible. How would we get from where we are now to where life would be considered “normal” without electricity?

Although the ability to survive under such conditions is not the primary reason for Southern Agrarianism, it is a nice “fringe benefit.” Living close to the land and enjoying the simplicity of older technology provides a bridge between today and an uncertain tomorrow. Southern Agrarianism is more than just a life style of simplicity with roots deep in Southern soil – it also provides a high level of preparedness for uncertain times.

Resilient Communities

The concept of Resilient Communities is one that resonates well with Southern Agrarianism. It is a new term for an old idea – the self-contained village. Some of the large Southern plantations came close to being a resilient community, but not quite. While at first glance, “resilient community” may sound like a fancy phrase for “hippie commune”, it definitely is not the same. Not even close. Take a look at this video about a resilient community in New Zealand to get a better idea of what a resilient community is.

For more information, see the Resilient Communities blog.

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