Sunday, July 24, 2022



Michael Warren Davis, The Reactionary Mind: Why "Conservative" Isn't Enough (Washington: Regnery Gateway, 2021), pp. 3-5:
Imagine a land where the average citizen lives on about twelve acres of land, and the poorest of the poor get by with just one. None of them have ever seen the road darkened by a skyscraper or heard the air split by the sound of a passing airplane. Nearly 100 percent of the population lives and works in the great outdoors. Their skin is a healthy bronze; their hands are strong and calloused; their muscles are hard, taut, and eminently practical, earned through long days of wholesome labor.

There are no pesticides or growth hormones in this country. All the meat and vegetables they eat are totally organic. Their furniture is what we would call antique, fashioned by master craftsmen in the local style and passed down from father to son over generations. To heat their homes, they burn wood in the fireplace. Of course, they chop the wood themselves.

Here, nothing is disposable—and nothing need be. When a man's trouser catches a nail, his wife can darn the tear in a matter of minutes. In fact, she herself made the trousers from wool her husband sheared from his own sheep. If a chair breaks, her husband fells a tree and carves a new one. Tinkering at these pleasant little chores under the shade of an oak tree might even be a definition of happiness.

For the most part, these folks walk everywhere they need to go. It keeps them fit and limber. Besides, they're never far from town: everything they need is, at most, a few miles from the front door. Not one of them has ever seen a throughway or a byway, and no tractor trailer has ever disturbed the quiet of this little domain. The only sounds a man hears are the whistle of the scythe as his son mows the barley, the low of the heifer as she brushes away flies with her tail, and the voice of his wife calling him in for lunch.

Of course, the routine changes slightly as the year goes on. Life here is tied to the seasons.

In spring, the men stay up all night drinking craft beer, roasting pigs and lambs for the Easter feast. This they'll eat with apples and plums and wild strawberries. The boys will crown the girls with garlands of wildflowers and woo them with memorized poetry. Broods of children will chase rabbits through the briar. Someone will play the guitar and the people will dance.

Come autumn, the men will hunt deer and geese. The harvest feast will be marked with hearty vegetable stews, tart cider or warm brandy, and all sorts of homemade cheeses. The men will build a great bonfire; the people will sing and dance; and when the celebration ends, families will walk home to their cottages. There's perfect silence over the valley. An owl hoots somewhere deep in the forest; a badger chitters in the brush.

Here, there are no streetlamps or strip malls. Once the sun sets, all is dark. Every living thing looks up and sees the same pale moon looming amid a crowd of stars. The road ahead is lit by these heavenly bodies. How could it be otherwise?

Welcome to a day in the life of a serf.

That's a slightly romanticized view…but only slightly. Our view of the Middle Ages has been clouded by centuries of bad history piled on top of one another.

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