Monday, March 03, 2008

The Land is the Essence of a Nation’s Identity

When a nation loses touches with its agricultural identity, inevitably it loses touch with its national identity as well. It is no coincidence that in first world countries, those closest to the soil are also likely to be the most conservative, patriotic and nationalistic.

Why is that? Because land defines nationalism. The sense of ownership that comes from owning and working land gives meaning to national identity as an extension of your own land. Dislocated from land, nationalism quickly degenerates into jingoism, colonialism and empire building, into greedy merchants plotting wars and politicians using the flag as a hollow rallying call. Any civic, martial or political tradition must be built around the land for it to have any meaning whatsoever.

In the United States voting rights was wisely tied to land ownership. In the revisionist history, this like literacy tests was a scheme to disenfranchise the public, but the reality is that land ownership is a microcosm of citizenship. To be a citizen in a republic, you must first have your own small constituent kingdom of soil, root and furrow. The landowner is a state within a state and the integrity of that small state, reflects the integrity of the nation. When that small state dissolves, the fall of the greater republic itself cannot be far behind.

That is of course not how the political and business elites tend to see it. To them land is an outmoded property and borders are part of a more primitive era. The true commodities they will tell you are information, skill and knowledge; but while these are important commodities, they carry no meaning without a nation with the freedom to practice them in and the nation itself cannot exist without the land.

The world today is full of political slogans of a new world. A New Britain, a New Ireland, a North American Union, a European Union, a New Middle East. But all of these “new” visions are nothing more than empty speculations, an identity bubble built on nothing more than grandiose rhetoric and backed by nothing except more rhetoric.

The same political elites that once internationalized their countries, dispose of the land, surrender it mile by mile and kilometer by kilometer, believing that it will be cheaper to dispossess and bankrupt the first world farmer and replace him with a press gang of third worlders who will do the same work at a fraction of the cost. By the time the real cost of surrendering the land has been made clear, they find themselves reigning over the shards of a collapsing civilization.

In Israel it was the farmers who built the nation, it was dock workers and roughs, professors and doctors who built up farming and enlisted guards to keep Arab marauders out, guards who would stage by stage evolve into the IDF, one of the world’s most renowned militaries in barely half a century. Without them, Israel would have been nothing more than urban dwelling religious Jews and aspiring nationalists sitting around their cafes. Today it is the settlements and some kibbutzim that the real flame of Zionism, of national identity still burns and it is against the settlements that the wrath of the political elites who want to sacrifice the land on the altar of a New Middle East burns.

In America, it may have been the merchants and pamphleteers who sat about talking of revolution but it was the Southern plantation owners and the New England Yankee farmers who made it a reality on the field of battle, turning the grievances of merchants into the collision with an empire. The idea of individual freedom and self-determination could best appeal to men who had grown used to running their own affairs and determining among themselves how to handle regional affairs. Behind all the theoretical philosophy of the American revolution, was the practical reality that for the men fighting for it, the revolution protected their right to live as they had grown used to living, as free men on their own land.

Today in America it is still the much maligned “Red States” or “Flyover Country” that hold on to the nation’s values, from the border to the bible to the belief in the greatness of the country. Despite the repeated attacks on the family farm and the attempt to transform American agriculture into vast corporate behemoths manned by illegal aliens, that form of serfdom has yet to blot out the true values of the land.

This paradigm holds true across the first world. The farmers build up the land, only to find themselves sneered at and denigrated, as the cities attract their children, swallow their wages and eventually give rise to a new political class so divorced from the land that it no longer has any use for the land itself.

Look into the mindset of the liberal politician willing to trade security for appeasement and borders for treaties and nine times out of nine you will find someone, who despite whatever rhetoric he may bloviate, has no real understanding of why the land is necessary in the first place.

To such forward thinking politicians, the man who holds to his own land is an individualist and therefore dangerous. Individualism is a form of extremism and those who are determined to be the masters of their own land are a threat to any modernistic socialist government built on claiming supreme ownership over all property in exchange for offering social services and social guidance. And so the media sneers and the police come and tear gas is fired and the batons fall and when the farms go, disorder or serfdom replaces them.

In Gaza, the greenhouses that once exported produce stand empty and deserted while rockets rain down on Israeli villages. In Texas illegal aliens vandalize farms and turn fields into crossings. And in Brussels, in Washington and Jerusalem, the politicians dream of a brave new world without borders and with cheap labor—as divorced from the land, their national identities wither and like the fields, begin to die.


LemonLimeMoon said...

Private property and ownership of land is what life is all about and farming is the most important job of all. It is so important that Hashem instituted the jubliee year to be sure no foreigner could own part of Israel permanently.

William T. Thornton, pastor said...

Fine Article

kahaneloyalist said...

Which Kibbutzim do you think are part of the flame of Zionism?

Sultan Knish said...

look up tzafri ronen

Yobeeone said...

In the words of my hero, Burt Gummer, "Eminent domain!" It's coming.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't think of anything more true and relevant.

kahaneloyalist said...

I know Tzafrir, and he is among the best Jewish Nationalists, but I think he is somewhat unique among the kibbutznikim

Sultan Knish said...

he's the most vocal but not entirely unique, some are seeing the writing on the wall and realizing that what happened to the settlements can easily happen to them and the situation is increasingly leaving them with either the choice of turning into commercial enterprises with arab and african labor or holding on to the original values

Keli Ata said...

Wonderful article. I remember that in the early 1990s people were very concerned about the blight of American farmers after the whole Farm Aid phenomena and concert that concern whithered.

It's hard to see the olive trees and vineyards in Israel destroyed by Arabs. They care nothing for the land.

Keli Ata said...

A belated Shavua tov, too :)

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