Sunday, October 5, 2014

Putting the Bicycle Aside and Begin Walking

Farm life at this time of year is busy. Red peppers, spread out on the front yard to dry, and farmers busy with the harvest. A long time city dweller, who returned to the farm over ten years ago, speaks his mind on farm life.

He looks out from his house on a newly paved road, and sees a grandfather walking in his white starched ramie fabric pants and trousers, green colored vest, a felt hat, erect in stature and walking deliberately. Once or twice a month he sees the grandfather walking on the road, at a distance from his house, going to the seat of the township to pay his  bills. Every time he sees the old man he is struck by his dignity and discipline. He has great respect for the man who he doesn't even know.

Every time he sees him he wonders about his personal history and life. One day he was standing beside him in the Farmer's Bank and over heard him  talking to the woman bank teller. She asked him how much were his monthly expenses, after he handed her a few dollars in payment for taxes. He answered, "100 dollars is more than enough." (In the farming area these kind of questions are not uncommon among those that know each other)        

We are trying now to save our economic life. The industries have to function, citizens need a place to work, and workers need money to become  consumers. Because we have consumers, society continues as we know it. Everything is done to keep the flow of money going. It is like riding a bicycle you have to keep the pedals going or the bicycle stops. Whether you like it or not the bicycle has to keep on moving. This is why we had the Sewol tragedy. After the tragedy the lives of the farmer has become more difficult: farm prices have decreased, import of rice with the custom tax, and it seems we will have the Free Trade Agreement with China.

The country, to sell more smartphones is willing to jeopardize the way of life of the farmers and our food base: upsetting the farmers way of life. Changes in economics affects the farmers quickly. The price in the auction market will determine the price of material and the farmer's income. Subtracting expenses from the income, and determining what is left over as the farmers' wage is for the text books; in reality, like the old farmer mentioned, farmers are not as dependent on the money economy, but on self-help. To save the exports from the city we are mortgaging the future of the farmers.

Society is moving us to over consume; we are the victims of a competitive society. A larger income will not guarantee our dignity, our self-worth or raise our happiness level. We know the countries with a  high rate of happiness are the poorer countries of the world. We need more leisure time, and better relations with others. We need to stop riding the bicycle, start wearing starched clothes, and start walking. When using my legs I am open to appreciating leisure, the joy of life and my self- worth.   

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