30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
– Proverbs 24:30-32, KJV
Nostalgia is a feeling which is nowadays universally despised and dismissed as childish and sentimental, a brief bout of irrationality which is better to simply overcome and forget about. I disagree with this assertion. It is my belief that nostalgia can act as an intuition, one’s mind intoning that something important to the soul has been lost. When experienced by an entire thede, it may be critical to try and determine what has been lost and, if possible, make an effort to regain it.
A foreigner living in America today may be forgiven for thinking that nostalgia is a primarily Southern phenomenon. One writer says “…nostalgia is arguably
the most prevalent paradigm of current southern poetics, even as
much post-World War II verse works in contrast to a pathos-laden view
of the past.” Nostalgia seems almost an integral part of Southern identity today; books on the subject could fill libraries. Can you imagine a truly Southern person who is satisfied with the modern world, who doesn’t long for bygone times? If you can, great, but I’ve yet to meet him. Embracing modernity necessarily jettisons the Southern identity.
So nostalgia is a feeling not easily dismissed, and Southerners experience much more than our fair share of it. Now our task becomes to figure out what important thing has been lost, and see what can be done about getting it back. I assert that modernity has separated us from our agrarian essence, and retaining our Southern identity depends on reviving agrarianism to the furthest extent possible
From the start, agrarianism was at the core of the Southern worldview and way of life, from which most or all distinctly Southern traits stemmed. As Frank Lawrence Owsley told us in 1930:
“The fundamental and passionate ideal for which the South stood and fell was the ideal of an agrarian society. All else, good and bad, revolved around this ideal… Thoughts, words, ideas, concepts, life itself, grew from the soil.”
With the notable exception of George Fitzhugh, whose views could certainly be described as eccentric, nearly every single Southern writer or thinker pays homage to the Southern agrarian tradition or its manifestations. To be Southern was to be agrarian, even if you didn’t own or work a farm yourself, as evidenced by John Crowe Ransom’s depiction of the Southern character:
“The [antebellum Southern] establishment had a sufficient economic base, it was meant to be stable rather than provisional, it had got beyond the pioneering stage, it provided leisure, and its benefits were already being enjoyed. It may as well be admitted that Southern society was not an institution of very showy elegance, for the so-called aristocrats were mostly home-made and countrified… And even the squires, and the other classes, too, did not define themselves too strictly. They were loosely graduated social orders, not fixed as in Europe. Their relations were personal and friendly.”
Here and elsewhere in the same essay, Ransom outlines the benefits of living in an established society grounded in agrarianism, as opposed to a pioneering society grounded in an ongoing and ever-escalating war on Nature. “The American Spirit” is always referred to as a pioneering spirit, and the history of the United States vividly displays the hidden costs therein. Yes, you may receive a great deal of temporary benefits for a time by warring on Nature, but Nature always comes back to collect the bill. That is why it is Leftist; it can only lead to eventual destruction if followed to its logical end.
Opposite to the pioneering society is established society, which becomes so by making peace with Nature. An established society, which is necessarily a traditionalist society, prioritizes leisure over money and is in no great hurry to change itself. It takes what it needs from Nature to live comfortably and no more, devoting any excess time to leisurely pursuits and personal growth. This type of society fosters an elevation of the human condition for its members. Julius Evola touches on this briefly:
“The [traditionalist] worldview may find clearer expression in a man with no formal education than in a writer, just as it may be more strongly represented in a soldier, an aristocrat, or a farmer who is faithful to the earth than in the bourgeois intellectual, the typical ‘professor,’ or the journalist.”
To be agrarian is to be tied to the land and to respect Nature. To be industrial is to become a cog, no longer a person, but instead a set of hands to be hired for a pittance. To be agrarian is to be responsible for life, instead of simply a bottom line or quota. Leftism cannot live long on a farm, but flourishes downtown. Wherever industrialism goes, so goes bizarre and twisted depictions of humanity and its true relation with Nature.
As I said earlier this week, the South still has a relatively strong agrarian contingent practicing Rightist principles. But because our ancestors lost their fight against industrialism and modernism, we have inherited a society largely stripped of its agrarian character, and so Southern identity is destined to continue to weaken for the foreseeable future. If it cannot outlast the Leftist disease in America, it must eventually be snuffed out completely.
We, as Southern Traditionalists, cannot hope to gain enough power to change the direction of our society in the contemporary milieu without risking Leftist subversion, and so we must scale back our expectations and goals. To preserve our way of life, focus on preserving it in the areas that you can control: yourself, your family, and your sphere of influence. My next article will go into more depth on some ways you can implement agrarian ideas today.