Down on the farm, owning the means of production

Painting by Je' Czaja: "Cider-making Day"
Painting by Je’ Czaja:
“Cider-making Day”

Machines hate me. They war with me, though I have conquered a few with duct tape and WD40. Duct tape as you know, is like The Force-it has a dark side and light side and it holds the universe together.

When the great machine orgy called the Industrial Revolution cranked up in Britain, many people came to hate machines. Perhaps because they had to tend them for 17 hour shifts and the ungrateful machines often sucked their tenders into the gears and chewed them up. Perhaps because the stinky, dangerous, alienating factories destroyed the small craftsman; craftsmen who had owned the means of production and operated out of their own homes.

The Luddites took a direct approach to the hateful machines; that is, they took sledgehammers and smashed them. Looking back at all this from a safe distance, the Industrial Revolution is hailed as a major triumph, but everything has its cost, does it not?  For example, the lot of workers in those factories was so bad that their children only had a 50-50 chance of surviving to age five.

Marx and Engels, observing all this, said there must be a better way; the worker, not the big, fat capitalist, should own the means of production. I never fully grasped this concept until I was making a painting one day of life on our childhood farm and I realized that though our income was low, we ate like kings and had everything we needed. We owned the means of production!

The cows, chickens and pigs; the apple trees and berry bushes and the land itself were all the means of production. We worked-boy did we work!-but we did not mind it so much because we were working for ourselves. We always had surplus which we either sold at our little roadside stand or gave away to those unfortunate souls who lacked the means of production.

For many years the vast majority of Americans lived on farms and they all owned the means of production. No more. Now we are wage slaves and owe our souls to the company store. We are unhappy about this, but are not sure why we are unhappy. Cut off from nature and renting out our precious lives by the hour, something just doesn’t seem right. Maybe more money or more stuff will make us happy? Maybe antidepressants will do the trick?

Or maybe, somehow, we need once again to own the means of production?

The Magic Barn: Growing up Wild on a New England Farm   

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