Voices 07/12/2009

The right to be farmer

The concept of “active citizenship” has been used for years, and it is now time to start using the concept of “active right to farming”, like “to be farmers” would require a right similar to the right of citizenship.

The Italian dictionary Devoto-Oli so defines the substantive “citizenship”: “Bond of inclusion in a State, required and documented to take advantage of rights and to submit to specific burdens”.

Since the French Revolution, the cultural synonym of the word citizen has been “person with equal and full rights”. Active citizenship today means a full involvement in the life of the community of which one is member, assuming roles of responsibility and making shared choices.

There is no such word referred to the world of farming in the dictionary. The farmer is “the worker of the land, specifically on behalf of a land owner. In pejorative sense: rough and goofy person”.

We had better turn this cultural prejudice inside out, because being farmers is not despicable. We are all farmers of this land, with a right to it.
A true literary masterpiece is certainly the page that the student of the Barbiana school dedicate to the farming culture in “Letter to a teacher”.

We cannot dwell on the mountains. Too many of us live in the fields. All economists agree on these points. What if they did not? Imagine what our parents would do to prevent their children to be cut out. Therefore, the field inhabitants should welcome those who cannot dwell on the mountains, and not just as second class citizens, good for working only. Each population has its own culture, and none has less culture than another. Our culture is a gift for you. This is a little bit of life in the arid books written by people who only read books.

A subsidiary is all about plants, animals, seasons. It looks like only a farmer could write it. Instead, the authors come out of your school. Look at the figures: left handed farmers, round spade, hooked hoes, blacksmiths using devices used by the Romans, cherry trees with the leaves of a plum tree. My elementary school teacher told me: - Climb that tree and pick two cherries for me -. When my mom got to know it said: - Who qualified her to teach? I was not qualified, but I know trees one by one and I know them because I pruned them, I harvested them, I cooked the bread with their fruit. –I even know the meaning of words that she marked as mistakes, saying that they are badly spelled because the Romans wrote them differently, and then she goes to look for the true meaning on the dictionary, in secret. -

Also, you know less than us on the mankind. The elevator is a machine to ignore neighbors. The car, to ignore people who take the tramway. The phone, not to look in the eyes, and to prevent from getting into home. Maybe you don’t know this, but your students who know everything about Cicero, how many families of alive do to they know? Of how many did they see the kitchen? Of how many did they bring the dead on their shoulders? On how many people can they rely in case of need? If not for the flood, they would not even know how many people live in the apartment at the ground floor.

I spent a year with those schoolmates and I do not know anything about their homes, even though they never shut up, and their voices often overlap, in a way that each one only listens to himself or herself. Thousands engines rumble out of your windows every day, but you do not know who they are neither where they go. I can interpret the sounds of this valley for miles. This engine in the distance is Nevio, who is running late to the station. Do you want me to tell you all things on hundreds of creatures, dozens families, relatives, ties? If you talk to a worker, you do it all wrong: wrong words, wrong tone, and wrong jokes. I know what a mountaineer thinks when he does not speak and I know what he thinks while he says something else.
This is the culture that wished your beloved poets. Nine tenths of the world has it and nobody could represent it in writings, paintings, and movies. Be humble, at least! Your culture has as big holes as ours. Maybe even bigger. For sure, more harmful to a primary school teacher”.

di Gianfranco Zavalloni