Thursday, August 10, 2006
Later, I went to gather some of these humble fruit; “humble” to distinguish them from the pretentious pocket computer of the same name. There were plenty of passers-by, but only one man stopped to pick, popping them straight in his mouth. I recall reading about the excited pilgrimages people made in the Twenties to pick beech-mast, a meagre nut that as a child I never managed to find before the squirrels had eaten them.
In the supermarket, there had been signs offering “blackberries” but they were blueberries, imported from elsewhere: a sad indication that people cannot recognise their own wild fruit any more.
How has this happened? The word “peasant” has become a term of abuse, but I aspire to nothing higher. Perhaps it has always been a stigma to pick wild berries, a shameful sign of poverty, though I was taught it by my upper-class grandmother.
Noisy polluting trucks passed nearby as I picked, perhaps bringing imported fruit to the supermarket. We’re content to let others plant and harvest our necessities, whilst we trade abstractions and suffer obesity and depression. We are pathetically enslaved to our supermarkets, which push down prices on our behalf to enslave those we have never seen. Then our charitable organisations send aid to the countries we have robbed.
In my adopted land, England, there was much poverty in the later eighteenth century. Those who stole to eat were transported to my birthplace, Australia. The rest flocked to dark Satanic mills to staff the Industrial Revolution. At the start of the twentieth century, Taylorism completed the project of depriving the working man of pride in his skills and handiwork.
If you organised them into gangs and paid them, people would certainly pick blackberries. If you produced television documentaries to tell them what’s in front of their own eyes, they might open them and see. But I’m in danger of distinguishing myself from “people”, and getting sad about humanity. I’ll go and make some blackberry jam.
Posted by Vincent at 11:29 am