The Good Life

Un excellent book écrit par Helen et Scott Nearing. Wiliam Coperthwaite cite les Nearing comme source d’inspiration dans A Hand made life – in search of simplicity.
En 1932, Helen et Scott Nearing abandonnent leur vie à New York et achètent un large terrain dans le Vermont. Où ils vivront principalement de leurs forêts et de leur jardin. Le livre est un récit de leur vie et de leur philosophie. Scott Nearing est mort à l’âge de 100 ans. Economistes de formation; Helen et Scott décrivent leur approche et leur méthode de façon détaillée et méticuleuse. La richesse des références utilisées est impressionnante et remarquable.
Les bonnes choses doivent être partagées et voici certains extraits de ce livre, dont nous vous recommandons la lecture. On peut regretter qu’aucun éditeur français ne se soit intéressé à ce remarquable récit, et qu’il n’ait pas encore été traduit en français.
Minou, elle aussi, a beaucoup apprécié.
  • p.5 We left the city with three objectives in mind
The first was economic. We sought to make a depression free living, as independent as possible of the commodity and labor markets, which could not be interfered with by employers, whether business men, politicians or educational administrators. Our second aim was hygienic. We wanted to maintain and improve our health. We knew that the pressures of the city life were exacting, and we sought a simple basis of well being where contact with the earth, and home grown organic food would play a large part.
Our third objective was social and ethical. We desired to liberate et dissociate ourselves, as much as poccible, from the cruder forms of exploitation: the plunder of the planet; the slavery of man and beast; the slaughter of men in war, and of animals for food.
  • p.31 We would attempt to carry on this self-subsistent economy by the following steps: (1) raising as much of our own food as local soil and climatic conditions would permit. (2) Bartening our products for those which we could not or did not produce. (3) Using wood for fuel and cutting it ourselves. (4) Putting up our own buildings with stone and wood from the place, doing the work ourselves. (5) Making such implements as sleds, drays, stone=boats, gravel screens, ladders. (6) Holding down to the barest minimum the number of implements, tools, gadgets and machines which we might buy from the assembly lines of big business (7) If we had to have such machines for a few hours or days in a year *plough, tractor, rototiller, bulldozer, chainsaw), we would rent or trade them for local people instead of buying and owning them.
  • p.32 Ideas of « making money » or « getting rich » have given people a perverted view of economic principles. The object of economic effort is not money, but livelihood. Money can not feed, clothe or shelter. Money is a medium of exchange,-a means of securing the items that make up livelihood. It is the necessaries and the decencies which are important, not the money which may be exchanged for them.
  • p.33 Under any economy, people who rent out money live on easy street. Whether as individuals or banking establishments, they lend money, take security and live on a rich harvest of interest and the proceeds of forced sales. The money lenders are able to enjoy comfort and luxury, without doing any productive labor. It is the borrowing producers who pay the interest or lose their property. Farmers and home owners by the thousands lost everything they had during the Great Depression because they could not meet interest payments. We decided to buy for cash or not at all.
  • p.35 We believe that all life is to be respected -non human as well as human. Therefore, for sport we neither hunt nor fish, nor do we feed on animals. Furthermore, we prefer, in our respect for life, not to enslave or exploit our fellow creatures. Widespread and unwarranted exploitation of domestic animals includes robbing them of their milk or their eggs as well as harnessing them to labor for man. Domestic animals, whether cows, horses, goats, chicken, dogs or cats are slaves. Humans have the power of life or death overt them. Men buy them, own them, sell them, work them, abuse and torture them and have no compunctions against killing and eating them. They compel animals to serve them in multitudinous ways. If the animals resist, rebel or grow old, they are sent to the butcher or else are shot out of hand.
Cats and dogs live dependent subservient lives under the table tops of humans. Domestic pets kill and drive away wild creatures, whose independent, self-respecting lives seem far more admirable than those of docile, dish-fed retainers. We enjoy the wild creatures, and on the whole think they are more lithe, beautiful and healthy than the run of cats and dogs, although some of our best friends in vermont have been canine and feline neighbors.
  • p.91 The keystone of our economy was our food supply. As food  costs are the largest single item in the budget of low income families, if we could raise most of our food instead of buying it on the market, we could make a substantial reduction in our cash outlay and in our required cash income. (…) This decision brought us face to face with three stubborn facts, the Vermont climate, the pitch of the land, and the depleted soil.
  • p.121 most of the food consumed by human beings comes directly from the upper few inches of top soil. A whole soil is one that contains the ingredients necessary to produce sturdy healthy vegetation of the required variety and species. Different plants have different nutritional needs and offer various combinations of minerals, vitamins and enzymes to the animals and humans who consume them. Soil wholeness may be upset by erosion, by cropping, by improper fertilizers. Until the solid balance is restored, the products of an unbalanced soil will be unbalanced vegetation. If such vegetation is consumed, it may transfer its unbalance to the user, causing a person who eats « good food » by ordinary standards, to be far from well.
  • p.122 Good food should be grown on the whole soil, be eaten whole, unprocessed and garden fresh. Even the best products of the best soils lose more or less of their nutritive value if they are processed. Any modification at all is likely to reduce the nutritive value of a whole food. Peeling tomatoes, scrapping carrots, milling wheat, cooking green peas, removes essential partis of the food, causes chemical changes, or drives off vitamins.
  • p.142 We were looking for a kindly, decent, clean and simple way of life. Long ago we decided to live in the vegetarian way, without killing or eating animals; and lately we have largely ceased to use dairy products and have allied ourselves with the vegans, who use and eat no animal products, butter, cheese eggs or milk. This is all in line with our philosophy of the least harm to the least number and the greatest good to the greatest number of life forms.
  • p.144 Apply to vegetables and fruit the principles of wholeness, rawness, garden freshness, and one or few things at a meal, and you have the theory of our simple diet. In practice, the theory gave us a formulated regime, fruit for breakfast, soup and cereal for lunch, salad and vegetables for supper. (…)  We often had a one-day exclusive apple diet to revivify and cleanse the system. (…) Gourmets amongst us dipped whole bananas in honey and then in wheatgerm. Quarter sections of apples were dipped the same way, or spread with peanut butter. Nuts were often cracked and eaten with the apples. Berries were served with maple syrup or honey, or eaten dry. Breakfast was rounded up by a handful of sunflower seeds, herb tea sweetened with honey, or a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in hot water.
  • p.145 We have gone for months at a time with no breakfast at all and maintained health and suffered no discomfort though carrying on a full program of work. For ten years we have eaten fruit for our first meal of the day, and yet put in four solid hours of hard physical or mental work until lunch. We felt better, worked better and lived better on it than after a stuffy starch, protein-rich breakfast.
  • p.148 All of our meals were eaten at wooden plank table, in wooden bowls, the same bowl right through the meal. This practically eliminated the dish washing problem. With no sauces, no frying and the like, there were few dishes to wash and pans to scrub. (…) We also felt than wooden eating utensils were more neutral and modified the flavor less than the metallic table tools.
These food habits of ours we found simple, economical, and practicable, though they were perhaps not usuals for 20th century Americans. With advancing civilization, the American diet pattern, like everything else, has undergone a thorough-going change. The business of procuring the necessities of life has been shifted form the wood lot, the garden, the kitchen and the family to the factory and the large-scale enterprise. in our case, we moved our center back to the land. There we raised the food we ate. We found it sufficient, delicious and nourishing.  On this diet we maintained a rugged health and patronized no doctors. (….) With vegetables, fruits, nuts and cereals we proved that one could maintain a healthy body as an operating base for a sane mind and a purposeful harmless life.
  • p.151 Livelihood is the central core around which most people build their lives. (…) The majority of human beings, notably in industrial communities, dedicate their best hours in their best years to getting an income and exchanging it for the necessaries and decencies of physical and social existence. Children, old people, the crippled, the sick, the voluntarily parasitic are at least partially freed from livelihood preoccupations. Able bodied adults have little choice. They must meet the demands of livelihood or pay a heavy penalty in social disapproval, insecurity, anxiety and finally in physical hardship.
Livelihood needs, particularly for the necessities, are continuous, operating every day, of every month, of every year.  An interruption in the supply of necessary goods and services, even for a short time, results in hardship and creates an atmosphere of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. By what means are the stability and security of livelihood to be safeguarded ?
(…) We would suggest seven procedures which will maximize the stability and security of livelihood.
First, regulating the sources of livelihood in such a manner that all able-bodied adults will render a service in exchange for income, thus eliminating the social divisions which develop when a part of the community lives on unearned income while the remainder exchanges labor power for its livelihood.
Second, avoid gross and glaring inequalities in livelihood status.
Third, budget and plan the community economy.
Fourth, keep community books and open the accounts to public inspection.
Fifth, pay as you go, either in labor or in materials, this avoiding inflation.
Sixth, practice economy, conserving resources, producing and consuming as little as necessary rather than as much as possible.
Seventh, provide a wide range of social services based upon specialization and cooperation.
  • p.153 Thoreau said on cutting one’s own fuel:  » It warms us twice, and the first warmth is the most wholesome and memorable, compared with which the other is mere coke… The greatest value is received before the wood is teamed home. »
  • p.154 Our purpose (…) was not to multiply food, housing, fuel and the other necessaries, but to get only enough of these things to meet the requirements of a living standard that would maintain our physical efficiency and at the same time provide us with no end in itself;  rather it was a vestibule into an abundant and rewarding life. Therefore we produced the necessaries only to a point which would provide for efficiency. When we reached that point we turned our attention and energies from bread labor to avocations or to social pursuits.
Current practice in US economy called upon the person who had met his needs for necessaries to turn his attention forthwith to procuring comforts and conveniences, and after that to luxuries and superfluities. Only by such procedures could an economy based on profit accumulation hope achieve the expansion needed to absurd additional profits and pay a return to those investing in the new industries.
Our practice was almost the exact opposite of the current one. ur consumer necessaries came mostly from the place, on a use basis. Comforts and conveniences came from outside the farm and had to be procudre either by barter or through cash outlays. (…) « Earn a little and spend a little less ».  Food from the garden and wood from the forest were the product of our time and labor. We paid no rent. Taxes were reasonable. We bought no candy, pastries, meats, soft drinks, alcohol, tea, coffee or tobacco. These seemingly minor items mount up and occupy large place in the ordinary’s family’s budget.
  • p.155 Mark Twain: Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unneccessary necessaries. A market seeks by ballyhoo to bamboozle consumers into buying things they neither or want, thus compelling them to sell their labor power as a means of paying for their purchases. Since our aim was liberation from the exploitation accompanying the sale of labor power, we were as wary of market lures as a wise mouse is wary of other traps.
  • p.158 City dwellers, accustomed to a wide variety of services, get to a point at which they believe that the essential questions of day to day living can be settled by arrangement, chiefly over a telephone. A customer with a ten dollar bill can get wonderful results in a department store. But put the same person in the backwoods with a problem to be solved and an inadequate supply of materials and tools. There money is useless, Instead, ingenuity, skill, patience and persistence are the coin current. The store customer, who comes home with a package under his arm  has learned nothing, except that a ten dollar bill is a source of power in the market place. The man or woman who has converted material into needed products via tools and skills has matured in the process.
  • p.159 William Cooper « It is not large funds that are wanted, but a constant supply, like a small stream that never dies. To have a great capital is not so necessary as to know how to manage a small one and never be without a little. »
  • p.192 We are opposed to the theories of a competitive, acquisitive, aggressive, war-making social order, which butchers for food and murders for sport and for power. The closer we have to come to this social order the more completely are we a part of it. Since we reject it in theory, we should , as far as possible, reject it also in practice. On no other basis can theory and practice be unified. At the same time, and to the utmost extent, we should live as decently, kindly, justly, orderly and efficiently as possible. Human beings, under any set of circumstances, can behave well or badly. Whatever the circumstances, it is better to love, create and construct than to hate, undermine and destroy, or, what may be even worse at times, ignore and lassoer passer.



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