When we tell the story of Superman – the everyman, the visible representative of Truth, Justice, and the American Way – where do we have Clark Kent spending his formative years?
In the countryside, of course.
It’s an archetype, or a trope, depending on who you ask, that cultures throughout the West (if not the world) originate so many of their heroes of both fiction and history in the country. We understand that farm people are more humble, more righteous, harder-working, more integrated.
But what happens when the countryside and farms go away?
You don’t get to have stories of farm kids going to the big city – or out into the great big world – if you don’t have farm parents. And if none of our generation are willing to be those farm parents – and actually farm – then the countryside will retreat even further into myth.
We have taken the countryside for granted, as if it will always be there, while we have moved away from our rural homes and into the suburbs and the high-rises. We expect some “unlucky hayseeds” will take care of the country for us and keep the seedbed of the virtues and heroes we admire (and spare us the hard work).
This is not sustainable. Farm fields are turning into subdivisions and shopping centers, or they’re being fed into the maw of industrial agriculture. Farmers are fewer and more desperate. And the countryside is becoming increasingly mythical, or increasingly desolate.
If we see the countryside as culturally important, we have to actually start living in it, maintaining it, and doing the hunting and fishing and farming of rural people.