I woke up one morning not long ago, and noticed that the world that I was born into no longer exists. It was as if I had once lived in Republican Italy, took a nap, and awoke to the Roman Empire, AD 200.
Let me explain. All the farms in these environs that I grew up with — 40-80 acres with a farmhouse and family — have simply vanished.
Where did they go?
I suppose when I meet someone with 5,000 acres that I am supposed to think that spread represents the old, and now recombined, 100 50-acre farms under new management. Yet where did the 100 farm households go — and what replaced them?
When I ride around the rural landscape, I see the old skeletons of farmhouses; but they are mostly rented to farm workers. Are the social circumstances of renting a house and working on a 5,000-acre farm different from 100 agrarian households doing it — in terms of local PTA, Little League, the regional hospital board, or city council?
I leave it to you to decide. I can attest only that in terms of agricultural productivity, today’s 8,000-acre almond operations look far more efficient, up to date, and savvy than what 100 80-acre almond orchards used to seem like: old barn, clunky tractors in the yard, kids out in the orchard not up on the latest scientific approaches to fertilization, mom doing the books in a way the computerized corporate whiz kid would laugh at, tight-fisted gramps hobbling about looking for loose tire-popping nails in the alleyway while giving sermons about avoiding a mortgage. Continue reading “The World of the Coliseum”→
In ancient Athens, popular courts of paid jurors helped institutionalize fairness. If a troublemaker like Socrates was thought to be a danger to the popular will, then he was put on trial for inane charges like “corrupting the youth” or “introducing new gods.” Continue reading “Revolutionary Tribunals”→
We all know the usual reasons why we are prodded to read the classics — moving characters, seminal ideas, blueprints of our culture, and paradigms of sterling prose and poetry. Then we nod and snooze. Continue reading “Why Read Old Books?”→
The noun dêmagôgos first appeared in Thucydides’ history, mostly in a neutral, only slight disparaging way (usually in reference to the obstreperous Cleon), in its literal sense of “leader of the people.” Continue reading “The Demagogic Style”→