Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peasants In The Castle

I have a friend whose life and political views nearly coincide with mine. We agree on many things, and disagree on few. We share similar backgrounds, although mine is more recent. He used to be a journalist. He still writes, but he has given up working for monetary gain. He says, “People no longer want to hear the truth.” Even worse, he has given up his last forum, a website that he had maintained for some years. He still writes, but only to a limited audience. He lets me see all his literary production. With his permission I decided to share with you this piece from his autobiography.

In the eighth year of my life I was to spend the summer with my uncle and his family in a distant farm town. Upon my arrival at the railroad station a few miles from town, he met me. We walked along the dusty road mostly in silence since we really did not know each other. As we reached the edge of town I saw a building whose spires and steeply sloping roofs towered above the ancient trees around it. He noticed my interest. However, since I did not ask, he did not say anything.

He had a small farm that he worked with the help of his family. They were not prosperous, but did well under the circumstances. In addition to working the collective farm, my uncle was compelled to give a large percentage of his small farm’s produce in taxes. Once or twice a month he was also expected to provide the use of his horses to the community for general freight services. It was on such occasion that I rode into town with him and asked him about the mysterious building among the huge trees.

After we dropped off the horses we came to the place surrounded by wrought iron-on-stonewall fence. Just inside the fence were shrubs with deep green leaves, keeping a solid screen between where we were, and what might be on the other side. Past the shrubs huge trees obscured most of the building behind. As we walked along the weed-covered gravel road toward the building more of it became visible. Tall windows in the front, balconies, spires, and towers around graced the magnificent edifice. But many of the windows were broken or hanging askew.

A large clearing from the bordering trees offered the view of what was once a garden with low walls blending into the centerpiece of a fountain. The fountain was silent. Around the fountain was a once-stately stone walkway leading to a pool. Weeds and shrubs filled the cracks between the stones, lifting some above their neighbor. The granite and marble walls of the pool were mostly obscured by the trash that filled
it.

The doors leading to the front entrance of the castle used to be under a portcullis. Now they were both missing. We walked into a great hall. The marble floors were barely there, most pieces having been removed. The chandeliers were smashed or missing with bare wires and chains hanging from the domed ceiling. Doors to adjacent rooms were mere doorways. The kitchen was gutted. Some of the rooms showed signs of occupation by animals, and in some cases, humans.

I threw up my breakfast. Looking guiltily at my uncle I heard him say, “Don’t worry, the pigs will clean it up.” After I recovered we left. I asked him about the history of this place.

"A Baron owned the town and most of the land around it. He provided employment to any who was interested. His lands needed people skilled in farming and animal husbandry. The town supported the local needs, and tradesmen and merchants provided the skill and material. He built and supported a school for the children. Because the railroad ran several miles from town, the Baron spent his own money to build a narrow-gage railroad between the station and town. That made it possible to move freight and people regardless of the winter snows, or the summer mud. Local shops sold merchandise produced there, or brought in by train from nearby cities. Grain and livestock were hauled to the railroad station. Most people prospered, most were satisfied.

"But it appeared that some people were not satisfied. Some chose not to make a good living by working for wages. They said that it was not right that the landowners had all the riches and goods, while they had nothing.

"So, there was a revolution. Afterward those who owned anything of value were killed or sent away, so that their wealth could be given to the rightful owners. The merchants in town lost their shops to looting at first, and then to the local revolutionaries. The skilled farmers who used to work for the landowner while thriving on their own small farms were told to join a collective farm. They did, because the small farms they had were taken from them, and tossed into the collective pool. The revolutionaries insisted that now everybody owned everything, and were to share the proceeds equally. Nobody needed to starve. There were to be no more privileged people.

"The revolutionaries put their own people in charge to run the collective farm, and also the local collective industry to produce manufactured goods. The new people in charge knew nothing about what they were doing, so the output of the collective enterprises was dismal. At this point even the productive people were nearly starving.

"The narrow gage railroad was given to the people who should have owned it in the first place. Each town folk was allowed to take several pieces of rail with the attached ties. They did. The railroad became history. The rutted road between the station and town offered mud or snow depending on the season, to those who cared to walk or drive their horse cart. The local industry died, the merchants no longer existed. There was no more product to haul to the railroad station.

"The revolutionaries gave the castle to the rightful owners who subsequently moved in. Their pigs did their best to clean up the garbage, but they were not equipped to repair the roof or to replace the doors and windows that some used for firewood. When the new rightful owners complained to the revolutionaries they were killed. The castle was now vacant, beyond the ability of anyone to repair it.

"Things have changed some since that time, but nothing is as good as it was in the Baron’s time. Those of us who work have to work harder than before. There are still some who refuse to work.

"We are expected to be thankful to the revolutionaries for our liberation and distribution of the wealth of the Baron. In payment for this we have to share the product of our labor with them. They have the biggest houses, they live better, and they send their children to private schools. And just like us, they have their jobs for life."

1 comment:

Canoe said...

I totally agree, I keep telling my lib friends that if we (Republicans) had stayed in power for just 4 more years, we would have fixed everything by the end of the next term.