Digital Press-Gang
Jul 5 2021   A product of our knowledge base (The Soil)  Written and recorded by Jo   for TOR-Radio..
A product of our knowledge base

There's a phrase I read somewhere which states we are the sum product of our upbringing. 

I'm not sure if I agree with the narrowness of that statement but I do believe we, 
as individuals, only see the world through the eyes we have learned over the years 
and that will determine what we think and what we believe. 
It will affect our political leanings, our wants and desires, even the sort of people 
we associate with.

Let me explain; I grew up in a rural society before social media, before mobile phones. 
In fact the concept of personal computers hadnít been realised yet. No, we were not 
backward, we were just different then. Where I lived was a small village with one shop, 
a telephone box and three pubs, as well as three or four churches of differing denominations. 
There was a primary and a secondary school and children came from the surrounding area to attend.
Off times in the winter we relied on the local farms for the bulk of our produce and when the 
very bad winters snowed us in for weeks on end, we relied on the nearest farmer, Mr Shaw, 
to bring in milk and other dairy produce, plus whatever meat he had killed and butchered on a 
trailer behind his Ferguson tractor. Vegetables became limited to whatever could be lifted 
from the frozen ground or collected from barn storage. 
In the summer we were able to get salad vegetables for the period they were in season and 
winter time was restricted to cabbage, cauliflower and potatoes with some carrots, Brussels 
and swede.
It was an almost hand to mouth existence by modern day standards and the harshness of those 
times only changed when the village became swallowed up by the spread of the local town and 
a supermarket appeared. No-one was wealthy and few had many possessions but by working with 
the land in our gardens and in our communities, we had a good existence. There were the allotments 
which added to the choices and the Post Office always managed to get sweets for us to drool over 
and buy small quantities of when we had the pocket money. It was the era of Make Do and Mend 
and toys as well as clothes were repaired, remodelled and rotated. 
When I look back on the fashions of the time, they were a combination of what was being got 
rid of by the costume departments of theatres, hand me downs from mums and dads, older brothers, 
sisters, cousins and people over the road, as well as from the houses that had been destroyed 
and owners killed during the war years which had happened some 15 years previously. Nifty mothers 
who had skills with a pattern would unpick an old dress theyíd found at a jumble sale and use 
the material to make childrenís dresses for the summer or trousers for their sons for school. 
Cars were invariably being tinkered with on the drives over the weekend so they lasted longer and 
gardens were kept green and productive.
No, we didn't have kiwi fruit or melons, we didnít have salad leaf selections, tomatoes all year 
round or small portions of fruit pre-prepared in plastic containers,  and we didn't have many of 
the imported green vegetables we can get today, but we ate well and we respected the land which 
gave us that food. You could say we were still close enough to that mud to know its value.
What I'm trying to get to is, because we lived so close to the earth on which we stand each day 
and understood that without it we wouldn't survive, we held it in high respect. We also regarded 
those that tended the land with a higher level of respect than say a politician who sat in an 
office somewhere signing off bits of paper and dictating what the country should do next.

When at university I studied the science of ecology so again was surrounded by those who 
understood the earth and all its vagaries; I was cocooned in the belief everyone thought the 
same as me. 
It wasn't until I got a lot older I realised people who had grown up in town or city environments 
were very different from me. They thought differently, viewed the world differently, I didnít 
understand them at all. They had invariably only known the streets where they lived, the 
factories which surrounded them and everyone they knew worked in them. They expected to go there 
too when they were old enough and had ceased to notice the continual noises which came from the 
machinery in those factories which successfully drowned out the sounds of nature. They would have 
had a very different experience of the earth on which they stood; they didn't have the same 
connection to where their food came from as we did and didn't grasp the link between mud and the 
soil in which the plants grew and animals grazed as we saw every day. As far as they were concerned 
they got food off the market each week and moaned when what they wanted wasn't there. Chances are, 
none of them had seen fields of grain or cows grazing in a field. None had heard the squealing of 
the pigs, experienced the smell of the sty and the spreading of that muck each year. Mud was just 
that mucky stuff which splashed up you when the roads were wet, or the mud on derelict land where 
you had fun playing on and got shouted at by your mum because you were filthy again. To them it 
was just mud not soil.

Now, we have global TV, instant research ability on the internet, Social Media to keep us in touch 
and a myriad of gadgets and technology to entertain us and consume us. Children know how to zoom 
on a screen before they can write. They gaze and attention is held by the flickering videos on a 
phone and they walk about with it as if it is an extension bolted to their wrists. It is normal 
to see people out with earbuds, listening to their own creation of the world and for friend to 
get together to sit in each otherís company but to face their phone and text chat rather than talk. 
Children are not necessarily hearing the sounds of nature anymore because they have been trained to 
respond to a phone, tablet or AI headset. Algorithms control what we are fed on social media and 
amplify our deepening thoughts by repetition and association with those who hold similar views.

So what am I trying to say here?
Our views will be as varied as our upbringings and the environment in which that upbringing happened. 
Our internal values and morals will have been shaped by those experiences and we will have developed 
a language, a code of usage which would reflect that. Trying to marry all these expressions of desire, 
worry and need is a difficult one and is sparking off bitter debate in numerous areas. Now there is 
social media, fake information, memes and viral videos which can destroy or create a personís life. 
There is greater hatred because the algorithms will select more news and info from your choices of 
viewing thus polarising your views even further.

And then we have the mud, the soil itself, lost under the torrent of saving this and that, feeding him
and her, buying desired and wanted but un-needed items just to be chasing the next latest and greatest.

How do we marry these opposing stances and find a middle a through?
For me, the fundamental question is, how do we create a situation where everyone is aware of the 
very stuff we stand on, the soil, and that it is the underpinning of everything on this planet?
Ironically, unless we have this there will be no debate on higher issues such as race, sexuality and 
gender. We won't be fighting over the bits of the planet so as to call it part of one country or another.
There won't be race eradications, murders, theft or any other crime because once we lose the soil, the 
animals and plants become extinct and with it the food we eat.

As more soil dies we either rely on manufactured substances to sustain us made from the detritus left 
behind from dwindling sources or we kill the planet all together and become as Mars has done, a mere 
reflection of its once rich and possibly diverse surface, alive with water and an atmosphere. 

But then, does that matter? After all it won't effect those who are alive right now will it?
No, they can forget this pendulum which is swinging, buy their new phone, new car, the new set of 
collectable plastic toys for their children. Not concern themselves with the mileage on that packet 
of six apples or how many hormones and antibiotics have been injected into the cheap imported meat 
they are buying or the herbicides and pesticides which have been sprayed onto their vegetables and 
fruit to make them grow.
They can continue cementing over the gardens in readiness for parking their car, covering the back in 
decking or slabs or AstroTurf so as to reduce the mess, or make for a place to sit in around a wood 
burning pit and have friends round for a BBQ and drinks or children to celebrate a birthday.
All very lord-able but without awareness (or is it deafness), they are reducing the natural world 
further with every brick that's laid, with every concrete pouring tamped down.
I was delighted to see a growing interest in growing your own and the resurgence in allotments. 
People are discovering the taste one gets from growing and picking your own, and how it is far 
superior to that which is picked weeks before its maturity and held in nitrogen bubbles as it is 
whisked thousands of miles by air from Chile or Egypt or Canada or wherever trade deals have been 
made. Some seeds of realisation are growing in other industries too and the recognition consuming 
and throwing away to get the next latest and greatest, is unsustainable. I noticed even the fashion 
industry is recognising this and has started to think along more sustainable fashion trends. 

Apps such as 'Vinted' have sprung up and a new form of Make Do and Mend is beginning. This time it 
seems to be more, 'Take and Remake'.
I like this approach. It doesn't beat the consumers with the stick it offers 'on trend' carrots and 
for me that is the way to go. Mobile phone manufacturers are being told to update their products for 
longer and white goods are being produced so they can be serviced, something which has been a long 
time coming.

So when will the 'on trend' carrot reach the soil itself?
When will we realise the tiger cannot be saved if we are busy wrecking the very land on which is 
survives? That the polar bear will go hungry until it adapts to the new way of fishing as it 
loses the ice sheets? That countries which are letting their farmers and miners run riot on virginal
territory and are now killing the indigenous populations so as to get unfettered access?

We are indeed the sum product of the experiences in our lifetime and we can only observe and comment 
on what is happening from that world view.

Mine is one of closeness to the earth and the ecology of it, so my eye is biased in that direction.
I am not a stick wielder, an ecowarrior who wants to take down the consumer world, I prefer the 
carrot approach because I find the way to get people to work with you is to get them 'seeing' 
the situation from a different perspective, or at least acknowledging the potential in that view 
and that will only ever be done face to face where what we say is accountable, our extremes notions
of the other person tempered and the algorithms which control so much of what we have signed up to
read and see on social media platforms are broken.

Mud is not mud, its a life force, our life force and we are destroying it with such speed, but 
that is for another discussion and another time.

       Written By Jo.  For broadcast by   TOR Radio   July 2021.