María Carrión

Editor's Note: This is an expanded edition to the piece that appears in the July issue of The Progressive.


On a recent afternoon, I found my ten-year-old daughter, Gabriela, in her room, busily writing a list. Leaning over her shoulder, I read the title: "Things I wish didn't exist." Aside from the usual suspects, such as school cafeteria food, wars, and earthquakes, she had also added unemployment, poverty, cutbacks, riot police, Lehman Brothers, and the minister of education. And the list went on.

In the heart of Madrid, nestled in an ancient building adjacent to the historic Plaza Mayor, a small firehouse is charged with protecting some of the city's most cherished cultural heritage. Within striking distance of its two battered fire engines are some of Madrid's oldest buildings, many bearing signs indentifying their illustrious former tenants: the writer Miguel de Cervantes, the painter Diego Velázquez, the playwright Lope de Vega. The majestic 17th Century Santa Cruz Palace housing the Foreign Ministry is within eyeshot of the station.

Spain's general strike on Wednesday November 14th had many demands: an end to austerity measures, particularly cuts to education and health; a repeal of the recent labor laws that make it much cheaper to fire and lay people off, and the introduction of economic stimulus measures to create employment in a country where one out of every four people of working age is unemployed. But one name was mentioned over and over again among protesters, and the strike was in part dedicated to her: Amaia Egaña, the latest victim of the housing crisis and of greedy bank practices.

ON SEPTEMBER 6, AS SPANISH Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy met in his office with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to negotiate the terms for a financial bailout of Spain's wretched economy, across town about 100 people formed a human wall at the entrance of a modest apartment building in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcón. They were blocking three court employees from entering the building to enforce an order issued about 500 times in Spain every day: the eviction of a family after a home repossession.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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