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The Boer War

Ordinary Dutch farmers are sick of their ruling class governing not in their interest, but for international elites.
The Boer War

Boer” is the Dutch word for “farmer”; it’s where we get the English word “boor,” meaning an uncouth person. The Dutch farmers staging mass protests in the Netherlands these days may or may not be uncouth, but I support them.

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What’s going on? From ABC:

The unrest among Dutch farmers was triggered by a government proposal to slash emissions of pollutants like nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50% by 2030. Provincial governments have been given a year to formulate plans to achieve the goal.

More:

The reforms are expected to include reducing livestock and buying up some farms whose animals produce large amounts of ammonia. Farmers argue they are being unfairly targeted and are being given no perspective for their future.

Police looked on but did not immediately take action Monday as some 25 tractors parked outside a distribution center for supermarket chain Albert Heijn in the town of Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam. Placards and banners affixed to the tractors read messages including, “Our farmers, our future.”

A tractor at another protest, in the northern town of Drachten, urged people to “think for a moment about what you want to eat without farmers.”

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This Politico piece goes deeper into the background. Excerpt:

The Netherlands has long been proud of its intensive farming, which makes it the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter by value after the United States. Its model, however, is no longer looking sustainable: Emissions of phosphates and nitrogen from tightly packed herds mean the country is blasting through the margins permitted in the EU’s Habitats Directive.

For now, the Dutch look set to be the first to need a new policy to tackle this conundrum in their coalition talks. Other countries like Belgium and Germany are also soon likely to have to make hard decisions. Finally, Dutch politicians are beginning to break taboos by airing the prospect of massive cuts in animal numbers, land buyouts and even expropriations — all in a country where farmland is astronomically expensive.

The matter exploded to the top of the agenda in late September, thanks to a leaked document from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) commissioned by the Dutch ministries of agriculture and finance. It revealed several scenarios were drawn up to buy out farmers. In one, buyouts were no longer optional if required, but compulsory.

Eva Vlaardingerbroek is all over this story:

She may be right about that, but I am more concerned about EU bureaucrats driving farmers off their land. Some months ago I met an Italian from southern Italy who told me that farmers there who had been growing citrus since time out of mind were forbidden to do so because of EU rules, while citrus from other countries was being imported. An entire ancient way of life was being disrupted, and for what? Who benefits? From National Geographic:

Prosciutto di Parma, pecorino Romano, Pachino tomatoes, Sicilian tuna and oranges, Parmigiano-Reggiano.

One of the joys of traveling through Italy is discovering hyperlocalized foods like these on your plate. In fact, the country arguably set the standard for mouthwatering, farm-to-table cuisine.

But in recent years, Italy—with its growing population and membership in the European Union—has begun to import not only foods that aren’t part of its core culinary traditions, but also foods that are.

Serena Bordonaro, a beekeeper in Tuscany, says trade agreements threaten to destroy the little producers dotting the countryside. Part of the work of local apiarists, she says, has been to educate against the use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture. Now, though, the majority of honey in the region comes from Eastern Europe and China. She feels the quality is low and the tradition of local farming is slipping away. It’s a vicious cycle. The more foods are imported, the less Italians study their own land—and the less they know what to do with it.

It’s a familiar tale of industry and agri-business usurping the need for family-run farming and gardening, which had been the norm for most Italians living in rural areas for centuries. Up until recently, fruits and vegetables weren’t items to be purchased in markets. People ate with the seasons because they ate what they had.

Just as in other countries, family size decreased through the decades. It became increasingly difficult to work the land. People began to work in cities and rely on grocery stores. Now, those stores carry products from all over the world. To keep up with demand, olive oil, that most Italian of staples, is imported—mostly from Greece and Spain. Inexpensive citrus fruits also come from Spain. Garlic comes from China. Dairy products come from Germany. Italians today are torn between the convenience and low cost of these items on the one hand and their history of bountiful local cultivation on the other.

A few years ago, I wrote about the prejudices against French farmers by the technocrats, and quoted a mainstream journalist’s article describing French farmers as pigs with their snouts in a trough of subsidies. Meanwhile, there is an epidemic of suicides among French farmers, who are being driven out of business, and losing their way of life. Excerpt from my piece back then:

From the point of view of strict economic rationality, it might not make a lot of sense to subsidize a national farming industry. But if you lose small family farms — especially in France, where they have long been an important part of the national How much identity — you will be losing something the value of which cannot be measured by accountants and government planners eager to embrace globalism.

I don’t know if Wendell Berry has been translated into French, but I will be telling my French listeners about him. For example:

Disparagements of farmers, of small towns, of anything identifiable as “provincial” can be found everywhere: in comic strips, TV shows, newspaper editorials, literary magazines, and so on. A few years ago, The New Republic affirmed the necessity of the decline of family farms in a cover article entitled “The Idiocy of Rural Life.” And I remember a Kentucky high school basketball cheer that instructed the opposing team:

“Go back, go back, go back to the woods.
Your coach is a farmer and your team’s no good.”

I believe it is a fact, proven by their rapidly diminishing numbers and economic power, that the world’s small farmers and other “provincial” people have about the same status now as enemy civilians in wartime. They are the objects of small, “humane” consideration, but if they are damaged or destroyed “collaterally,” then “we very much regret it,” but they were in the way — and, by implication, not quite as human as “we” are.

The industrial and corporate powers, abetted and excused by their many dependents in government and the universities, are perpetrating a sort of economic genocide — less bloody than military genocide, to be sure, but just as arrogant, foolish, and ruthless, and perhaps more effective in ridding the world of a kind of human life. The small farmers and the people of small towns are understood as occupying the bottom step of the economic stairway and deservedly falling from it because they are rural, which is to say not metropolitan or cosmopolitan, which is to say socially, intellectually, and culturally inferior to “us.”

Dutch farmers areMore:

But the prejudice against rural people is not merely an offense against justice and common decency. It also obscures or distorts perception of issues and problems of the greatest practical urgency. The unacknowledged question beneath the dismissal of the agrarian small farmers is this: What is the best way to farm — not anywhere or everywhere, but in every one of the Earth’s fragile localities? What is the best way to farm this farm? In this ecosystem? For this farmer? For this community? For these consumers? For the next seven generations? In a time of terrorism? To answer those questions, we will have to go beyond our preconceptions about farmers and other “provincial” people.

And we will have to give up a significant amount of scientific objectivity, too. That is because the standards required to measure the qualities of farming are not just scientific or economic or social or cultural, but all of those, employed all together. This line of questioning finally must encounter such issues as preference, taste, and appearance. What kind of farming and what kind of food do you like? How should a good steak or tomato taste? What does a good farm or good crop look like? Is this farm landscape healthful enough? Is it beautiful enough? Are health and beauty, as applied to landscapes, synonymous?

With such questions, we leave objective science and all other specialized disciplines behind, and we come to something like an undepartmented criticism or connoisseurship that is at once communal and personal. Even though we obviously must answer our questions about farming with all the intellectual power we have, we must not fail to answer them also with affection. I mean the complex, never-completed affection for our land and our neighbors that is true patriotism.

I welcome correction by Dutch readers more familiar with the situation, but it seems to me that these 21st-century Boers are fighting a war against the Machine, on behalf of us all. And it looks like at least some of their fellow Dutchmen are on their side:

How much are you hearing about this revolt in the US media? It’s very big news here. Ordinary people in the Netherlands are sick and tired of the technocrats who rule them not in their own interest, but in the interests of a transnational elite. It’s about damn time.

(Folks, I apologize for the light posting. I have spent over 24 hours trying to get this post into print — either my computer is losing its mind, or we are having trouble within the TAC system as we migrate everything over to the new website for launch. If you don’t see much from me today or tomorrow, know that it’s only because I’m having immense technical difficulties.)

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