An Interview With Wendell Berry
The first necessity is to teach the young. If we teach the young what we already know, we would do outlandishly better than we’re doing. Knowledge is overrated, you know. There have been cultures that did far better than we do, knowing far less than we know. We need to see that knowledge is overrated, but also that knowledge is not at all the same thing as “information.” There’s a world of difference — Wes Jackson helped me to see this — between that information to which we now presumably have access by way of computers, libraries, and the rest of it, great stockpiles of data, and the knowledge that people have in their bones by which they do good work and live good lives.
The map I left for my wife merely depicted a mountain a hundred miles north of home, and I was twenty miles from the pavement. Soon the sun would be out of sight, and everyone knows what happens on a warm night in the desert when the sun goes down: the snakes come out. And the Mojave green rattler was indigenous to the area. While it was true I had a snakebite kit, it was also true that you can’t walk far once bitten and even bites that are nonlethal can result in permanent crippling.
This is a book about sales resistance. We live in a time when technologies and ideas (often the same thing) are adopted in response not to need but to advertising, salesmanship, and fashion. Salesmen and saleswomen now hover about us as persistently as angels, intent on “doing us good” according to instructions set forth by persons educated at great public expense in the arts of greed and prevarication. These salespeople are now with most of us, apparently, even in our dreams.
She had lung cancer that had metastasized to her spine, liver, abdomen — everywhere except her brain. She was aware and alert and could feel it all. When I would come into the room, she’d ask me if I would help her die; she couldn’t go on this way. In those days, a patient would have to wait three hours between pain shots.
“Krome was set up on an abandoned missile base in the middle of a swamp. It’s big enough to hold about a thousand people, but they’ve got to have twice that many there now. All kinds of human rights violations. Not enough toilets, not enough water. These people haven’t done anything, but they’re being treated worse than convicted criminals. They even put hormones in the food to keep the men from rioting. It’s a concentration camp. You’ll see,” he promises me.
It snowed three nights in a row, the first heavy snowfall in Livorno in more than twenty years. The Red Brigade, angered by US. involvement in Vietnam, were busy that month spray painting US GO HOME in jagged red letters all over the American-owned cars in town.