For many, the contemporary icon of the Western genre is that of the semi-nomadic wanderer or the knight errant–the pale rider. While that is a Western motif, it’s usually shown in contrast to the frontier, societal enclave from which fate has removed the rider.
The larger motifs of classic Western literature and film revolve around the local social order maintained by personal codes of honor that are strictly enforced. Abstract law is for sissies and Yankees. Westerns grow organically from the fertile soil of independence and libertarianism.
With a hoe in one hand and a rifle in the other, tough men and women etch meaningful existences from the harsh wilderness environment using their wit and fortitude. Those desiring to exploit the land for easy gain or to pillage others are the enemy. Most simply, the Western is a morality tale caked with dust and manure. And this, dear reader, is what I think Western civilization needs a bit more of presently (both morality and manure).
Morality: This one is easy. Right? The deadbeat outlaw of the old Western who tries to violently take what he/she hasn’t earned is the equivalent to our modern speculators. Our arbitrary and abstract laws are helpless to stop the individual who runs a shell game within the boundaries of the system. How did we get so dependent on making money from the industry of making money? And build an economy on stuff that isn’t stuff at all?
In a Western tale the local population would put together a posse and ride these dangerous outsiders down, delivering swift justice to bring stability back to society. In the contemporary West, we bitch and moan, try to play the system better, cut our losses and elect whichever party is currently out of power due to screwing us over last time.
Manure: This one isn’t quite so obvious. I’m not talking about bulls%@t. That we got plenty of. I’m talking about manure–the smelly, recycled organic material that nurtures new growth. Maybe this is just my libertarianism showing through, but it’s the RedneckGranola’s belief that as long as we encourage the idea that government should do our dirty work for us nothing new will grow.
There was a time when the people who led our nation did so with manure on their clothes. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for vigilantism. I’m just saying that Joe and Jill American should get back to growing something. Do something concrete with your hands. We need to rediscover the value of “real” things.
A potato at the grocery store won’t always be a potato, but a potato you pull from the earth with your own hands has and always will be a potato. You planted it, God made it grow. And you can sink your teeth into it (preferably after cooking it). Bulls%#t can get you far, but ultimately it’s not sustainable. With manure we once grew a civilization.[divider]
If only we can relearn that lesson, we’ll grow one again.