The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

Everyone should read this book to understand the demise of American agriculture, which has led to the dysfunction of our society and our health. “The Unsettling of America” by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry writes here during a rainstorm in Kentucky, watching the creeks and rivers run brown with soil.

“In the past several days I have seen some of the worst-eroded corn fields that I have seen in this country in my life. This erosion is occurring on the cash-rented farms of farmers’ widows and city farmers, absentee owners, the the doctors and businessmen who buy a farm for the tax breaks or to have a “quiet place in the country” for the weekends. It is the direct result of economic and agricultural policy. The signs of the “agridollar”, big-business fantasy mentality.. are all present: the absenteeism, the temporary and shallow interest of the land-renter, the row-cropping of slopes, the lack of rotation, the plowed-out waterways, the rows running up and down hills, Looked at from the field’s edge, this is ruin, criminal folly, moral idiocy. Looked at from Washington, D.C., from inside the “economy”, it is called “free enterprise” and “full production”.
And around me here, as everywhere else I have been in this country – in Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, New York, New England, Tennessee – the farmland is in general decline: fields ad whole farms abandoned, given up with their scars unmended, washing away under the weeds and bushes; fine land put to row crops year after year, without rest or rotation; buildings and fences going down; good houses standing empty, unpainted, their windows broken.
And it is clear to anyone who looks carefully at any crowd that we are wasting our bodies exactly as we are wasting our land. Our bodies are fat, weak, joyless, sickly, ugly, the virtual prey of the manufacturers of medicine and cosmetics. Our bodies have become marginal; they are growing useless like our “marginal” land because we have less and less use for them. After the games and idle flourishes of modern youth, we can use them only as shipping cartons to transport our brains and our few employable muscles back and forth to work.
As for our spirits, they seem more and more to comfort themselves by buying things. No longer in need of the exalted drama of grief and joy, they feed now on little shocks of greed, scandal, and violence. For many of the churchly, the life of the spirit is reduced to a dull preoccupation with getting to Heaven. At best, the world is no more than an embarrassment and a trial to the spirit, which is otherwise radically separated from it. The true lover of God must not be burdened with any care or respect for His works. While the body goes about its business of destroying the earth, the soul is supposed to lie back and wait for Sunday, keeping itself free of earthly contaminants. While the body exploits other bodies, the soul stands aloof, free from sin, crying to the gawking bystanders:”I am not enjoying it !”…This separation of the soul from the body and from the world is no disease of the fringe, no aberration, but a fracture that runs through the mentality of institutional religion like a geologic fault. And this rift in the mentality of religion continues to characterize the modern mind, no matter how secular the world becomes.”