Is gardening a political act?
My last post seemed to open the floodgates to debate on my political affiliations and my philosophical standpoint, which I found mildly flattering, highly amusing and ultimately somewhat perplexing.
From ultra-conservative Rush Limbaugh on one end of the scale to founder of anarchist thought Prince Petr Kropotkin on the other, my desire to grow vegetables on my balcony seems to have struck an altogether more political chord.
The highly amused Brit in me wants to say: "What utter bollocks!", but I was too well brought-up for that so I did a bit of research into the subject and the results have been interesting, if not exactly surprising.
I've touched on guerrilla gardening before and the history of the Diggers in Great Britain, and discussed the resurgence of so-called Victory gardening both in the US and the UK. It would seem that growing your own fruit and vegetables has some pretty radical roots, does it not?
The desire to "take back the land" and somehow cut out the middle man from the food chain, the goal of having some sort of control over your own destiny: it's pretty heady stuff. Mind you, I've noticed from trawling around the Internet and checking out various articles that there's something of a divide amongst the Brits and the Americans when it comes to the political side of things.
This is a sweeping generalisation, but the US side of blogging/articles seems to come down firmly on the "gardening as political act". In The Blog Generation Takes Up Its Trowels - The New York Times:
I have no earthly idea what "avant-garde knitting" is. I'm not sure I even want to know, to be honest.
And again, from Victory gardens sprout up again - Los Angeles Times:
"For me, it's much more a political question than a gardening question," Young said, adding that when her family moved to the house 10 years ago, she asked: "What are we doing with all this grass?" Though she claimed she had too little time to be a top-notch gardener, last month beets, carrots, lettuces, basil and parsley were growing steps from her front door. Gardening, she said, is one thing she can do, "a step in the right direction."
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that people in the US are citizens, whereas the population of the UK are subjects. You take your rights very seriously indeed: it's written into your constitution. We put two fingers up at authority and say "Bollocks to you, Queenie."
Because I've noticed that the UK side of Victory gardening, Guerrilla gardening and so on has a very distinct air of mischief about it. It feels more like being a pirate and seeing how much you can get away with before the Lord of the Land takes your tools away.
So you can see why I'm amused at the discussion of my political affiliations. I don't really have any. The Lord of the Land annoys me, but I just get on with things and see how much I can get away with. I'm descended from pirates and peasants and I have very low expectations.
You landed on the Moon: our Hadron Collider fell over. You protested against Vietnam and burned draft cards: we put garden turf on Winston Churchill's head. We don't really complain much (we grumble but we don't actively complain) and we don't like to make a fuss.
I'm planting vegetables on my balcony because no one's told me I can't. Yet. And if they do, I'll just find somewhere else to plant them.
Zen Brit: there you go. Have some fun with that.