I just spent a week picking walnuts on the lovely Wonnangatta River near Dargo. A mate of mine casually asked if we would like to spend Easter at his parent’s walnut farm in a steep mountain valley, far from the madding crowd. ‘Will we get to pick some walnuts?” “Oh yes there will be plenty of time to pick walnuts between drinking red wine and swimming in the river and singing songs around the camp fire.”
Little did we realise we were being seduced into a full scale industrial operation involving a mind boggling array of machinery that I never dreamed existed. We began with a simple tractor attachment that shook the living daylights out of the trees, leaving sticks, leaves, bird’s nests, bird’s eggs, sleepy possums and walnuts strewn hither and thither. Next cab off the rank was some kind of new fangled street sweeper that brushed the nuts into neat little rows, already for the approaching behemoth, the biggest vacuum cleaner I have ever laid eyes on, sucking up everything in sight, deftly sorting the detritus; sticks, leaves, birds,eggs,possums,my hat, etc, then popping the nuts into hessian sacks ready for the oxen to transport them to the next shinny whirligig; the sorting barrel. And so it went on from dawn to dusk, day after day with us little ants scampering about keeping the giant machines whiring. As the sun set behind the lofty mountains, we were finally allowed to down tools and down beers. (Luckily the sun sets around 4 in the deep river valley)
But just as the sweat begins to dry and the aching in the weary bones subsides, the wailing begins. It turns out we are the only slaves who have turned up without the prerequisite number of offspring in tow. 3 being the optimum number. You would call them rug rats if only they would confine themselves to the rug. In this case we had identical twins operating in tandem. No sooner were they plonked on the said rug than Birthmarkonforehead distracts my attention by making a B line for the roaring log fire while Nobirthmark manages to evade my defences, pull itself up the arm of my chair and pour my entire glass of cold beer over its grinning little dial. I was not amused; junior was non plussed, the parents just scowled at me under their breath as if the entire fiasco was caused by my lack of understanding of early childhood development.
Although I do have to admit to the odd moment of sublime contemplation while the recalcitrant machines were in repair mode, as I swept up the walnuts with a wooden broom in the anachronistic fashion of our ancestors, feeling not unlike your proverbial Zen Buddhist. It was during one of these times of heightened consciousness that I experienced a moment of ‘cognitive dissonance’, an epiphany no less. It is the substance of that revelation that I would like to share with you right here on this very page.
Whilst we were all whistling merrily or idly chatting as we went about our simple tasks (except those manning the machines-or to be strictly P.C. – womanising the machines) the thought popped into my head; ‘why don’t we abolish work altogether and forever from the face of the earth’. Here we all are having a jolly time of it. Raking or cleaning or sorting or stacking; a crystal clear river chortling in the background, surrounded by the exquisite beauty of the natural world, eating good food, quaffing good wine, sharing good company, watching the next generation grow up around our feet. What more could you ask for? This is not work. The farm is small. 20 able bodies easily picked and packed 3 tons of walnuts in less than a week, and that is not including the children under 5 (over half the workforce) being well fed despite making no positive contribution. Plus we all got a lovely sack of organic walnuts. (Unless we were slack, then we just got the sack) Whilst I whiled away my lunch break gnoring on my ration of bread and cheese my mind extrapolated, as it is want to do when left unleashed. ‘Surely most of the drudgery of 9 to 5 – 5 days a week could be replaced by the fun of a bunch of friends sharing the novelty of doing something completely different for a week or so, to be replaced by another group, and so on and so on. It is said that a change is as good as a holiday, isn’t it? In the fruit picking game, the growers are screaming out for illegal immigrants to do what soon becomes a tiresome job. But pickers do actually enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow toilers. Well, lets take the holly dollar out of the equation; wouldn’t that be nice for a change? The farmer would get her cut for running the show and everyone else would come away with a meaningful experience. The profits could be salted away for a not so rainy day, thus doing away with the need for a bank loan. So the bank would go broke instead of the farmer. No one could complain about that could they?
The country folk could go work at G.M.H. (are they still around?) until they become bored witless putting the knobs on the radios or talking to the robots so they didn’t get depressed.
You may feel I have broached the subject rather flippantly, but believe me, I am deadly serious. How we relate to each other in the supply of our daily needs is of the utmost importance, at the very core of our existence, and those multi-national conglomerates catering to our every whim will ultimately become irrelevant.
Ben Laycock 2011
Stay tunned for the next exciting episode; ‘Greetings from Mount Buggery’ coming soon to all good computers.