Going to the farm
Having spent the night getting depressed, as I usually do when I regret not taking an opportunity after it’s over, I wake up quite dispirited. I go downstairs and write a note, and then search the internet for a bus ride to the farm. I could have used T’s bike; but I didn’t feel confident I’d find my way. Plus I had 2 enormous bags to carry, and the idea of me cycling 10 miles with these to an unknown place somewhere in the countryside sounded surreal. I needed to take the bus, and I thought that was the end of it. No independent and free means of transportation, that meant all my money would disappear in the end. The note I wrote was sad.
I left the house with these thoughts in mind, and arrived at the bus stop, where I enquired to the people there if there was such a thing as a day ticket, there being several bus companies in Oxford. Obviously the answer was no. And how much does the ticket cost? Well, tell the bus driver where you’re going and you’ll see. In France, the cost is the same whether you get out at the next stop or if you go all the way to the end of the line. I felt nervous about saying the name of the stop to the driver. What if I mispronounced something? The first ride was short. I was constantly looking out the glass window to make sure I wasn’t missing the right stop. A difficult task, as said windows were covered by condensation.
The 2nd ride made my anxiety level take another hike. Did I get out at the right place? The names didn’t seem to correspond. I checked again and again the schedule of the bus that I was intending to take, to make absolutely sure it was working that day, and that it would indeed go through my desired destination. It seemed to do so, but it was awfully late. What was going on?
It finally appeared and I had to ask the driver to tell me when we would arrive. He called me ‘mate’ which I didn’t know how to take. Sounded like it was friendlish? The bus rides were expensive, the bus itself boasted of comfort and style. I was having thoughts about free competition, and how theoretically no one is left behind because everyone can enter the market and compete. I could theoretically start my own bus company that would be cheap&plain as fuck, if there’s a demand for that.
The reality of course is that I’m poor as fuck and I can’t get money until the tyrannical state helps me; or until a banker has approved my project. And so capitalism continues, because you know where the alliance lies, between you, the banker-capitalist and the state.
In my hometown of Calais, whose administration was held by the communists for several decades, there is a bus line you can take across the major parts of town, from the port to the theater. It’s free. The bus company is the town’s, and a ticket is 1€ (at least it was when I left) wherever you’re going. You can get a subscription that allows you to travel freely everywhere in the area of Calais Boulogne and Dunkirk, for a month. All this is not the result of a free market, it is the result of the local government financing those services, and making them cheaper for the general population.
Speaking of a cheaper company, I thought the 3rd bus I had to take was quite plain. The driver was incredibly nice to me. I told him upfront I didn’t know where I was going, and when he told me the ride was £2.60 (!) and I looked through my money, he said, “Oh nevermind, this one’s on me.” Awesome! So I stood by and we chatted for a while. He said that he too had come to Britain once, and asked if I could guess where from. I tried a few countries and got them all wrong. I won’t tell anyone where it was, just that it was somewhere in Europe. I told him I was from France and I was on this bus to go wwoofing in the north.
I spent part of the travel like this, but then he asked me to sit down, because he could get trouble for this, speaking while driving. I happily did that. Another person got up on the bus; the driver seemed to know him. We continued chatting but I don’t remember about what. Eventually we reached the countryside and he and pointed at a farm on the left. “You know, that might be the farm you’re looking for. You want me to stop here? You know, the stop is just ahead, you’re only going to walk back, it’s a waste of time.” I said I really didn’t know if it was the right one, but he should bring me to the stop cause I had memorized the route from there. So he did.
There, a couple of old women were waiting on the other side of the road. Well, the guy helped me once again, and simply opened his window to ask the two if they knew where the farm was. They said no, and from there I said I would handle it, that it was ok. It must have been the one we just passed. I went further up that road, and asked an old man walking his dog: “Excuse-me, can I ask you a quest- _ I’m a visitor, so I wouldn’t know!” I’ve already got that alibi in Calais when I was leafletting at markets. Of course, I could have pointed out that the leaflets were for the whole of France, and in my case, that it’s highly unprobable that a man in his seventies walking a dog is just another tourist like me. But I didn’t want to shame the poor old man.
I tried to look up the names of the streets surrounding me, and to my horror, they didn’t correspond to the plan I’d memorized in the morning on Google Maps. I slowly made my way with the two bags to this farm I’d dismissed. I went to the front gate. A yellow sign saying that a CCTV was in operation and I better watch the fuck out (or something along those lines) was hanging over it. I didn’t know if this was the farm. I had the name in mind, which I won’t disclose. I could have jumped over this very low gate, and reach the faraway houses. Around me were two fields of grass, the right one empty, and the left one with cows and, I think, a few horses. It didn’t seem like what I was after. I told them I’d arrive. Wasn’t anyone seeing me from anywhere, and thinking “Gee, this guy with two huge bags on his arms might be the kid coming from France for work!” ??
I went back towards the village centre, to make sure I hadn’t missed something. There was a small patch of grass with trees and a wet bench. I needed a break. I used my French cellphone to call the farm and ask where to go from there. They said I should just go down the road, the one I’d just been up, until I saw a sign with a certain name on it; they specified that there were chickens.
So I did, not taking a break, thinking that I had found my way. The problem was, I’d spotted another sign with the same name. Silly me. I got close to entering on the grounds of a farm with a sign saying something like CCTV DO NOT ENTER. I had two urges. The first one being to go ahead and finally be done with carrying the bags. The second one being to not cross this little gate, even though I was almost certain this was the right farm. I went for the middle option, and I sat down nearby on one of my bags, hoping that the guys would be looking out for a traveller.
The fields on my right had no chickens at all, but a lot of cows and some horses. That was weird but I thought the chickens might be inside somewhere in one of those buildings far away. I was looking at one of the workers get on a field and doing stuff; almost shouting out to her. But I didn’t. So I stayed in the rain and rested for a while. Nothing happened. I decided that this was probably not the right farm. I went up the road, entered a field on the side of the farm, hesitating, and returning after all. Some postman guy parked in front of me as I was getting a rest, again. As usual, the name didn’t seem to ring any bell. There’s a lot of farms around here, and he doesn’t know all their names, he said. That sounded reasonable.
I took the right decision when I decided to explore. Going down the road still further, and disregarding the CCTV farm was a little tough. One thing that got my spirits up was the fact that I found a new sign, this time bigger. Yeah, that might be it. I walked for a long time, not expecting to be right. But at long last, and after a patch of groves that hid the farm from view, I suddenly stumbled upon the object of my desire. I wandered around, thinking to myself, THANK GOD. The wife of the owner, R, found me and I introduced myself, a little confusingly. She invited me to follow her to the kitchen.
I know I’ve said that already, but having a chance to sit down in a warm room after an hour of walking around with two bags really feels great, and so comforting. I was able to get a tea, and although I don’t like tea that much, that also felt great. I chatted with R and was given a tour of the farm, to see what the work would be like. I thought it was bearable, and said I was looking forward to work. But, unfortunately, R informed me that the place was full at the moment, and I could start only on Monday. Ouch. So that meant going back to S’s place for another two days. I felt a little guilty about that. Even though the guys there were absolutely wonderful, I couldn’t help but feel like a parasite. R arranged for H, brother-in-law and delivery man at the farm, to give me a lift back to S’s neighborhood. But before returning, I was asked to use a rake and level a mount of little rocks leading to a shed that was supposedly going to host a store for the farm’s products.
That was a first taste of hard work. But I knew from experience that I should never force myself to go beyond my limits, and I took breaks every time I was running out of breath. The work was tough on another level, since it was almost impossible to assess the even-ness of the ground. I just had to stop at some point, and hope the other guys would be fine with it. I returned to the kitchen, and had a talk with the farmer, L. We talked about how old I was, if I was a student, why I stopped studying, etc.
Then H came around and we left for his car. He had to get his kids first. We talked as well, and that was instructive. I said that I’d been an activist in Calais, around the issue of migration. I don’t remember how the topic came up. He took his kids from the school. ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t tell you, but there’s a weird man in the car today!’ LoL. H was quite fun to have a talk with. It turned out that he had done some activism of his own, and helped someone with his asylum case. I also learned that L’s girl, whom he was taking back to the farm, was learning Arabic. That was probably how we entered the field of politics.
We went back to the farm, and the little girl went off, leaving us with H’s two kids, a boy and a girl. They were getting restless and annoying, in H’s view. I didn’t care much. They were just playing around, see. But H wanted them to stop, and said he would leave his seat to spank them if they didn’t. We kept on talking while all this was going on, and I somehow came to say (don’t remember a-propos of what) ‘Of course I’m an anarchist!’ What followed was quite an open discussion of the pros and cons of anarchism.
H’s point was that there always was a need for limits. Anarchy could not work. Well, I said, what are those limits? At some point, they’re only what 500 guys in London write. I also brought up the point that anarchy is not about disorder, but order because everyone’s consent is required. But, not everyone can agree, he said. But, is that a point for the state ? It only means we should split rather than maintain our existence as a nation, and this is what I was saying in part I: there should be, not one rule for everyone, but as many rules as there are consensual agreements, and anarchism is for that reason also called polycentric order.
For that matter, Republicans are little more than Monarchists with a different mode for ruling over millions of people; there is no principle in their doctrine. Only the single false leitmotiv: there is no other way, an agreement must be reached considering the entire nation, no division is permissible.
As we were talking about politics, the kids kept on playing in the back of the car, and this was driving H mad, for some reason. The reason was probably that, while H was driving, he had no way of controlling his kids, and his kids knew that. Of course, the kids weren’t doing anything particularly wrong, other than doing some wrestling, as they probably do everywhere around the world. But the boy ended up receiving a punch on the nose, and he began to cry. This happened in intense traffic, so H actually went to the back of the car and did the spanking, angrily scolding the kids.
I know exactly what this is about. Arthur Silber has a long series of posts and essays about it, drawing on works from the psychiatrist Alice Miller. In a very real sense, statism and fascism start inside the home, violence is used by parents everyday to ‘educate’ their children, which actually means to instil fear and obedience in the child. You can see that by observing how and when a kid is called ‘a good boy.’ And this is later replicated in the form of war, statism and repression; serial killers all have such a history. The theory is a little more complicated than that, as it involves the death of a sense of self during early childhood. Just follow the links if you’re interested.
In a matter of minutes, the boy is back from his cries, and the kids play again. The father tries to instil fear by pointing to imaginary police cars, saying that the police will get the kids for playing in the back of a car. He then takes on the tones of a very violent police officer, who promises to give the kids a very violent beating, all of this in a playful manner. The kids are not dupes though, and they ask, ‘Where is this policeman? Really, he’s coming to get us?’ in a very unconvinced way, making it clear that they’re not fools, and also, that they’re not intimidated.
H tells me that if he was younger, he might have had some sympathy for my views. But as a dad, he cannot agree. And he says, when I have kids, I will understand. Well, when and if I have kids, I will not care if they play in the back of the car, so long as it’s reasonably safe, and I will not give them commands that I will back up with spankings. So I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be able to remain an anarchist in the future. Just explain things to them, they’re not stupid. At least, not the ones who have been beaten into submission and who end up too afraid to think for themselves.