From GENE LOGSDON
Listening to the news from Haiti, I was surprised to hear officials in its earthquake-leveled capitol say what a blessing it was that thousands of people have left the city seeking refuge in rural areas, and how it would be better if they stayed there.
That sounds heartless, but I agree. The movement of population has been throughout history from rural areas to cities and inevitably that migration proves fatal. The “growth” of the dispersed but strong Etruscan economy to the final rot of ancient Rome is a great example. But that kind of migration goes on always, and still today, all over the world. The Chinese are the latest to flock naively from farm to city in search of a better life.
I can’t understand why people always opt for crowding together in cities. The easy explanation is that they are just following the money trail. All my life, I have responded:
“But you can make money in the country, too.”
Answer: “Most people don’t want to work that hard.”
“But it isn’t really any harder work. Once I worked as a furniture mover. I’d a thousand times rather make hay and pitch manure.”
Answer: “You only have to work eight hours a day in town and get your weekends off.”
“Since when? And even if farmers do work longer some days, they also are free to take days off in the off seasons. ”
Answer: “City workers have job security. A farmer doesn’t.”
“Don’t make me laugh. No one has job security.”
Answer: “City workers make more money on the average.”
“Their cost of living is higher too.”
Answer: “City workers have more cash, regardless. They can more easily afford new cars, fancier clothes, and vacations to Florida.”
“I like my rusty pickup, my old clothes, and I don’t want to go to Florida.”
Answer: “Well, you’re just obstinate. Everyone knows that.”
As far as this obstinate person can figure, people leave the countryside because they are encouraged to do it. Social prejudice says that only “yokels” stay out in the “backwaters” of society. The good jobs are all in cities. But why can’t good jobs be out in the country, too, especially in this computer age?
People streaming from the rural areas to cities do so by government and business fiat, in my obstinate opinion. In every civilization’s early days, even poor people own land. The rich people want it and can get it every time by offering enough money. The poor people take it: the fatal bribe. An economy that loves building bank towers into the clouds is happy about that. It needs a large population of consumers, people who don’t produce anything of their own but must buy all their food, clothing or shelter.
This all works very well for awhile. Some people get continually richer; a far greater number get continually poorer. It will never make the papers, but I bet many Haitian leaders are secretly thankful for earthquake. It is helping to solve an acute overpopulation problem for them. Better than people doing the genocide, as in Somalia.
Yes, let us hope that the Haitians will have enough sense to stay out in the countryside and build a life for themselves there. But of course they will need help, real help. The money powers of Haiti will have to come out in the countryside too and help build a true economy with and for these people.
Can it be done? I think so. Here in the U.S., we are starting to reverse the usual trend of civilization. We are building a kind of dispersed society where rural can’t be distinguished for urban. Urban agriculture and rural office buildings are both on the increase.