The Claims ofrnCommunityrnbyJ.O. TaternSex, Economy, Freedomrn& Community: Eight Essaysrnby Wendell BerryrnNew York: Pantheon Books;rn179 pp., $20.00rnThis sHm book packs quite a punch.rnIts author requires that, in order tornread him, we cast off the distorted languagernand prepackaged thought we absorbrnfrom the hum of the media. Indeed,rnhe wants us to awaken from thernslumber which that drone is designed torndeepen.rnYou might say that Mr. Berry is interestedrnin words. “Environment,” for instance,rnhe sees as an inadequate usagernand as a denial of “Creation” andrn”worid.” By the time he gets started onrn”globalization,” “free trade,” and thern”New Wodd Order,” he is both illuminatingrnand funnv. What Berry saysrnabout the General Agreement on Tariffsrnand Trade I have seen nowhere else andrnis onlv another reminder that mostrnAmerican citizens don’t know what theirrngoernment does, or care. And whenrnWendell Berry mentions “the community,”rnhe does not refer to the cronies ofrnthe Reverend Al Sharpton, or to “the gayrnand lesbian community,” or to any otherrnsuch real or imagined self-selected assemblyrnof the like-minded. No, hernmeans “community”—vou know, thernpeople who live nearby and have an interestrnand a say; neighbors and cousins,rnthose with whom you sense “an understoodrnmutuality of interest” (excludingrnthe police, the BATE, the IRS).rnMr. Berry’s thoughts are bracing andrnwholesome. His discourse puts me inrnmind of Ceorge Orwell in its insistencernon truth and integrity of expression and,rnin its adherence to simplicity and independence,rnof Henry David Thoreau.rnBerry’s “Sales Resistance” rejects therncheery idiocy of commercialized nicenessrnand mass merchandizing by virtuernof which the human being becomes arnrobotic consumer as well as a productivernautomaton. But don’t assume Berryrnpurvevs sermons—quite the contrary.rnHe can and docs express himself withrnSwiftian indignation, economy, and darkrnhumor. The few simple “truths” we havernto master to understand the new commercialrneducation, for example, can bernhighly amusing when they are not terrifying:rnThe main thing is, don’t let educationrnget in the way of being nicernto children. Children are our Future.rnSpend plenty of money onrnthem but don’t stay home withrnthem and get in their way. Don’trngive them work to do; they arernsmart and can think up things torndo on their own. Don’t teachrnthem any of that awful, stultifying,rnrepressive, old-fashionedrnmorality. Provide plenty of TV,rnmicrowave dinners, day care, computers,rncomputer games, cars. Forrnall this, they will love and respectrnus and be glad to grow up and payrnour debts.rnIn a similar vein, he lists some expensivernpolitical packages, such as:rnTolerance and Multiculturalism.rnQuit talking bad about women,rnhomosexuals, and preferred socialrnminorities, and you can say anythingrnyou want about people whornhaven’t been to college, manualrnworkers, country people, peasants,rnreligious people, unmodern people,rnold people, and so on. Tolerantrnand multicultural persons hyphenaterntheir land of origin andrntheir nationality. I, for example,rnam a Kentuckian-American.rnRight. But Mr. Berry is no entertainer,rnthough he can be very entertaining. Hernis a moralist and, in the best sense ofrnthe word, an economist. His observationsrnon what we usually call politics arernstriking in that they elude the erodedrncategories of left and right. Berry’s essayrn”Peaceableness Toward Enemies” is arnunique and valuable comment on thernGulf War, which in its rebuke to gigantism,rnabstraction, and arrogance deservesrna wide readership.rnWendell Berry’s daring, in trying tornimagine how a Ghristian nation shouldrnor might conduct foreign policy, is bothrnmorally bracing and politically challenging.rnHis analysis of Christianity itself,rnhowever, though highly creditable, is inrnmy view flawed by its scanting of OriginalrnSin. If vvc have a Redeemer, thenrnsurely there must have been much to bernredeemed from—and there still is. InrnMilton’s more comprehensive vision, asrnwith the Bible’s, the Earth fell along withrnAdam and Eve—or was that Adam andrnSteve? However that may be, Berry’srnrighteous love of the Creation may leadrnhim to forget that the Kingdom ofrnHeaven is, after all, not of this wodd,rnand that William Blake, who declaredrnthat everything that lives is holy, was notrnalways the most reliable of prophets—orrnat least never anticipated the Clintonrnadministration. A sterner sense of sinrnmight show Mr. Berry just why he has sornmuch to contend with from all thosernholy sweethearts, his fellow humanrnbeings.rnNevertheless, Berry’s sense of ourrnplace as stewards is right and needful inrnmany ways. Some of his points andrnspecifically his citation of AnandarnCoomaraswamy are highly reminiscentrnof the work of Andrew Lytle in particularrnand of the Vanderbilt Agrarians in general.rnSince Berry does acknowledgernThoreau, I wish that he had also mentionedrnthe principles, at least, of thosernSouthern precursors who (like Berryrnhimself) refused to subordinate the vitalrnneeds of humans to the unending demandsrnof business.rnBerry’s sense of legitimate communityrninterests that supersede both privaternclaims and public requirementsrnleads him to insights that today are almostrnunheard of:rnThe conventional public oppositionrnof “liberal” and “conservative”rnis, here as elsewhere, perfectlyrnuseless. The “conservatives”rnpromote the family as a sort ofrnpublic icon, but they will not promoternthe economic integrity ofrnthe household or the community,rnwhich are the mainstays of familyrnlife. Under the sponsorship ofrn”conservative” presidencies, therneconomy of the modern household,rnwhich once required the fatherrnto work away from home, nowrnrequires the mother to work awayrnfrom home, as well. And this developmentrnhas the wholeheartedrnendorsement of “liberals,” whornsee the mother thus forced tornspend her days away from herrnhome and children as “liberated”rn—though nobody has yet seenrnthe fathers thus forced away asrn”liberated.” Some feminists arernAPRIL 1994/39rnrnrn