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The city and the country



The city and the country are still considered like two separate and distinct worlds. The former would be the origin of the great powers of our time – science, technique, finance, market – which affirmed their strength with the third technologic revolution, after the agricultural and industrial ones; the latter would generate a lively nucleus of agricultural practices not aligned to the industrial processes, which may propose alternative way of life, of producing, and of consuming to the most popular to date.

Under these conditions, the current economic crisis and energetic and environmental emergencies should emphasize the contradictions of the current model of development and induce the rich countries to backtrack and restore a relationship with their rural areas, now finally emancipated from the underdevelopment of the past, which could strengthen local economies and configure them as tesserae of a great mosaic, alternative to the dominating model.

In the current configuration of powers, function and relations, it would be delusional to hope in a “return” to a mythical rural age, while it should be expected a further acceleration of the technological advancement towards unimaginable goals. The interaction between technology and market is a powerful engine that guarantees a sort of permanent revolution. The irreversibility of this process should not scare though, because the modern economic, energetic and climatic crises are not due to it. The mistake was believing that it would be possible to introduce elements of rationality in it. Thus, we alienated ourselves from it and into incorruptible localisms, nostalgic wisdom, and behind delusional trenches.

The reaction to the de-materialization and de-territorialization, and the ensuing loss of the sense of the place, caused by globalization, with two wrong and mirror demeanors: prejudicial opposition or acritical adhesion. Somebody even thought that rationalizing the process would be unnecessary, and that the free market would have done it. There is a mix of conservatism, ingenuity, and resigned impotence.

Now, under the effects of the economic and financial crisis, it is evident to all the urge to project the future and to take back our prerogative to build the place where we live. If we do have to return back to something from the past, this has to be the idea of renewed reformist idea of producing more scientific knowledge and mid to long term policies. This should be done not fighting like Don Quixote against the “city” and its Powers that Be, but introducing a new urban-rural dimension. This does not entail the old cosmopolitan stereotype of being “all world citizens”, but it tackles the new fears, insecurities, malaises of the modern age, which are so much widespread in our society nowadays, in order to achieve an idea of well being which is not purely defined by our consumes but is rather meant to research a purpose to our lives and talents, as a product of our knowledge, mobility, care for the youth. The ancient rural and urban cultures could actually express their potential in increasing the knowledge of taste and the sense hospitality. This would not mean a romantic and obsolete rebuttal of the ethnical contamination of our tables, but it would rather take advantage of the values of mutual help typical of a rural world that never kept economics and social relationships apart, in order to conceive nature as the product of the interactions between mankind and environment, and to recognize the role of scientific research in creating a true food culture.

In German, “Ackerbau” is the noun defining both “farming” and “building”; “Bauer” is both the “farmer” and the “builder”, and the ancient root “Buan” meant “to live”.

by Alfonso Pascale
03 may 2010, The Opinion > Editorial

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