I was shopping today. The pork chops were on sale. I perused the meat cooler scanning for the right cut of meat. Beef caught my eye, it always catches my eye. The price of beef has soared over the last year. It’s tempting, but has become a luxury. Due to the prices driven up by panic shopping, I tried ground turkey, thinking it would be an adequate substitute. It was far from adequate. The taste is so bland, the texture mealy and weak. A thought occurred to me, I am spoiled.
Imagine what it was like for our pioneer forefathers. They herded their meal along the trail to their new Western home. What they raised and butchered is what they had available to eat.
There was a relationship between the animal’s survival and the pioneer’s. However, the ability to raise their own food also gave them the freedom to set their own price, as well as the quality of the meat. They were free from panic buying. It didn’t affect them. They didn’t rely on a supply chain to determine their resources.
On the other hand, disease could take the animal and make it inedible. Locust and disease could wipe out their crop. Too much rain made harvesting anything with nutritional value impossible. They had the freedom and self-reliance, but also the very real possibility to die of starvation, infection, disease, or dehydration. Not to mention, how difficult it was to find a viable water source. Their life expectancy was very short.
What would the pioneers think of us today? Would they say we had given up our freedoms for an easy meal?
Would they spit in our direction and condemn our cowardice for the safety and prosperity we enjoy?
Or, would the family welcome one more day with their daughter who died of starvation. The boy who died of an illness for which there is now a vaccine? The mother who died in child birth on the Santa Fe trail?
We watch survival reality television for entertainment. Producers pull contestants out of the competition due to an infection from a spider bite, or a small cut. When the show begins, the participants tour their new surroundings breathing deep. They share about their sense of freedom. Them, alone in the wild. They feel as though the world is at their feet. They may travel as far as they wish, do whatever they please. However, they quickly learn they can’t. Each day is a challenge to survive. They can’t go far without provisions.
Their progression through the journey is interesting to watch. They must immediately build a shelter and prepare to settle in for survival. It takes work. They must hunt, gather, and prepare for inclement weather. Over time they become miserable. The loneliness sets in. Most leave after evaluating its value. The misery is not worth staying, not when they can return to civilization. Others are forced to leave due to infection, sickness, and starvation. They don’t make it a year, some almost completely lose their minds.
Cinematic presentations of the past, romanticize history. A lonely gunman comes to town, a drifter who saves an oppressed community. Towns and communities are shown on the pioneer’s best day, dressed in their Sunday best. Clothes washed and cleaned, waving to neighbors. It’s always the wealthy of the community who get to tell their stories. In reality, pioneers rarely bathed. They had to carry in their water, build a fire, warm it and then bath with soap they made. Who had time for that, when survival and simply existing was so difficult? A simple task today, drinking water, took gathering and boiling. A nightly bathroom break required a quick run in the night air across the yard. There was no toilet paper. Old magazines and newspapers were the staple, at the time, if not leaves or an overused cloth. All the while, thinking about where to move the outhouse to next, before it became unusable. Every day was filled with work. They didn’t do it alone, they did it in communities and as a family. Everyone had a job, shared a task. The days were filled with work, not leisure.
The ancient world viewed the individual differently than we do today. Today we have been taught individuality and independence is paramount to who we are. The pioneer of the West is portrayed as individualistic. A strong, powerful adventurer exploring never before seen landscapes. The reality is, people banded together to make it through difficult times. Wagon trains travelled across the West. Communities supported one another to survive and then thrive. During the Great Depression, communities came together at Penny Auctions to buy items on a foreclosed property for pennies, then return the items and property to the farmer who had been foreclosed on (Wiegand, 2009). Barn raising was a practice of the past where communities came together to help a farmer build a barn. The practice continues in Amish communities. Mountain men may have been the closest to our modern cinematic narrative, but even they met regularly at rendezvous to trade news, items, and stories.
The individual has been hailed a hero in modern times. We are expected to lift ourselves out of misery and despair, ignoring the philosophy’s conflict with human nature and Scripture. Humanity is built for community. We have strengths and weaknesses. In community they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. It’s biblical. “Where two or more are gathered, in my name, there I am also (Matthew 18:20).” “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24, 25).”
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:4, 5).”
The Hebrew mindset of the Bible viewed the community as a whole. Each member was held accountable to the community. Honor was held within families and tribes. An individual’s actions affected the honor of the family, tribe, and nation. God holds the nation responsible for an individual’s actions. Entire families suffered the consequences of an individual’s decisions.
There’s a collective consciousness.
The belief that your actions only affect you, is an impossibility. You and I are our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for one another and our community’s safety. This is scriptural, it’s the foundation of putting others first.
No, people don’t always make good decisions. Laws govern safety and order to provide a productive society. The foundation of law is the ability to interact successfully as a community. It’s against the law to yell “fire” in a crowded building. There are fines for ignoring traffic signs, because the possibility of harming someone else is not enough to regulate human behavior. A consensus of the community governs the acceptable safe behaviors of society in order to thrive. Chicken must be thoroughly cooked at a restaurant to avoid poisoning its patrons. Kitchens must be sanitary, work environments must be kept safe, the employee’s safety a priority. Human nature is lazy and will cut corners to make a profit. It’s necessary for a consensus to agree on the terms of existing in society.
Even in the lawless West, a sense of honor and chivalry maintained a semblance of order. These were unspoken accepted terms passed on through consensus. It’s not “common sense”, as it has been termed. “Common sense” is learned within the society we live, acceptable behaviors and traditions within the community we live. Common is taught to us through teachers, mentors, and parents to operate successfully in society.
Returning to myself again, standing in front of the meat cooler, I thought, “What would the pioneers of the past think of our freedom today?” I didn’t raise the pig that provided the meat, but I trusted the regulation and laws of our society would hold. The prices limited me on what I could buy, but I had access to items my ancestors could only dream of. Picking up the meat, I was reassured seeing the FDA stamp. Walking back to my vehicle, I was thankful for the communal spirit of my ancestors to find ways to thrive together. I am thankful my daughter doesn’t need to experience the fever and itch of Chicken Pox, as I had. I am able to return home to raise my children in a house, unlike my grandmother who was born in a dugout.
Yes, I am spoiled.