Or: How I Spotted My Inner Utopian
My wild garden idea is a bust.
The idea was simple and based on U.S. foreign policy over the past 75 years.
There’s a war in every garden: good plants versus weeds. I figured I just needed to let the two battle it out, with me getting involved as little as possible. So, even though I wanted the good plants to win, I’d let them fight the weeds, with me offering help as necessary. . . but not doing the actual fighting.
I’d let the good plants (lettuces, cilantro, basil, mustards, and kale) reach full maturation: sprouting fluffy heads of seeds, which would then float all over the garden like parachuters. Meanwhile, I’d ruthlessly cut down any weed before it produced seeds. I’d keep areas of ground uncovered to receive the vegetable seed parachuters.
Eventually, I figured I’d have a lawn-like spread of good green vegetables, with the weeds choked out.
No mulching. No rows. No spacing. No planting by hand. No buying new seeds every year. No need to harvest seeds every fall (because they’d be reseeding themselves and growing the following spring).
It’d be paradise on my little plot of earth. It was among the best-laid plans.
It went well at first. In early July, I nodded sagely at the progress. Weeds gone; mustards and kale already gone to seed and releasing parachuters.
I then went on vacation for 10 days, then had to go out of town for the better part of a week. The weather grew brutally hot, resulting in weeks of heatwave warnings, with humidity that made walking through stalks of lettuce like walking through the devil’s crotch (he doesn’t manscape).
Six weeks later, the war had been lost.
I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, the green wave of vegetable paradise had become a hell of weeds. Plenty of greens, with five spots where the idea actually seemed to work for my kale and mustards, but overall, weeds here, there, everywhere, with many launching thousands of enemy parachuter seeds.
Could the Idea Have Worked with Extra Vigilance?
I think the idea could’ve worked. The experiment didn’t fail because it was a bad idea. I have, after all, those five plots of kale and mustard coming in. The experiment failed because I wasn’t able to execute it properly due to other commitments and weather. If I just had better weather and was able to keep daily vigilance over those weeds . . .
Those were my thoughts when it occurred to me, “Scheske, you Socialist piece of shit. You’re like those Marxists who think Communism killed tens of millions of people simply because the wrong people tried to implement the system or the circumstances weren’t right (‘Marx didn’t even think Russia was the correct place for Communism!).”
The utopian wild garden didn’t work because it’s a bad idea.
A Totalitarian at Heart?
I was thinking like a totalitarian. I had flunked my own Diocletian Test.
Nature wants to go to weeds. The battle against weeds goes back to the original effects of Original Sin. My proposal to eliminate weeds altogether by installing a lawn of green vegetables simply couldn’t work.
Unless, perhaps, I increased my vigilance, patrolling the garden every day, ruthlessly taking out the weeds like the Gestapo looking for Jews. Maybe hiring neighborhood kids to patrol when I wasn’t home.
In other words, increasing the force required to suppress nature’s impulse.
It was textbook Marxism in action: Impose a system that contradicts human nature, then when it doesn’t work (because it runs contrary to human nature), increase the force required to suppress the resulting conflict between human nature and your system. As the system continues to fail and society rebels against it, increase the force and vigilance further until you get to the society that was parodied so brilliantly in The Death of Stalin.
My Unconstrained Vision
I also realized that my idea mimicked the unconstrained vision examined by Thomas Sowell’s classic work, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles.
People tend to fall into two camps: those with a constrained vision and those with an unconstrained vision. Sowell devotes the entire book to exploring the differences, but in a nutshell: the constrained vision says society is limited to what it can achieve and the unconstrained vision says it’s not.
In particular, the constrained vision works within the confines of nature, including human nature, and respects the limits imposed by nature.
The unconstrained vision doesn’t accept limits imposed by nature. It thinks nature, especially human nature, can be remade (the Communist “New Man,” inverting the binary, overthrowing the white male patriarchy, rise of the Superman, etc.).
My wild garden idea was a microcosm of the unconstrained vision. Nature loves weeds. My system would eliminate that natural love and remake gardening . . . at least in my corner of the earth. It would be all vegetables all the time, with no weeds, except perhaps a dissident weed occasionally that I could easily yank out and burn.
I was a fool.
A Break with Tradition
And finally, I realized my idea violated tradition.
The small garden plot is the traditional way of gardening for a reason: it allows the gardener to mulch, space the plants, reach the weeds. Such horticultural techniques are part of the inherited gardening tradition, which has built up over millennia.
Such techniques can be implemented with greater or lesser skill. They can be improved upon.
But they can’t be ignored. They’re there for the reason.
Even if gardening utopians like me don’t fully understand them and are too arrogant to respect them.
The 40th Anniversary Issue of The New Criterion.
I don’t know why, but I get stoked every time a new issue of The New Criterion arrives. I forgot how much I enjoyed getting magazines in the mail.
But this issue of The New Criterion was different. The plastic package felt heavier and thicker.
Because it’s the special 40th-anniversary issue: 128 pages (a magazine’s total pages must always be divisible by four).
It’s packed: Anthony Daniels (a/k/a “Theodore Dalrymple”) taking down Herbert Marcuse; the beginning of a new series, “Western civilization at the crossroads”; George Gilder and Victor Davis Hanson.
I plan to read it cover-to-cover, which is something I’ve rarely, if ever, done with a magazine.