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Reads a little too romantic.

Being a peasant sucks. It sucked then and it sucks now. Trapped, in an infernal machine designed to keep you anchored within 7 kilometers of the room in which you were born.

You live in the same crumbling leaking house that half your extended family has lived in for over a century, marry who you are told to marry, learn only what the local preacher tells you to learn-- and nothing else.

My mother's side of the family was peasants of the dying 50s-60s variety who escaped in the last wave of abandonments. The kind whose ancient family estates are now AirBnBs in the Empty Diagonal of France where tourists can cosplay as grape stompers or characters in a French New Wave film where some tortured artist flees to the countryside and ends up seducing and roughly stealing the virginity of his cousin by reading her poetry on a blanket in the middle of a field before an art thief swindler shoots him on the veranda for double-crossing him in a counterfeiting job gone wrong.

They lived long enough to tell me what it was really like.




It's poverty that sucks. The rural exodus to the cities occurred later in France and Ireland than, for example, Britain, so the memories of "true" peasant life were able to be more easily documented. You perhaps know the TV series "Jean Chalosse" which describes modernity arriving for a shepherd in the Landes region of France [0].

The other side to this, is that most who left the countryside for the cities did not see a marked improvement in living standards, they simply swapped poverty in the countryside for poverty in the city.

[0] https://madelen.ina.fr/serie/jean-chalosse-2720


I always remember this sort of article which frames things differently about who we should pity.

https://allthatsinteresting.com/medieval-peasants-vacation-m...

We have more stuff now but it seems we have way less time and maybe even less happiness? I don’t know, I’m biased I love working outside.


Be sure to check up on sources, this cites Schor, who is not completely honest in her rhetoric. You might also be interested in asking Schor herself why she omitted some research when she started her series.


> The other side to this, is that most who left the countryside for the cities did not see a marked improvement in living standards, they simply swapped poverty in the countryside for poverty in the city.

Most, perhaps, but not all, and not forever. Cities managed to generate enough productivity to raise the populace up - of course, it took the likes of the labour movement to ensure the spoils were actually spread among the people. But the rural regions didn't even get that far; they were poor and have remained poor.


> It sucked then and it sucks now.

Yes and no. It did suck in many ways, the ones you describe plus many others, including lack of anonymity and little privacy as everybody in the village knows everything about you, your family, your neighbors. Worse access to doctors (even worse in the mountains in the winter). Occasional crazy person could wreak havoc. The list could go on.

However, you had space. Your own space, a lot of it. Internal and external. No walls everywhere - fields and meadows instead. And, depending on your situation, you might have quite a lot of time (and at times very little).

For me the ideal is in between these two worlds.


Mate you can just go outside, it’s free.

How is any of this balance for being a _peasant_?!


If one happens to live in a big city, outside is not much better, and god forbid if you want to have a hobby like gardening. Just more concrete, traffic noise and people everywhere, no land that is your own. There's a reason why countryside villas remain popular among city dwellers who can afford it.


> However, you had space. Your own space

No. By definition, if you were a serf, you didn't have your own space. You had a space in your lord's space, which you weren't allowed to leave, and you had a lot of work. The idea that medieval peasants had more time off than moderns is bullshit, by the way: People did hard work mainly for the privilege of probably not being killed in the immediate future. And if a war rolled in, if you weren't conscripted to die in an army you'd be starved and raided by armies that "foraged" primarily by stealing from peasants.

And that's assuming you somehow avoided disease. Don't step on any sharp rocks, kids, sepsis is a slow and lingering death.


It did suck though. Remember that serfdom (or mandatory military service) in Europe was formally abolished only at the break of the XVIII/XIX century. But even without it, we are talking about generational periods of a moderate poverty (by prices going occasionally down, not by better pays or surplus economy) or just the regular poverty where 90% of time/energy is spent on earning on food only (sometimes, rarely, clothing).

You are right about "no walls everywhere". At the time there were also no concept of a country border as it's today. If only a free peasant, you could walk from France to Russia, start settling some land there and no one was any wiser. It would be a local administration problem at best (if any was present), but not an international one like today.


>(sometimes, rarely, clothing)

As it turns out, the various aspect of making cloth and clothing took a massive amount of the Peasant's labor.[0]

[0]https://acoup.blog/2021/03/05/collections-clothing-how-did-t...


> Occasional crazy person could wreak havoc.

I don't understand what you mean by that. We have school shootings and crazy people acting violently today, not things I generally associate with peasants, but in any case, something we witness elsewhere.


My perception is that the parent commenter is referring at least partly to "subcriminal" or nearly subcriminal behaviour. There is/was nowhere to "put" this kind of individual when they come from these settings, for a whole host of reasons, ranging from: something like "it's your neighbour's mentally ill kid, you really gonna call the cops for THAT?" to "what cops?".

School shooters and "crazy people acting violently" are probably incredibly rare by comparison. Sub/urban environments probably reduce the impact of the mentally ill on their surrounding neighbours in a whole host of ways, in fact -- in no small part because treatment is much less available in rural areas. (There's more of them in a smaller area and they're more visible and increasingly less criminalized, so people get the idea that poverty and health issues of that variety are modern, urban problems.)

Keywords in the literature around this include "community impact" or "community health", but it's not my area.


Because most of us humans have so thoroughly damaged the land and shifted baselines, I wouldn't want to be a peasant, either. I would be down for a semi-nomadic lifestyle with a Dunbar's Number group of people on healthy land and water.

From the recent book by Jessica Carew Kraft[0], community in survival situations is the most important thing. None of this Alone[1] nonsense.

[0] Why We Need to be Wild. No commercial link because I prefer pushing public libraries.

[1] National Geographic show about solo, maybe duo, survival in remote areas


Has its plusses and minuses, my grandfather still proudly proclaims that he's a peasant. Has farmed in rural loire valley france all his life, from his childhood during ww2. Seems to generally have enjoyed his life, definitely worked way harder than my parents or myself. My mother grew up with them as well, left for the city for work as an adult though. granddad was using a horse for farming into the 70s. Mother didn't think it sucked that much either. Their house wasnt luxe, but it absolutely wasn't crumbling.

Definitely a lot of British tourists and retirees in their area now.

I don't disagree that most people over romanticize farming, but don't have to go to the opposite extreme.


>> French New Wave film where some tortured artist flees to the countryside and ends up seducing and roughly stealing the virginity of his cousin by reading her poetry on a blanket in the middle of a field before an art thief swindler shoots him on the veranda for double-crossing him in a counterfeiting job gone wrong.

Plug that into Stable Diffusion 3.0 and you will be up for a Palme d'or.

(Edit: Wrong award. The Pomme d'or is totally different than the palme d'or.)


You might have been right the first time. Using AI to produce a work of art that attacks the fetish of wealth for romanticizing poverty? That seems like it could make for a pretty sizable pomme d'or - I look forward to the premiere!


>You live in the same crumbling leaking house that half your extended family has lived in for over a century, marry who you are told to marry, learn only what the local preacher tells you to learn-- and nothing else.

My grandparents were what you would call peasants too. They liked that simple life, and they could fix the leaks in the house, and they loved each others deeply. They learned a lot of practical stuff during their lives, and in many days they travelled more than 7 kilometers by foot, later when bicycles became common the travel possibilities were enormous, life generally happened in a circle with diameter of about 50 kilometers. It's hard to imagine how their lives would have been actually better if someone taught them quantum physics and there would have been infinite consumable content and endless doomscrolling available at all times.

The experiences differ wildly, and life could definitely suck back then, especially if you were a peasant, but it could be just fine, even excellent. And that's exactly how it is these days for the modern day peasants too. I would say that the quality of life of your average amazon-worker is no better than those old time peasants. Modern medicin is the only real perk that comes to my mind, anything other is on similar level or even worse. People back then were not idiots at all.


My grandmother was born and died in the same house at age 95. She never had a job and only 8 years of public school. She worked on family owned fields, foraged forest for mushrooms and berries. Her handwriting was like of a machine, beautiful, she left over hundred of letters and diary entries behind. She knew what to plant and when, she knew what berries and mushrooms are growing where almost to the exact hour. She loved her kids and grandkids and made sure each of them received an education that she so much wanted for herself. But 2nd world War happened when she was 14. I, on the other hand, an ex-amazonian, do not feel in any way superior. She had determination, organization and calmness in her life, and I feel I'm in a constant chase, even though I earn more in a month, than she earned in a year. I pay a lot of money, so that my kids can eat healthy. I still feel I can not provide the healthy lifestyle for my kids, that she has provided for my father.


>I still feel I can not provide the healthy lifestyle for my kids, that she has provided for my father.

I don’t know what you mean by healthy, but I would guess what you feel is simply due to you knowing you could be doing better for your kids than your grandmother thought she could do for your father.

You know there’s sophisticated healthcare and medicine available, but you don’t know if you have secured access to it, and you are in the gray area where you could be in position to secure it.

Or you know there are significant advantages to sewing your kids into the right social circles, and with the right movies, you could achieve that.

So you cannot settle knowing that you could have done more (given your desire to give your kids the maximum support).

However, with your monthly income, you could easily limit your kids’ luxuries in many aspects to what your grandmother gave your dad. But you probably will not be happy with that.


Most likely food and exercise related. Feel like guy above you is basically alter ego me. In most cases sophisticated healthcare and medicine is more about fixing problems than staying healthy imo.

Am also ex-Amazon. Made good money there, which I am grateful for, but definitely didn't emerge healthier.


> The kind whose ancient family estates are now AirBnBs in the Empty Diagonal of France where tourists can cosplay as grape stompers or characters in a French New Wave film where some tortured artist flees to the countryside and ends up seducing and roughly stealing the virginity of his cousin by reading her poetry on a blanket in the middle of a field before an art thief swindler shoots him on the veranda for double-crossing him in a counterfeiting job gone wrong.

What an entertaining run on sentence lol.

Any movie recommendations of the type you described? Cringey-funny would be great.


Tony Gatlif films, pretty much all of them.

Totally different but also amazing, the Three Colors Trilogy, and the polish tv series, Decalogue (on Criterion I believe)


>You live in the same crumbling leaking house that half your extended family has lived in for over a century, marry who you are told to marry, learn only what the local preacher tells you to learn-- and nothing else.

Merde - doesn't sound a whole lot different than life in rural, small town USA...


At least many rural small towns in the USA have public libraries. If you have learned to read, that opens a big chunk of the world to you.


Nowadays rural folk have cars, which means they can very much visit those libraries without need to actually live in a town.


I don't see how being trapped within 7 kilometers of a city office is much better. Rural life has transformed anyway to such an extent that none of your points, except being bound to your farm, are really relevant anymore if we're talking about modern farm owners.


That's funny, because I thought it sounded a little too romantic in the other direction. Perhaps Australian family farms aren't old enough to count as peasantry, but from what I remember the men and women who worked then spent less time complaining about being enpeasanted and having big hands, and more about perfidious farm gate prices and not being able to take a holiday in three years because there wasn't anyone they trusted to run a dairy.


Family farms by definition are not peasantry. They have the good life, they are the exploiters. Now the workers that would be forced to run the dairy would be the peasants.


Depends where you are. In much of Europe, especially in the south, the small farm families would be regarded as "payasan", or equivalent


Rural Spain was like that but with Franco's regime. Most people fleed away into cities in the 60's and 70's and they got back just in Holidays with the kids in Summer.


Tough to judge without any experience. I am sure there were not bullshit jobs. Must be satisfying to see fruits of your labor end to end. Many of us in the cities would not know what that is like.


They had sinecures back then (the word dates back a long time), though not for peasants




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