No one understands the peasant. Not the lords in their manor houses, not the bloody saviors of the masses, not all the bishops in hell. Whether they think we need saving, scourging, stamping out, breeding, baptizing, arming, disarming, manipulating, controlling, or just crushing underfoot, none of them understands one simple truth: after they’ve burned and pillaged each others’ castles and cathedrals to the walls of Armageddon, we’ll still be here, not much the worse for the wear. It’s what Jesus meant about the meek inheriting the Earth. He wasn’t pontificating, just stating a simple fact.
Peasants belong to the Earth. She is our mother, not in some New Age, crystal gawking way, but as an ordinary truth. We’re more feral than not. We sprang from the soil like autochthons; in the great divine arc of history, our job was to provide pillage.
We tend to be naive, and easily duped. It’s not something that can be educated out of us. It’s a genetic propensity to take others at face value, and we’re stuck with it. You might argue that this is a fatal flaw, yet here we are, aren’t we, while all the bloody Ulyanovs, Romanovs, and Cromwells have long since mouldered away clutching their cleverness to their poisonous hearts. We hate and fear, but never despise. We love too easily. It’s our greatest weakness. It kills us every time. It’s what saves us every time.
Religion tends to fall lightly on our shoulders; we’re not built for worship when reverence will do. We have churches, but woodlands and moors are more sacred to us than pews. On those rare occasions when religion settles into a peasant’s heart, it is an ugly thing. Rasputin, sure, but Stalin and Mao had the disease just as surely, albeit behind a mask of social theory. Peasants tend to overdo power in general. It’s just like us, isn’t it? Rubes, at heart, in loud suits.
My homeland, Latvia, is as pure a peasantry as you’ll find anywhere. The culture, the very language, exists only because the lords and saviors who plagued us over the centuries didn’t think it worth extinguishing. Typically, when Latvia gets praise, as it recently did from the IMF for being a model of the kind of austerity Europe needs to pull out of the recession, it’s for taking its flogging well, without causing trouble. All the more disheartening, then, to learn that the flogging was not only unnecessary, but only made things worse after all: the theory behind all the demands for economic austerity has just been shown to be based on flawed data.