Awareness building is often a long process. Thus recognition of the ideas of René Dumont has come nearly two decades after his death with the vote on 17 December 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in rural areas. René Dumont highlighted the importance of small-scale peasant farmers in the world’s food production. Despite massive displacement of the peasantry toward cities, more than 70 percent of the world’s food is produced by small family-owned farms.
René Dumont was an active world citizen and always stressed world citizenship in his justification for his studies of agriculture worldwide. Although he was 30 years older than I and much better known through his scientific monographs on African agriculture and then his popular books on African rural development when we met there was always a feeling of togetherness in a battle for a better life for African farmers.
When Dumont died in June 2001 at the age of 97, he was remembered as the father of French political ecology, but he had no direct intellectual heirs. His 1974 campaign for the French presidency was the first time Les Verts (The Greens) had entered politics at the national level. Dumont was able to federate around his personality and his reputation as an agronomist specializing in African and Asian development a wide range of people who felt that the traditional French political parties were not dealing with the crucial questions of humanity’s future. His energetic campaign and strong personality in television presentations created the groundwork on which Les Verts could build a political movement. In France, all candidates for the presidency have equal time on government-owned television and are able to produce their own spots.
Dumont, with his red sweater and a glass of water to recall the dangers of water pollution, was a marked contrast with the more formal candidates. Dumont received only one percent of the popular vote, but he put Les Verts on the political map and set out the issues which would continue.
Dumont was 70 when he ran for president and after the campaign remained more a “father figure” than an organizer in the structuring of the political ecology movement, done largely by a younger generation. Dumont was not a “team player” and often expressed his views in a very direct way. He was particularly direct in his dislike of autos and the need for higher gas prices — not popular themes among the French electorate. He always stressed that the conditions in the Third World were intolerable and would lead to revolts.
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“Are there not such spirits among us ready to join in the noblest of all adventures— the building up of a civilization —so that the human might reflect the divine order? In the divine order there is both freedom and solidarity. It is the virtue of the soul to be free and its nature to love; and when it is free and acts by its own will, it is most united with all other life” George Russell: The Song of the Greater Life
George Russell (1867-1935) whose birth anniversary we mark on 10 April was an Irish poet, painter, mystic, and reformer of agriculture in the years 1900 to the mid-1930s. He wrote under the initials A.E. and was so well known as A.E. that his friends called him “A.E.” and not “George”. He was a close friend and co-worker with William Butler Yeats who was a better poet and whose poems are more read today. Both A.E. and Yeats were part of the Irish or Celtic revival which worked for a cultural renewal as part of the effort to get political independence from England.
Ireland lived under a subtle form of colonialism rather than the more obvious Empire in Africa or India where domination was made more obvious by the distance from the center of power and the racial differences. The Irish were white, Christian, and partially anglicized culturally. English and Scots had moved to Ireland and by the end of the 19th century became the landed gentry. Thus Russell and Yeats felt that there had to be a renewal of Irish culture upon which a state could be built. Yet for A.E. political independence was only a first step to building a country of character and intellect “a civilization worthy of our hopes and our ages of struggle and sacrifice”. He lamented that “For all our passionate discussions over self-government we have had little speculation over our own character or the nature of the civilization we wished to create for ourselves…The nation was not conceived of as a democracy freely discussing its laws, but as a secret society with political chiefs meeting in the dark and issuing orders.”
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I believe that the One World which is emerging can come into existence only if a New Man comes into being – a man who has emerged from the archaic ties of blood and soil, and who feels himself to be a citizen of the world whose loyalty is to the human race and to life, rather than to any exclusive part of it, a man who loves his country because he loves mankind, and whose views are not warped by tribal loyalties.
Eric Fromm Beyond the Chains of Illusion
Eric Fromm (1900-1980), the psychoanalyst concerned with the relation between personality and society, whose birth anniversary we mark on 23 March, was born in 1900. Thus his life was marked by the socio-political events of the century he faced, especially those of Germany, his birth place.
Erich Fromm was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main. The families of both his mother and father had rabbis and Talmudic scholars, and so he grew up in a household where the significance of religious texts was an important part of life. While Fromm later took a great distance from Orthodox Jewish thought, he continued a critical appreciation of Judaism.
He was interested in the prophets of the Old Testament but especially by the hope of the coming of a Messianic Age – a powerful theme in popular Judaism. The coming of the Messiah would establish a better world in which there would be higher spiritual standards but also a new organization of society. The Messianic ideal is one in which the spiritual and the political cannot be separated from one another.
Read the whole article in Ovi Magazine, HERE!