On the provincial family
Excerpt from the essay by G. Thibon, 1947
Preceding works have situated the farmers’ problem in its true light. Their authors, as concerned with renovating as with conserving, have known to ally the spirit of reform and of progress with the most vigilant of eternal traditions. They knew to avoid the twin pitfalls of conformity and utopia.
The crux of the problem is therein: we must conserve the world of the countryside and at the same time we must re-make it. It is not possible to preserve it in its current state, because this is an anemic state that will lead, imperceptibly, to death. The agricultural world resembles a sick body. We must save this body: in this, we are preservationists. But we must also heal it: and in this, we become revolutionaries.
It would be positively idealistic to pretend to restore the countryside by resuscitating the closed-off communities of yesteryear. (…) Modern agriculture can no longer continue to withdraw and shut itself off from the world; the only problem that it asks itself resides in the adaptation of immovable values that constitute its nature and its reasons for existence in the conditions of the present hour. – Let us not be fooled: rural life will have as much need of being rooted as it will need to be more open. Only solidly- structured social programs can adapt without also disintegrating during the exchanges that sweep up the modern world. A tree can only resist the wind to the degree with which it is rooted in the ground.
The problem exists in two spheres that must neither be confused nor separated: moral and institutional.
Neither individuals nor communities can be saved if they themselves do not collaborate for their general well-being. The evil that modern society suffers is too deep and too universal for a simple political change to suffice, like in the times of Henry the 4th, to bring back balance and health. This evil has penetrated to the very base social cells, and it is in these very same cells that recovery must start. The first of these cells— from which follows the life of the entire city and without which all other communities congeal, immobilized, or crumble apart—is the family.
Family life and rural life are intimately united. On the one hand, daily work and the earth require, in order to be fruitful, family unity and continuity, and on the other hand, this attachment to the earth reinforces family virtues. History has sufficiently proven that any society that loses its connection to the earth also sees the breakdown of its family structures, and vice versa. It is thus the rural family that we must first restore. No true rebirth of agriculture is conceivable other than in the preservation and multiplication of those hearths of farmers who, conscious of the greatness and the truth of their task, will hold onto the earth with all their heart and soul and will oppose, by their example and influence, the forces of inertia and dispersion. All other measures taken will be in vain if they do not accompany this push from the local elite that refuses to die and that emanates life. Our salvation resides above all in the work of our hands and the love of our hearts.