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Thursday, Sep. 29, 2016

May the conversation continue

Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2010, at 5:10 PM

Maybe you've noticed that my blogs seem to have taken on the theme of "travel."

This blog is also about a journey, albeit more noble and impacting than any trip I have ever taken.

After reading one article by Indian human rights activist Inderjit Singh Jaijee about the plight of farmers in the northwestern India state of Punjab, former human rights lawyer Rasil Basu knew she needed to go on a quest to create a film to tell the stories that have been silenced due to the taboo status of suicide in Indian culture.

Thanks to Jaijee, she and director Anwar Jamal were granted a place to stay and access to a community where farmer suicide, "The Harvest of Grief" is common.

Stories from mothers and widowed wives appearing in the film are absolutely heartbreaking.

Under the weight of mounting debt -- money lenders commonly charge 35-60 percent, ignoring the regulatory rate of 18 percent -- farmers with small plots of land can feel death is their only escape and ingest the chemicals intended to help them.

Those chemicals, along with hybrid seeds, resulted from the Green Revolution of in 1965. As I explained in the story "Documentary shocks, spurs conversation," much of the debate dealt with the Green Revolution and comparisons between Punjab and Midwest America states during the farm crisis of the 1980s.

The conversation continues.

"That that evening some people from rural areas went home with Spencer people, and they continued to talk about the film, too," Jan Myers, the coordinator of the Saturday screening of "Harvest of Grief" at Arts on Grand, said in an email.

She also shared that a friend had wanted to attend the screening, but was unable to due to previous commitments. That person heard, "The Basu documentary was wonderful and the whole event was exhilarating and thought-provoking," Myers said. "They 'felt sorry for those who left due to the weather as the whole evening was worthwhile and they can't stop thinking about it.'"

Myers also mentioned other people who could have shared their experiences with the farm crisis, but were unable to attend the event.

Here is your chance.

I am really looking forward to the continuation of an intriguing conversation about agriculture, farm crises, the Green Revolution, corporate agriculture and suicide.

On the topic of suicide, I want to mention that an Out of the Darkness Community Walk will begin at at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Royal Memorial Park Shleter House. These walks are to raise awareness and funds about suicide. No matter what the cause, I believe suicides can and should be prevented.

For more information and to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit http://www.outofthedarkness.org/ .

Thank you, and may the conversation continue.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Bob Dylan has a great tune on his third album about a poverty-stricken South Dakotan farmer who eventually spends his "last lone dollar on seven shotgun shells" and takes the lives of his family as well as his own. It's amazing.

The Ballad of Hollis Brown:


-- Posted by JohnnyMetro on Wed, Jun 30, 2010, at 3:38 PM

Thanks for posting the video, Johnny. Unfortunately, by the time I made time to watch it, it had been removed from youtube, due to copyright issues, apparently. I settled for a cover and it got the same message across. It is very moving and very realistic for many poor farmers worldwide.

I am posting another article about the event written by Rasil Basu's daughter Rekha:


-- Posted by Gabe Licht on Mon, Jul 5, 2010, at 10:25 AM

It's staggering to think of the number of farmers who have committed suicide. One has to wonder about the wider responsibilty, lessons that must be learned, and trends that may need reversed. We share the pain, and the responsibilty.

-- Posted by Humble thoughts on Mon, Jul 5, 2010, at 2:23 PM

Thanks to all who are principally responsible for making this conversation possible. I was at the screening, and a later conversation -- the many contributions were excellent, as is this film production.

I had a role in the 1980s farm crises which yielded a couple of bits of wisdom. One is at the most general pitch: "As goes the country, so goes the city." This was a shock of a saying when hitting home at the time -- many defined being rural as not being urban, and one can only wonder the vice versa is as often, if not more often held. The upshot is "global awareness," if we are to be human beings in such awareness, must include some sense of unity in the midst of diversity. Here, the unity would be something to the effect that we see ourselves feeding one another, or, simply, all life (lived experience) is at bottom shared life.

The other wisdom is more particular, in one sense, for the claim is made in regard to the personal appropriation of the meaning of life. We found farmers often generate understandings in the direction of believing that things going well means we are doing at least something right. While one can readily see where this line of thinking does go in terms of compounding motivated livelihood, the truth so starkly set before us is this thought does not work so well when taken in reverse. If things are not going well, then something I have done must have been wrong; and when things are the worst, my doing may become so concentrated in this direction so as to be intolerable. What action can one take to overcome feeling so bad? One generation felt as if they had failed, or betrayed, those who had come before, and had somehow undone all that had been made possible by the previous generations.

This latter indicated a deeply held world-view stood in the way of needing a distinctly different message. The film "Harvest of Grief," and the wisdom of the participants in the discussion following, point clearly to the harm of our getting the order of our relationships confused. Our conditional relationships of mutuality make it possible for us to go on when things go wrong and we do not have a story for how or why. We do not necessarily have to accept that we are ultimately, or always the cause of how things do go, for better and for worse. We are always free to take responsibility for ourselves; we do not have to understand ourselves as somehow bound to reproduce the necessities of the past.

I just think the earth is meant for us to come to know that, although we may at times in our lives go toward contact with reality in this world weeping, the meaning of what we learn doing so can resonate an even deeper joy, that is commensurate to the meaning of life.

-- Posted by OneVoiceAmongMany on Mon, Jul 5, 2010, at 11:53 PM

It's hard to see how people derive meaning in such dispair. The film doesn't show much optimism for a better future. One has a tendency to rest hope with the children, the next generation. However, without education and with poverty, along with realities of agriculture and society beyond ones control, where is the hope?

If we could pool the ideas of all the subsequent discussions, it might be a start..a nudge toward improvement. And trying to learn from the tragedies shown through the film and avoiding some of the same errors in the future is a possible optimistic outcome. But will we?

I wonder if the producer would want a listing of ideas generated from the after film discussions and if she could answer some of the subsequent questions raised such as "Does the male farmer incur a greater amount of pressure, harassment than the widowed spouse, or once the land is taken, does the debt 'go away'? "

-- Posted by Humble thoughts on Tue, Jul 6, 2010, at 9:35 AM

(I couldn't seem to edit or correct the last part if my posting on the format provided) I know that the debt "doesn't go away" for the widows, but does the expectation to repay it differ, or is the pressure upon the gender differ from what the farmer husband incurred? "What keeps the widows going?", someone posed in a subsequant conversation as the person expressed admiration for the strength of the women in the film.

-- Posted by Humble thoughts on Tue, Jul 6, 2010, at 10:59 AM

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As the junior staff writer here at The Daily Reporter, I enjoy interacting with my readers. This blog will allow me to do that. Whether voicing my opinion and looking for response or asking readers to weigh in on a specific topic I am writing about, I look forward to getting to know my readers and what they think.
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