When the big and glutinous corporations realized how much money there was to be made by presenting only bad and frightening news and polarizing the country by presenting every issue as an eternal conflict between two warring ideologies, they damaged our democracy – that is apparent to everyone now except the raging screamers of the "left" and the "right" – and they took away and drowned out the voices of individual people.
Few of us are happy with they way they present the world to us, and many of us still fear to explore and embrace the new tools we have for speaking for ourselves and finding out own identity, not simply parroting in the identity of others.
I am a former journalist and media critic, I studied and taught the history of media for years and wrote about it for places like Wired and Rolling Stone Magazine. I loved that period of my life, but I knew if I kept on writing about the media, I would become as angry and miserable as many of the people I see on cable news every night or sucking at the Washington trough. And I can't blame them. That would have destroyed me and turned me bitter and angry, as too many of the journalists I once worked with have quite inevitably become.
I think animals saved me and gave me the strength to turn my writing in a different direction.
Good journalism, increasingly struggling to adapt to the corporate onslaught, is not profitable, like so many other good things in our culture, and cannot be manipulated so easily. Much of it has been pushed aside by the giant corporations that now control our culture, discredited by the ideologues and extremists because it cannot be controlled. Good journalists are the natural enemy of ideologues and extremists.
People would rather blame the media than pay attention to the politicians. It's easier. And increasingly, it's hard to distinguish one from another.
What does that have to do with me now and you, reading this Farm Journal blog? I'm really writing about blogs. There are now more 30 million blogs in America, and they are returning individual voice to the public, long disenfranchised by corporate media. They are as rich, diverse and engaging as the mass media is narrow, suffocating, greedy, and polarizing.
They are a new path for those of us who do not see or hear our voices reflected anywhere in the national dialogue raging on.
For little or no money, we can find our voices and speak out to the world again, something ordinary people have not been able to do for generations, if not centuries, since the time of the pamphleteers and neighborhood printers. We can get our message out.
Blogs are revolutionizing creative and individuality, they may soon transform politics, as caring and thoughtful citizens begin to present alternatives to the truly awful representations of American life now seen on cable and commercial television.
My friends Carol and Ed Gulley are powerful examples of how this new revolution is working.
Food and farming are not issues politicians care to talk about much, they would much prefer to inflame the fears and prejudices of people. But now, the farmers can tell the story themselves. The Gulleys are showing us that.
Tireless, life-long dairy farmers, Ed and Carol felt that small farmers had lost their voice. Six months ago,they never heard of a blog, had no computer, didn't use cell phones. Today they have a new computer, an Iphone 5 and a new blog, and their voice is being heard, they are telling the story of the small farmer every day in a way that the media never would or could – in their own honest voices.
On their blog, others farmers are finding them, so are people who want to know where their food comes from. I believe in time, they will have a substantial audience reading their work.
Today, Carol Gulley wrote on the Bejosh Farm Journal about her understanding that you have to accept the fact that life does not always go your way and you have to learn to move on. Carol, who has never in her life spoken in public about her own struggles and feelings – she was traumatized by the grievous injuries her son Jeremy suffered in a tractor accident some years ago and has struggled over how to move on – and her she is writing about it on her blog in a beautiful and powerful way.
Ed talks almost every day about the life of the farm, the economics of the farm, the truth of the far and the animals on the farm that they love so much.
In some ways, we and the Gulleys are an unlikely friendship, in any other ways we are very much alike. All four of us are on the same path, we are determined to be creative, find our voices, and tell our stories to the world. Carol and Ed Gulley inspire me. It is frightening to do that, it was frightening for Maria, for me, for Ed and Carol. Fear is a space to cross, and there is great meaning on the other side.
I know so many good and creative people who are paralyzed by their fear of new technology, of this idea of raising our lips to the world, and it is not my place to push or badger them. They have to want it for themselves. Carol and Ed Gulley reaffirm for me, and for Maria, the power of our blogs in our lives.
I meet powerful and experienced and accomplished people all the time who blanche and tremble and the very idea of doing what these two exhausted and pressed dairy farmers are finding the time and strength to do. It is a gift every day to read their new and fresh and honest writing.
Maria could not possible work as an artist in a small town like Cambridge without her blog, she sells her art to the wider world so she can live here. I doubt I would have survived the turmoil of modern publishing without my blog, both as an anchor and as a way to supplement my shrinking royalties. Beyond that, my writing here has helped me learn and heal, has grounded me in important ways. The blog has taken on a life of its own, it is doing good in different ways.
Put your lips to the world, Mary Oliver said, and just live. I think that is the lesson the Gulleys are learning now, and that is yet another gift to the world. Do not look for their stories on CNN or Fox News or in The New York Times, or on the political blogs of the left and the right, you will not find it there. In the Kabbalah, God said to Abraham, "go to your self, know yourself, fulfill yourself."
That is what the Gulleys are doing,and Maria and I both love and admire them for it. They will teach all of us a great deal before they are done, and tell the people who want to know what it means to be a farmer in oblivious America, and what a farmer's life is really like.