Once upon a time, many years ago, when I’d just got back here after law skool in the Great Big City, our firm’s bookkeeper answered the phone and then went tearing out the door. I asked what was up. The answer was that their cows were wandering around the town where they live.
I observed, to no one in particular, “I bet my friends who went to Skadden don’t have this sort of thing happen very often around the office.”
A 70-year-old farmer was “apparently” unable to deal with his 30 cows. He was semi-retired, it seems, and only kept the cows . . . well, for the same reasons a lot of farmers keep livestock well past the time that they’re physically able to meet the full demands of farming. As Solzhenitsyn pointed out, the connection between the peasant and his animals was among the lesser-recognized cultural tragedies of Stalin’s collectivization policies. These people and their ancestors for centuries had lived cheek-by-jowl with their horses, cows, pigs, sheep, geese, ducks, chickens, and so forth. And in a flash it was all taken away from them and they were shipped hundreds or thousands of miles away, to the depths of the taiga, to chop down trees. Or just to starve or freeze to death.
Anyone want to bet that this 70-year-old was desperately hanging on to his life as “farmer,” and these cows were all he had left to do that? The article mentions that his property, in the middle of the village, it seems, had up until recently always been “exemplary.” But now it had “got above his head.” And — heaven forfend! — he failed to watch over his cows sometimes, and — o! the horror of it all — in recent times his cows were “even running in the street.” God save the mark.
So the government came to take his livestock from him.
They arrived this morning with their cattle trailers and he shot one of them with his shotgun, killing him.
I wasn’t there. I’ve never been there. So I don’t know what kind of a place Klein Behnitz is, other than from the perspective of however many miles in space Google takes pictures from. But I’ve been in a lot of places like it. And I have to ask myself where were this fellow’s neighbors? If he can’t take care of his cows on his own, wasn’t there anyone at all in his village who could have pitched in, just a little? Couldn’t they have taken turns? Around here your cows get out in the road and, while you’re expected to come get them yourself, it’s also expected that your neighbors will help out if they can.
Maybe Klein Behnitz just got tired of an old man who wasn’t up to it any more. I dunno. But the government came to destroy a man’s very identity, and now another man is dead.
Someone explain to me how this demonstrates that “government is just another name for what we all do together.”