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The Hidden Wound The Hidden Wound by Wendell Berry
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“No man will ever be whole and dignified and free except in the knowledge that the men around him are whole and dignified and free, and that the world itself is free of contempt and misuse.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“To both the racist and the puritan, childhood is not a time of life that we grow out of, as the life of the child grows out of the life of the parent or as a plant grows out of the soil, but a time and state of consciousness to be left behind, to cut oneself off from ... The child may be joyous, the man must be sober and self-denying; the child may be free, the man is to be "responsible"; the child may be candid in his feelings, the man must be polite, restrained, mindful of the demands of convention; the child may be playful, the man must be industrious. I am not necessarily objecting to the manly virtues, but I am objecting that they should be so exclusively assigned to grownups, and that grownups should be so exclusively restricted to them. A man may have all the prescribed adult virtues and, if he lacks the childhood virtues, still be a dunce and a bore and a liar.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“It is not, I think, a question of when and how the white people will "free" the black and the red people. It is a condescension to believe that we have the power to do that. Until we have recognized in them the full strength and grace of their distinctive humanity we will be able to set no one free, for we will not be free ourselves. When we realize that they possess a knowledge for the lack of which we are incomplete and in pain, then the wound in our history will be healed. Then they will simply be free, among us--and so will we, among ourselves for the first time, and among them.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“I should understand the land, not as a commodity, an inert fact to be taken for granted, but as an ultimate value, enduring and alive, useful and beautiful and mysterious and formidable and comforting, beneficent and terribly demanding, worthy of the best of man's attention and care... [My father] insisted that I learn to do the hand labor that the land required, knowing--and saying again and again--that the ability to do such work is the source of a confidence and an independence of character that can come no other way, not by money, not by education.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“It is, then, not simply a question of black power or white power, but of how meaningfully to reenfranchise human power. This, as I think Martin Luther King understood, is the real point, the real gift to America, of the struggle of the black people. In accepting the humanity of the black race, the white people will not be giving accommodation to an alien people; it will be receiving into itself half of its own experience, vital and indispensable to it, which it has so far denied at great cost.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“Our present idea of freedom is only the freedom to do as we please: to sell ourselves for a high salary, a home in the suburbs, and idle weekends. But that is a freedom dependent upon affluence, which is in turn dependent upon the rapid consumption of exhaustible supplies. The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and of each other. The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“This much is clear to me: insofar as I am capable of feeling such pleasures as I believe Nick felt, I am strong; insofar as I am dependent on the pleasures made available by my salary and the things I own, I am weak. I feel much more secure in those pleasures for which I am dependent on the world, as Nick was for most of his, than in those for which I am dependent on the government or on a power company or on the manufacturers of appliances. And I am far from conceding anything to those who assume that the poor or anyone else can be improved by recourse to that carnival of waste and ostentation and greed known as “our high standard of living.” As Thoreau so well knew, and so painstakingly tried to show us, what a man most needs is not a knowledge of how to get more, but a knowledge of the most he can do without, and of how to get along without it. The essential cultural discrimination is not between having and not having or haves and have-nots, but between the superfluous and the indispensable. Wisdom, it seems to me, is always poised upon the knowledge of minimums; it might be thought to be the art of minimums.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“As a people, we have been tolled farther and farther away from the facts of what we have done by the romanticizers, whose bait is nothing more than the wishful insinuation that we have done no harm. Speaking a public language of propaganda, uninfluenced by the real content of our history which we know only in a deep and guarded privacy, we are still in the throes of the paradox of the “gentleman and soldier.”

However conscious it may have been, there is no doubt in my mind that all this moral and verbal obfuscation is intentional. Nor do I doubt that its purpose is to shelter us from the moral anguish implicit in our racism—an anguish that began, deep and mute, in the minds of Christian democratic freedom-loving owners of slaves.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“From other stories that have been handed down to me I know that my people, like many others in the slave states, went to church with their slaves, were baptized with them, and presumably expected to associate with them in heaven. Again, I have been years realizing what this means, and what it has cost.

First, consider the moral predicament of the master who sat in church with his slaves, thus attesting his belief in the immortality of the souls of people whose bodies he owned and used. He thus placed his body, if not his mind, at the very crux of the deepest contradiction of his life. How could he presume to own the body of a man whose soul he considered as worthy of salvation as his own? To keep this question from articulating itself in his thoughts and demanding an answer, he had to perfect an empty space in his mind, a silence, between heavenly concerns and earthly concerns, between body and spirit. If there had ever opened a conscious connection between the two claims, if the two sides of his mind had ever touched, it would have been like building a fire in a house full of gunpowder: somewhere down deep in his mind he always knew of the danger, and his nerves were always alert to it.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“What the government will or will not do is finally beside the point. If people do not have the government they want, then they will have a government that they must either change or endure. Finally,”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“If the white man has inflicted the wound of racism upon black men, the cost has been that he would receive the mirror image of that wound into himself. As the master, or as a member of the dominant race, he has felt little compulsion to acknowledge or speak of it; the more painful it has grown the more deeply he has hidden it within himself. But the wound is there, and is a profound disorder, as great a damage in his mind as it is in his society.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“For if there was any kindness in slavery it was dependent on the docility of the slaves; any slave who was unwilling to be a slave broke through the myth of paternalism and benevolence, and brought down on himself the violence inherent in the system. A”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“Whereas the Odyssey represents the maturity of the moral consciousness of a whole people, Huckleberry Finn shows only its beginnings in the mind of a child. And with a self-protective dexterity that would not have surprised Mark Twain in the least, the adult racist mentality of America has dealt with the threat of that beginning by decreeing that Huckleberry Finn is not a book for the chastening of adults, which to a large extent it certainly is, but a book for the entertainment of children.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
“It is well established among us that you may hold up your head in polite society with a public lie in your mouth or other people’s money in your pocket or innocent blood on your hands, but not with dishwater on your hands or mud on your shoes.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound