I recently had the opportunity to talk with a reporter from Esquire magazine about the growth of the Christian agrarian and homesteading movement. One thing I mentioned was that people were looking for answers, that they realized something was dreadfully wrong with modern life and wanted something better. I mentioned that as America has become more centralized and more technologically advanced, people are unhappier than they have ever been and sicker than they have ever been. The reporter said, “But we live a lot longer now.” My answer was “Not necessarily.”
Living longer is one of industrialism’s favorite lies. It is taught to every child, this idea that modern man lives longer than his predecessors. This supposed “fact” trumps any agrarian argument, so some believe. By the way, I’m not saying this gentlemen thought that it would trump anything I said, but many do think so. He was just throwing out what he thought was a fact to consider. If it were true, I would still advocate an agrarian life and economy, but the thing is….it just isn’t true. One area that modern medicine has actually improved life is in the area of treating trauma cases and saving sick or premature babies. This is a fine thing! The problem is the way they calculate life expectancy. They average the age of people when they die, so that as they remove the children who used to die young and the mid-aged folks who survive accidents, they create a slight of hand. All of the sudden it looks like modern man lives longer. They don’t, just less young people die. An example of a more truthful way to judge this question comes from Eric Sloane in his book Season’s of America Past…
The elderly man of today has less chance of living than did his counterpart of the past! In 1832 a special census was taken of all people in the United States over one hundred years old. The possibility of inaccuracies was taken into consideration and hearsay, such as reports of Negro slaves, was ruled out. It was found that at least one person in ever forty five hundred Americans was one hundred years old or more. Today the figure is only one in thirty four thousand.
Sloane continues to explain how industrial food, chemicals and lack of physical work contribute to the fact that modern man lives many less years than the old agrarian farmer. This book was written in 1958! Statistics are a funny thing. Sadly, most people will refuse to believe the facts. If they were wrong, they would not be able to say “at least we live longer” when they thought of the wretched artificial, industrial life they live. That’s a bit too much to ask.