I was recently reminded of the passing of Joe Bageant. Joe was an unusual sort, best known for a book called Deer Hunting with Jesus. Joe was raised poor, a working class southerner. At some point in his life he developed leftist leanings, went off and received a good education and became a magnificent writer. However, Joe never fully forsook his roots; the people, the plants, the animals, the soil, the smells, the blood, and the spirit of the South remained alive in his heart and soul and sprang to life in his words, despite having left that world behind.
Over the years Joe became disillusioned with the intellectual elite of the left as well as hard right Capitalist barons, both of which seemed exceedingly willing to allow his kin to work in poverty, trapped by ignorance: to fight the wars, feed the mouths, man the mills, and toil in mines for minmal compensation, only to be discarded when bodies failed. For the biggest part Joe's kin were unwilling to take handouts, preferring to earn the meager life they had, a hard and proud people. He admired them for these traits, yet simmered in anger at those that took advantage of their ways.
Most of Joe’s kin considered themselves libertarian minded when it came to beliefs in governance, but in actuality, were very much practicing socialists on a local scale, though they’d be loathe to admit that fact. They shared meager provisions with neighbors, lending helping hands when needed. They did charity work through churches and local organizations like unpaid volunteer fire departments, coaching little league teams, or conducting charity drives and bake sales for any number of good causes.
Joe traveled and lived in Mexico and Belize in latter years, finding other poor hardworking people, differing in color and language but similar in spirit to those he grew up with. He joined them in their daily lives. Over time he became less hopeful of political solutions; his tone became bitter and angry, but all the while, cognizant of the great capacity humans have to love and care for each other on a personal scale. Joe documented random acts of kindness and sharing and savored what he could of the simple world of the poor in all its various manifestations.
He shunned big money and fame for with that money and prestige comes censorship and Joe refused to be censored, nor would he toe the party line when the party line lacked merit.
Joe fought for the things in which he believed because he gave a damn. He really cared.
It wasn’t some intellectual pursuit or a game of one-upmanship that spurred Joe to write, it was seeing others in pain and misery that by damn could have been avoided by more sensible thinking. He became the voice they did not have.
The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s apathy.
We should, too.