|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
|North America: early 20th Century
Scott Nearing (1883-1983)
From The Vegetarian, published by The Vegetarian Society UK, November/December 1983:
Scoot Nearing, who died on August 24th at his farm in Harborside, Maine, USA aged 100, was one of the truly great vegetarians of this century. He was well know as a radical and as a pacifist in the early part of this century and describes that aspect of his life in 'The Making of a Radical'.This is recommended reading for all fellow vegetarians who want to understand Scott's sense of mission as a teacher. We quote from the final chapter of the book, ' The Last Term of my Education'. ". . . I came with an assignment; to seek out the truth, to teach the truth, to help weave justice, and mercy into the fabric of human society . . ."
". . . I had the good fortune to be born in 1883 and to live consciously through more than half a century of transformation of a class culture. I have watched the doors of opportunity swing open for larger and larger segments of my fellowmen. I never thought the world would move so quickly, that socialism would spread so far so fast. Not only have I watched the process, but I have played a part in the big drama. Indeed I consider that I came with an assignment to do my level best to help convert our time of troubles into an era of opportunities. . . "
Act by act, day by day, year by year, age by age, the Inspector has come around asking, "How are you getting on today, this year, this life, in this period? Let's have a look at your records. . . "
". . . this autobiography is part of my report to the Inspector. One of these days the Head Office will acknowledge the receipt of my report and I will, I hope give me another assignment. Meanwhile the books are open. The auditors are at work. Balances are being struck . . . "
By now Scott has faced the Greatest Inspector of all, and we feel certain that he has already been given another assignment by the Great Head Office.
God speed you on your NEW way, beloved Scott, you have so much to contribute wherever you are!
Scott's radical views expressed in both writing and speaking got him into trouble with the authorities, Finally he lost his post in the academic world and registered into the 'College of Hard Knocks".
In 1932 he and his wife, Helen, decided to turn their back on cities, with three objectives in mind. We quote from 'Living the Good Life' which they both wrote together. " . . . We left the city with three objectives in mind. The first was economic. We sought to make a depression-free living, as independent as possible of the commodity and labour markets, which could npot be interfered with by employers, whether businessmen, politicians or educational administrators. Our second aim was hygienic. We wanted to maintain and improve our health. We knew that the pressures of city life were exacting, and we sought a simple basis of well-being where contact with the earth, and home-grown organic food, would play a large part. Our third onjective was social and ethical.
We decided to liberate and disassociate, as much as possible, from the cruder forms of exploitation, the plunder of the planet; the slavery of man and beast; the slaughter of men in war, and of animals for food. . . "
This was published in 1954 by "The Social Science Institute", which the Nearings started to publish their own books, when other publishers would no longer be associated with Scott's writings because of his political views. They were then among the rejected!
In 1970 Schocken Books brought out a new edition and almost overnight Scott and Helen became world famous as the pioneers who taught a blueprint of the 'Good Life'. They were feted in New York and the book quickly went into several reprints. This was exactly what the restless young couple had been looking for!
They had done all the basic work on homesteading, 'Living the Good Life' is a goldmine of practical information, and leaves no one under any illusion about the difficulties and sheer hard work of 'opting out'.
We first met the Nearings when Scott was already in his 80s during the IVU congresses. With his broad frame, and often twinkling blue eyes, he was the very image of a rugged individualist. The moment he spoke he had his listeners spellbound, with his knack of saying just those few words which brought the clear light of reason, the weight of experience and the unobtrusive compassion of greta humanity into any situation. He still had the powerful voice during the very strenuous three weeks IVU Congress touring India in 1977, when he was 94. His comments had the effect of a flash of lightning which produced instant clarity.
During the 1975 Congress in Maine, USA we were told by several American professors that Scott was considered one of the most effective American speakers of this century. After that Congress we had the great privilege of staying with Scott and Helen at Forest Farm. We saw them in the process of building the stone house from which Scott made the journey into the 'World Invisible', and Gordon worked for one whole Sunday with Scott, who always fasted on Sundays! We are the fortunate possessors of a set of slides showing the two men in action and also conveying the beauty and fertility of the place.
We also experi4enced Scott's working capacity when they stayed with us after the the 1970 New York celebrations. He sawed logs from dawn to dusk and was able to spend some of his accumulated physical energy!
Scott and Helen taught by example and doing, by writing and lecturing. Their remote farms both in Vermont and Maine had long become places of pilgrimage, and for many years now 'visiting hours' had to be restricted to enable the work to continue. It is our hope that some of you may read, 'The Making of a Radical', which is dedicated to Helen, who did half the work'. Just in case you don't, let us quote once more from the book:
". . . I became a pacifist because I respect life. I believe that life is an important part of the manifested universe. I am one expression of life as I am also part of the universe. As I respect the universe in all its parts, so I respect myself and all the other living beings who inhabit it . . .
". . . I became a vegetarian because I was persuaded that life is as valid for other creatures as it is for humans. I do not need dead animal bodies to keep me alive, strong and healthy. Therefore, I will not kill for food. . . "
". . . I assume that my fellow creatures have as much right to live as I. I would like to help them to live and develop, not hinder, or harm them. Armed with weapons I am stronger than they are and therefore responsible to help them. As a vegetarian I do the least possible harm to the least numbers of other living entities. Recognizing that all forms of life are worthy of respect, I disturb the life process as little as I can. . ."
Helen continues the work where Scott had to leave it, magnificently carried out through a very long working life on many levels.
We thank them both for showing us what wholeness of body, mind and spirit can accomplish, and we hold them in our love!