The Farmer

It was the first day of the week, and I had become rather worried about the farmer. He was working harder than he ever had before. Every day he would rise before dawn to begin harvesting his wheat, then he would drive his combine harvester all day long until well after dusk, when he would go to bed without speaking to anyone because he was so tired. It seemed that he did not have time for conversation anymore. Some in the village were saying that he had gone mad; more were saying that he had simply developed a work ethic. Most people, however, were too busy with their work to care. Either way, it seemed as if the farmer could not realise the huge amount of wheat he was harvesting, because he started and finished every day in the dark.

On the second day I walked out of the village into the farm. In the farm there were twenty-eight fields of wheat. Previously I had learnt that, on a good day of harvesting, the farmer would harvest a single field of wheat in one day, so that by the time every field had been harvested there was plenty of time for them all to grow back again for the next month. I immediately noticed something strange however – although only one day had passed, four entire fields had already been harvested!

‘Excuse me!’ I called to the farmer over the aching drone of his harvester. ‘I say! Aren’t you harvesting a bit too fast?’

‘Too fast?’ he laughed, ‘you think I am harvesting too fast? I am working hard! I am being productive! If we don’t work hard, then we will all fail!’

And he continued to harvest all day long.

On the third day I went out to the farm again, and found that another four fields had gone.

‘Don’t you think you ought to slow down?’ I said to him again. ‘We don’t have enough fields for you to be harvesting so fast.’

The farmer laughed again, condescendingly.

‘If I slow down, then there will be no production, and if there’s no production, then we will all starve!’

‘But we’ve never needed that much food before.’

‘We must work harder! We must be productive!’

And he continued to harvest all day long.

On the third day I tried to persuade some of the villagers to come out and see the destruction with me, but they were too apathetic and wanted to keep working. I went to the farmer and tried to reason with him.

‘If you continue harvesting at this rate,’ I said, ‘then we’ll run out of food, and the land will never be able to recover.’

‘But we must work hard! We must be productive!’ ‘But you are destroying everything!’

‘If I was destroying everything, don’t you think more people would care? Why are you the only one saying that?’

‘Because everyone else has been distracted with work.’

I glanced hopelessly back at the village, willing someone to appear, but no one did.

‘Why are you working so hard?’ I said.

‘I work for the people in the house now.’

He pointed. Beyond the farm in the direction of his finger there stood a great, opulent mansion, enormous and white and looking emptily down over both the village and us. I had remembered there being a house on that spot in my youth, but I had never remembered it being so big.

‘Who lives there?’ I asked.

‘It could be lots of people, or it could be one person. No one is really sure. But they have made us work hard, and hard work is good!’

And with that, he continued to harvest all day long.

By the fifth day, I was becoming very concerned.

‘Look, it’s only the fifth day of the week, and you have already harvested sixteen fields. The village has not been able to eat all that wheat. Where has everything we haven’t eaten gone?’

‘If it has not been eaten then it has been thrown out. That is your fault.’

I was horribly alarmed at this.

‘You mean to say that all that wheat has been thrown out if we have not eaten it? But that must be a majority of everything you’ve harvested!’

‘If you have not eaten it, it is your fault. You cannot slow production!’

And he continued to harvest all day long.

On the sixth day I finally managed to bring two villagers with me to the farm to show them what was happening.

‘The farmer is harvesting too fast,’ I explained. ‘He is creating too much wheat, and most of it is being thrown away. All the food will be gone by the end of the week, and then we will starve. The land will never regenerate if we harvest it at this rate.’

The villagers shook their heads solemnly, and pointed up at the house.

‘We cannot stop production. We must all work hard. The people in the house have taught us that.’

‘Who are the people in the house?’

‘They own the farm, and so they run the town. We must all work hard; we must all do our bit.’

‘What is this madness!’ I cried. ‘There are only four fields left – by the end of tomorrow, everything will be gone!’

On the seventh day I ran screaming around the village, hoping to incite enough excitement for them all to come and stop the farmer with me.

‘Be quiet!’ they all said. ‘It is Sunday, and we are sleeping!’

Desperate and frustrated, I fled out into the farm.

‘Stop! Stop!’ I cried helplessly. ‘Can’t you see what you are doing? If you harvest those last fields, there will be nothing left, and we will all perish!’

‘No, you fool, you have it wrong!’ the farmer replied. ‘If we stop working then we will all perish! Productivity is God!’

‘Stop, I tell you, stop! Don’t listen to the people in the house, they are greedy and wrong!’

‘No, they are saving us with hard work!’

His combine harvester was moving closer and closer to the edge of the hill where the farm ended. I realised that as soon as he harvested the final field, his machine would topple over, and his demonic dream would disappear.

‘You are risking your life! Stop harvesting, otherwise you will fall over the edge of the hill, and the village will starve!’

‘Productivity!’ he cried. ‘Hard work! What are you, a slacker? A scrounger? You ought to be punished!’

‘No, I am trying to save you!’

‘You are weak! You are a parasite! You are lazy! You must be punished!’

He was right on the brink now, the last of the wheat falling away before his machine.

‘Stop, stop, I beg you!’

‘Work! Productivity! Salvation!’

And with that, the farmer harvested the very last of the wheat, and his great machine that had worked so hard toppled over the edge and went crashing down the side of the hill like a nightmare shot out of the sky. I paused, panting, to stare distraught at the destruction that had been caused. The field was completely empty; there was no food; there was no chance of food again. The village would fall into poverty and starve. I had tried hard, but I could not stop the farmer.

And before I went back to the village to inform the villagers of their fate, I looked up at the house, and saw a new extension, and a new car.

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