Sunday, June 05, 2005

Beneath the Grass and the Government

People just love their lawns. They are literally addicted to them. They cultivate them, nurture them, groom them, care for them and admire them. Just like they do their kids. Sometimes, even more so. Personally, I don’t have a lawn. I live in a condominium. So, I am not an authority on the subject. In fact, maybe I have no right at all to express an opinion on lawns being as I have no personal experience caring for one. Maybe there’s some existential, deeply emotional, satisfying feeling about having a well groomed lawn that I am not aware of. All I know is that I see them everywhere. Lawns literally dominate our landscape. They consume us. We are veritable lawn junkies. It’s like we are all members of some sort of mindless lawn-cult or something.

Lets face it, lawns are superficial, artificial and downright boring. They don’t represent nature. How could they? After all, they repress nature. They only exist because people expend great effort preventing everything in nature but grass from growing there. I wonder, where the heck are the environmentalists? Why aren’t they marching on people’s lawns in dandelion costumes demanding that evil suburbanites free their lawns from slavery. If they were worth their salt, ‘Greenpeace’ would be all over this by now!

Personally, I like dandelions. I think they’re rather pretty. Lawn owners, however hate them They kill them, in large disturbing numbers. It’s a sort of genocide aimed at weeds. Call it weedicide. Imagine being a dandelion growing on someone’s lawn and seeing some huge, unshaven, weedophobic homeowner lumber toward you, hoe in hand, a maniacal look on his face, a grotesquely oversized pot belly stretching his too-small “Budweiser” t-shirt so that the logo is almost unintelligible. Can you even imagine such a horrific fate? I am literally shaking as I write this. No dandelion deserves to face such unspeakable terror.

Let’s be honest here, lawns are not that attractive. They are flat, characterless, soulless patches of bland emptiness. They demonstrate the obsession of a sad, brainwashed lawnlove culture. I just can’t figure it out. What’s the attraction? I don’t get it. Why do we all want the land in front of our homes to look so blandly similar? Is there no pride anymore in individuality? Is there no respect for nature? Virtually every single home, in every single village, town and city has a spotless, meticulous, woefully generic lawn. Everyone and their dog has allowed this ‘lawn culture’ to take over their lives. (By the way, take the last three letters off the word ‘culture’ and what have you got? Right. Never doubt it, if you are part of a so-called ‘culture’, you are really just part of a big cult. In this case, a lawn cult. You cultivate your lawn don’t you? Remove the last five letters from the word cultivate. Scary, huh?)

So here we are. Everyone believes they have to have a perfect lawn. In fact, it’s like sacrilege to not have one. Call it a cult, or call it a religion, it’s all the same, really. Many of us spend every Sunday worshipping and loving our lawns. Lawns are more important to us than God. We literally revere them and cry when they develop brown patches or inconsistencies. We care less when the church is disrespected or when our children develop acne.

Whether you own a house or simply admire other people’s houses, I bet you like lawns. I bet when you walk or drive by people’s homes where the lawn is shabby and unkempt, you roll your eyes and comment on it. It’s like the state of someone’s lawn reflects on their quality as a person. Like anyone who does not conform with the socially imposed, lawn-cult norm is some sort of deviant - someone unworthy of your respect. And we are all guilty of it. We have all been conditioned through social pressure to buy into this intolerant, discriminatory culture of lawn-loving exclusionism.

If you let your lawn go, your neighbours would complain to you and probably the municipal government. And because everyone else in your neighbourhood is a lawn loving automaton, you would be doomed. You would get no sympathy or help from them. After all, you would be undermining the value of their homes by not making your lawn just like theirs. You might think you own and control your property. But, how you manage your property is really contingent upon the approval of everyone else and whether they choose to complain to the authorities.

Now, depending on where you live, the local government may or may not have the authority to inspect and regulate your property, including your front yard. If they do, they may determine that you are not complying with the necessary standards and codes and ask you to make your lawn more like everyone else’s. And you would. It’s what any good Canadian home owner would do. You would submit to the will of the collective and the state.

Here in Toronto, municipal politicians have taken the opposite approach. They apparently don’t mind weeds at all and plan on banning all pesticide use. Soon, all Toronto homeowners who want a spotless lawn will have to visit their chemical-free lawns daily on their hands and knees, trowel in hand. It’ll be hard work, but it’s worth it.

When I started writing this piece I had the intention of making it a point to note how we have enslaved nature through our lawns – how we have eradicated all other natural plants in order to ensure that our preferred plant slave, the grass, dominated over all things. However, after having thought about it, I’m not so sure this is true. In fact now I believe the exact opposite.

Rather than enslaving our lawn and being dominant over it, I have come to understand that we have actually become enslaved by, and are dominated by, it. The grass is our master, not the opposite. And the government is the master of the grass. If we want to know where we fall on the ladder of significance, it is somewhere beneath the grass and the government.

Think about this next weekend when you are cultivating your lush green master while I am having a cool drink at the pub. How much of your life will you sacrifice to eradicate a few shrubs or dandelions? Whatever the case, you better just get on with it. You might think of it as a pleasure, but, never doubt, it is really a social requirement. Very similar to a job. A job where you are paid nothing; but a job nonetheless. Do it or suffer the consequences.

Oh well, at least your neighbours and the people who pass by are impressed. That has to be worth something.


Blogger Linda said...

Absolutely brilliant, Ron! I once checked out a book from the library that made much the same point as you just did (though it was not nearly as entertaining!) and the author did explain the roots of this particular malady. It turns out that it all started across 'the pond' with the acres of rolling green on European estates. Never mind that the lords and ladies were able to employ armies of gardeners who devoted themselves to nothing else but the maintenance of this outdoor carpeting. As the middle class became wealthier, they sought to emulate their 'betters' by attempting to mimic the landscaping of the aristocrats. Presto -- 'lawns' became chic and de rigueur. After that, the thing took on a life of its own and became entrenched in the culture.

My lawn includes dandelions and several varieties of pretty wildflowers that just sprouted one day. I enjoy them all. My hubby 'hates' dandelions (he's a golfer -- maybe it's in their genes), so as he was sacrificing them, trowel in hand, I asked him to at least get something good out of it by imagining that each 'weed' was a Liberal.

There are grass varieties in existence that are much less prone to problems, are more environmentally friendly (water needs) and require much less maintenance, if your object is (as mine is) to have a nice surface for the kids to run around on. It's costly to make the initial switch of course... So for now, we're stuck with what we've got.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

A friend of mine from New Zealand thinks we're all nuts. In much more practical NZ, they let their lawns die in the heat of the summer. Which makes perfectly good sense. Who hasn't lived through a "water rationing" summer where you can get fined for watering your lawn on the wrong day?

In Vancouver, a lot of people have given up on lawns and sew wildflower seeds instead. I don't know if they go rooting out dandelions or not. The mix of seeds is a broad variety, so there are blooms spring through fall. Very pretty. Doesn't require mowing. But I wonder - do you have to dig up the dead ones every year?

That's probably far less work than mowing every week. And in Vancouver, grass usually starts growing again in late February and continues until late October. That's a lot of mowing.

You have a very warped approach to things - I love it! Keep it up.

10:12 PM  

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