The Field

The last time Christ was in a temple he destroyed it’ – ‘Bull’ McCabe

Synopsis from IMDB

“Bull” McCabe’s family has farmed a field for generations, sacrificing endlessly for the sake of the land. And when the widow who owns the field decides to sell the field in a public auction, McCabe knows that he must own it. But while no one in the village would dare bid against him, an American with deep pockets decides that he needs the field to build a highway. The Bull and his son decide to convince the American to give up bidding on the field, but things go horribly wrong.

For Bull McCabe the field is an integral part of his existence. Generations of blood sweat and tears went into the creation of this verdant patch amid a barren rocky landscape. The field exists as a part of the living ancestral link within which Bull is deeply embedded. Clearly there is an intrinsic value at stake here which cannot be measured by the ‘market’ value.

Scattering dandelion seeds to the wind he tells his son Tadgh:

‘This is what we’d be without the land, boy.’

Living examples of a people reduced to a precarious nomadic existence are the ‘tinkers’ in the film. As Bull sees it:

‘The tinkers lost their footing on the land during the famine and they’ll never get back on’


In a dialogue with the local priest Bull spells out what the field means to him:

–  Why’re you interfering, Father? This is none of the Church’s business.

– It’s the Widow’s field. She has the right to sell it.

– No. It’s my field. It’s my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it! My only want is that green grass, that lovely green grass, and you want to take it away from me, and in the sight of God I can’t let you do that!

– Can’t you find another field?

– Another field? Another field? Jesus, you’re as foreign here as any Yank. Another field? Are you blind? Those hands, do you see those hands? Those rocks! It was a dead thing! Don’t you understand?

– This is the Widow’s field. That’s the law. The common law.

– There’s another law, stronger than the common law.

– What’s that?

– The law of the land.

If there is a law of the land for Bull McCabe which overrides the common law then for the English ruling classes at the time of the famine there were the inflexible tenets of laissez-faire capitalism which could not be violated. These iron economic laws hindered famine relief, prolonged the suffering and resulted in the death and diaspora of the Irish.

‘Almost without exception the high officials and politicians responsible for Ireland were fervent believers in non-interference by government, and the behaviour of the British authorities only becomes explicable when their fanatic belief in private enterprise and their suspicions of any action which might be considered government intervention are borne in mind’      (Woodham Smith ‘The Great Hunger’)

The priest condemns an act of murder engendered by an excessive desire for land but the incremental legalising and condoning of usury engendered the destruction of both the people and the land. In 1536 the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII led to the creation of both an Aristocratic ruling clique and a pauper underclass both of whom will be subjected to the shackles of the usurers.

‘The Catholic Church held the lending of money for interest or gain to be directly in the face of the Gospel. It considered all such gain as usurious and of course criminal. It taught the making of loans without interest, and thus it prevented the greedy-minded from amassing wealth…Usury among Christians was wholly unknown until the wife-killing tyrant had laid his hands on the property of the Church and the poor’  (William Cobbett ‘A History of the Protestant Reformation’)

645 monasteries, 90 colleges, 110 hospitals and 2,374 chantries and free chapels were looted. The accumulated wealth of 900 years of labour created within the form of a Christian culture, which decreed that property was to be put to social use, was ruthlessly plundered. This large-scale theft of land and property by the state is the beginning of English Capitalism and the eventual acceptance of usury for the liquidation of the pilfered assets. From there it is a short step to a plutocracy. The rule of Usura:


‘What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish?’

(T.S Eliot ‘The Wasteland’)

What has this to do with us today? Our ‘field’, our common ground, was our sense of identity as part of an ancient historical stream, the mental and spiritual landscape of the West. From the small circle of the family extending outward to the village, the parish, the guild, the county and the nation, our identity was reflected and shaped in the patrimony of folk traditions, holy days, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, legends, proverbs, arts and crafts. It is precisely these folk ways that have been almost completely dismantled throughout the West with the ascension of global capital and the uprooting of rural communities.

Our Diversity is Their Strength

Even within the urban communities the dismantling continues. The profits accrued from the labour of the workers are used to finance the creation of a radically divided underclass, fractured along ethnic, linguistic, social and cultural lines. The state sponsored ideology of multiculturalism ensures that there is no unified workforce to interfere with the maximisation of profit. Unions are becoming a thing of the past, nationalism is vilified as populism and protectionism, the Left has ceased to criticise the economic system and preaches the secular eschatology of egalitarianism with full state approval and corporate funding


Our field is now a battlefield in the cultural war. Communities formed around various industries such as textiles, potteries, steel works and mining are laid waste by outsourcing. The hollowed out shell of a nation over which has passed the perfect storm of usury and liberalism is then opened up to the tourist trade and the heritage industry. The consciousness once deeply bound up with the locality and the landscape is cut adrift and left to make its own way in the Hobbesian world of dog eat dog, zero-hour contracts and cut throat competition. Any residual resistance, any natural sense of the injustice of it all, will be pathologized as xenophobia, irrational fear of outsiders:


Unless we can somehow reconnect with the bedrock of our identity  we will all become tinkers in the aftermath of globalisation.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s