Patrick Noble’ Books

For new posts (& old) click on “Archives” to the right

Patrick is the author of a number of books, which are available from both best & worst bookshops, or from the author.  The archive to the right will hold new posts of his writing.  His day job is that of farmer.  http://www.bryncocyn.wordpress.com

Towards the Convivial Economy was published by the Smokehouse Press in March 2017

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It is available from the author, or publisher for £7.50 plus postage & packing, or of course, from any good bookshop.

Patrick’s other books include –

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014)

A Potent Nostalgia (2013)

The Commons of Soil (2011)

The Lost Coefficient of Time (2011)

Romantic Economics (2010)

Notes from the Old Blair and Bush (2008)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was published by Smokehouse Press in November 2014

“Could we dream of a better world? Do we have the imagination to link happiness to places, people closely to our planet? These are epic times, and Patrick Noble sets out how to explore the routes to conviviality we may have forgotten we desire. Creating greener economies will take remarkable effort. Here, then, are some brave solutions.”  Professor Jules Pretty

“Patrick Noble’s writings preserve the organic movement’s authentic radical spirit” – Dr Philip Conford, author of The Development of the Organic Network.

From the author – 350 pages, £8.50 plus postage & packing

Contact onfo@bryncocynorganic.co.uk

Here’s a paypal link – https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=SLUE2BSRZ4VXG

Or from Smokehouse Press –  http://www.smokehousepress.co.uk/patrick.htm

Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. by Dr Philip Conford, courtesy of the Organic Grower – journal of The Organic Growers’ Alliance –

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Speed

What of fossil-powered speed – the borrowed muscular lives of fossilised years? Do we forget ourselves in consequence?
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What of two people walking side by side? They are more or less equal until they step into what money can buy – a car; an aeroplane…
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What happens when the energy required for cars and aeroplanes exceeds available energy – that is, exceeds what is possible? Is that a partial recipe for equality?
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But does that speed lead to a forgetting, not only of human speed, but of all human qualities?
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What of the time between destinations – both the space/time and the space? Does shrunken time, also shrink space and so the richness of a life?
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What of the purchased fancy of traveling between places, without the revelatory truth of the places in between?
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If the places in between are a nuisance to be transcended by those millions of purchased photosynthetic years, is our knowledge not impoverished and our imagination stunted? Certainly, our chosen purchases must crowd out what is unpredictable, sacramental, revelatory, beautiful and true.
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Listen, as we slow to walking pace, so the great mass of life comes around us in the ways we’ve evolved to live – in obstacles, delights, gradients, weathers, sights, sounds, scent… As we slow, revelation accelerates. That is, as we slow, what is human accelerates and swells. Also, what is possible, accelerates and swells.
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Here’s something else, as we speed by our purchasing power, so we impoverish the passage of time. That’s as old as the oldest philosopher.
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So, is slower richer in rewards and faster poorer – even though slower is poorer in money and faster richer? Is unnatural speed, not a perfect parable for folly?
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May that (if we have sufficiency) be a paradigm for everything? – the poor little rich kid and the convivial cottager? – or, our current ways of fossil-fuelled life relative to a life lived within human limits? I propose that a future moral, good life could be very much happier – and happier for all, than today’s lives of copious consumer-choices for some and debt and anxiety for the rest.
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What of the speeds of a lifespan? A journey passed without event is impoverished and empty. Is a full passage of obstacles, physical efforts, surprises and unexpected delights really less full of travelling power than the sleeping traveller purchases from those ancient fossilised years? Unless we move at human speed, can we be fully human? Can we think straight?
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The office worker who complains of the slow pace of rural life is truly confused by the delusions of her speed of purchasing and speed of supply. That rural life is far quicker (in both senses) with urgency of confronted obstacles and the celebration of delights.
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In a recent Guardian article, George Monbiot provides this –
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Guy Debord argued that “the spectacle” (the domination of social relationships by images) is used to justify the “dictatorship of modern economic production”. It both disguises and supplants the realities of capitalism, changing our perceptions until we become “consumers of illusion”
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Let’s think of reclaiming commons as reclaiming past and future – reclaiming the flow of time. Let’s consider re-synchronisation of motion, so that lost things and places become apparent as they re-enmesh. Let’s become the beat of a pulse; the inhalation of breath; the sound of a footstep; the delight and honour of walking side by side with other humans and all the species, which together both reveal and partake in the unfolding of Earth-time. The enclosures fly past along the white lines of a parallel world that has lost a dimension. It is fast and poor. It flies past what is – a common and marvellous gift, to chase what is not – the consumption of a private, purchased and enclosed illusion.
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Climate change is the last great sorrow; the divorce from time; the last cause of the first cause for humanity at least. Did we come to think of space/time – of the time-full morphology of space? It seems not. We speed above space, but that space became the thickening layers of the greenhouse. The strata of fossilised years became a new. atmospheric strata, and in the same linear manner that we flew from place to place, it weighed down the beneficent living cycles of the Holocene. We thought in straight lines and received them back like a cruel reflection, or final knock-out. Poor Narcissus.
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We moved by the speed of many millions of fossilised Summers, in what we thought was a new Summertime at the end of history. We thought ourselves transcendent, but Narcissus was not transcendent. He was deprived of the wonders of sense, just for the fanciful consumption of that self-illusion in the pool.
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***
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So, if we can ingeniously negotiate the coming casino crash and its real economic consequences – of collapsing businesses, unemployment, shrunken tax revenues and so withered social and infrastructure spending – if we can negotiate that, while looking out for one another, leaning on each other’s skills and somehow trading each to each, having divested from the casino – if, if, if we can, then we may find a world far more rich in possibilities than the one we’ve just left behind. We’ll have lost non-human speed and regained what is human. And we’ll have the possibility to end our further contribution to that highly-personal stock-pile of atmospheric CO.2.
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Just as money flow detached from its gold standard, raced away as fast as debt would carry it, so our economic reasoning detached itself from reality. Aviation, the family car and suburbia are all detached from reality. They flew at unreasonable speed. Now (we hope) they are beached at the end of history. We can walk away at Earth-speed as history resumes.
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In truth, money has remained very shakily attached to an unspoken oil-standard – hovering above it on a lengthening, uncoiling, debt-created thread.
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We’ve a massive monetary shrinkage to face, as we pass through circles of Hell to benign, Earthly ground. First, we must sink though acceleration due to debt-creation, then through acceleration due to fossil fuels. We’ll find on landing, just the acceleration due to gravity and to life in all its forms. Money will be directly related to just the power of what ingenuity and dexterity can do – that is acceleration due to people.
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Acceleration due to people cannot maintain the casino. It will crash.
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We can step onto the common and watch our own footsteps either collide with the world, or else gently slip into it. As we synchronise with the clocks of other species, so a world of wonders can expand. The natural world – its crop-producing soils and so on – the potential for the happiness of human societies – will remain immediately after the crash. Thereafter, it can increase by regained awareness – by renewing lost intelligence. Powered by oil, we’d forgotten to be intelligent to our surroundings. Meanwhile, the national governments we elect (Let’s hope. Why not?) can nationalise private banking and let money flow at the speed of human action within the natural physics of a national terrain. Let’s not forget that money is a means of exchanging what we do to contribute to society. The money standard of a society is the sum of what its citizens exchange. Much of what people do, is not related to money, or directly to exchange, because many of our behaviours are productive, but moneyless. Our reward is membership of common humanity. Don’t forget those riches, as we descend through the veils of oil and debt towards solid ground. Meanwhile, personally, each to each, we can devise local currencies, so that communities exchange their trades in ways which are apparent. If my local currency seeks, let’s say, a wind turbine blade, and then finds it must use the national currency to purchase it elsewhere, then a craftsman from the community may see that she must learn the skills. Thus, the community can become more resilient, ingenious and complete. Money cycles can also serve as cycles of recognition, trust and respect. It is only recently, that communities became dependant on “the kindness of strangers”.
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The corporate stranger will evaporate as we divest from both corporate wage and corporate spending. Corporations were only ever the sum of our corporate consents. Now we invest in each other – in collectives of households on a common soil. We also divest from the corporate media of the BBC and the corporate newspapers – Times, Guardian… We disconnect from those trashy sounds and those trashy prints may mulch that weedy garden bed. Catch the pages as they fly too fast, on the malign wind of oil power and bring them down to feed the bacteria and fungi of good earth at earthly speed. As we enmesh with Earth Time, so past and future may become apparent and reasonable. At fossil time neither exist.
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And What of the Enclosures?

In this book, there are two principle enclosures, that of land and that of status, which effect everyone directly and perniciously. There is also intellectual property, which is pernicious to all indirectly and to a few, directly.
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For more on status enclosure, please see the earlier chapter, How Destructive is the Middle Class.
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All enclosures are selfish – anti-social, anti-economic and immoral. Those so called, “land improvements” could be equally applied to the common.
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The most elegant solution to the economic drainage of land enclosure is still Tom Paine’s – a land tax, or ground rent, re-distributed to everyone by means of an equally-shared citizen’s dividend.
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Similar solutions could be applied to other enclosures and monopolies. For instance, fossil fuels could be taxed at source (not at the pumps) and the revenue invested in the common good of renewable energy systems.
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The now customarily extortionate demands for the status rent of GPs, dentists, solicitors and so on could be heavily taxed and re-invested in a National Health Service, in legal aid, or police and justice services.
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Of course, John Locke, who witnessed the devastation of the enclosure spree of the Reformation (even after a hundred years) had a different proposition – property for all – that is a house and a field or two, for everyone. Seeing no way to do away with property, he sought a more just distribution of it. After all, most commoners had lost everything that recent ancestors had quietly held as right. Writers from the left, often demonise poor John. Let’s grow more receptive and curious minds.
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Most, non-puritan writing of the time, is permeated by a half-liberated perfume of lost commons – the common, which dared not speak its name… I’d say, William Shakespeare’s plays are so quietly smoked in that unspoken scent, it lends a kind of ethereal form, or common, lunary sense to his writing. That moon shines on lost fields. Oh yes! – the common has fields. Meanwhile, unlike Thomas More and many others, he kept his head from the equally vicious Tudor and Stuart blocks. That goes for every other 16th, 17th and 18th Century poet besides… – even John Milton, alongside more obvious lost-commoneers cannot supress those rising valedictory phrases. (though in tribute, perhaps to the eclogues of Virgil)
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One problem with the regulation of enclosures is that unlike almost every other institution, they have no intrinsic moral structure. Thus, they cannot be reformed from within, but must always be disempowered from without. After all, the purpose of an enclosure is to remove the moral restrictions of the common. That goes for land, status and every other enclosure. Once we remove the moral, we remove the means of reasoned argument.
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Status enclosure may well provide one reason for our personal lack of action in spite of universal evidence of cascading species loss and climate change. We believe that appropriate “experts” have the matter in hand. They do not. Enclosed “professions” no longer profess anything, but are taciturn, discrete and dignified – so dignified that the gathering of rents for that dignity have become their primary end. Those within an enclosure, seldom have much interest in those without. It is heart-wrenching to me, that the above is appropriate for the bulk of ecologists and so called “climate scientists”.
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I’ve left another enclosure till last – money. What is interest? It is rent for the enclosure of money as property – not as a tool of exchange, but for itself as something owned. On the common, where money remains as a useful medium of exchange, money-rent is called usury and is not permitted.
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Recent magic money-tree injections of money capital (money property) following the crash of 2008, (quantitive easing) has nearly all washed up in land property and further rent gathering for the already propertied. Of course, the debt-created, magic money-tree money, which is created by private banks is also largely spent into rising property values and further increases of rent. (It is nearly always created on the back of collateral land property)
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Just as land enclosure provides the right to pillage the soils one “owns”, but did not create, so money enclosure (money as capital) provides the right to pillage the real economy of natural assets, ingenuity/dexterity, wages and resultant social infrastructures of towns, villages, fields, woods and manufacturies. Rent is syphoned from that real economy.
Increasing rent from diminishing assets is not a good equation to contemplate. Status property (GP, lawyer & etc), money property and land property all demand rents from increasingly dry river beds of real economic activity. That activity has largely been powered by fossil fuels. Indeed, the flow of money should be directly proportionate to the flow of energy – that is the transformative power of what people do.
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So, we have another fantasy – austerity – designed to keep the flow of rent from an energy-diminishing river. Restricted wages and restricted social spending are surprisingly thought to allow the sea level of rent money to remain the same.
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However, the stupidity of elites should not be a surprise. It is ancient and universal. Personal ambition always has, and always will, remove reason. Enclosure provides the right to live without reason. However, it is only very recently that elites have had even the smallest hand in the goings-on of economy. Thus, we have unreason, even dis-reason everywhere. Now, that the last enclosures are complete and because elites hold almost everything, economic collapse is inevitable – I mean catastrophic collapse. Nothing can replace the massive powers of fossil fuels and nothing can sustain the related money flow.
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Over here, on the common, as money and share/stock markets cascade; as unemployment soars; as manufacturing folds; as tax revenue withers; as social and infrastructure spending dries to a lost river bed…. – over here what can we do?
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We can live as from ancient times, we used to live – the lord in has castle/enclosure and we, on the land, in workshops and factories, trading each to each by means of villages, towns, market squares, harbours, roads canals, rivers… churches, mosques, temples, libraries, meeting houses, pubs, theatres…. already stand by a common vision of what we are. In spite of cascading money markets, all those things remain, nestled among fields and woods –If we begin to divest as best we can from the amoral and immoral enclosures and reinvest each to each (moral citizen to moral citizen), it will be possible to form a real economy as the fantasies of the casino crash around us. Money is but a tool – a medium of exchange. At a pinch we can exchange skills and their produce without money, but money is very useful. We can make our own. Those with surplus can invest (as of old) in another’s venture, by means of non-tradeable shares – we partake in the adventure for better or worse – it is the bond; the trust. At the base of all transactions, however regulated, is trust.
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I don’t see a springing up of alternative communities and eco-villages. I see the shadow of a proper economy everywhere, waiting occupation by the nervous system and metabolism of Everyman. It’s a shame that I must interject that Everyman is sexless.
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But this is ever-so old fashioned, you say. Well, yes. That is why it can endure.
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Fancy and Imagination

Just as we can love an island set in a silver sea, not for the extent of its borders but for what it holds, so we can love our lives, not for the extent of their liberties, but for what they also hold. Any artist who professes to push boundaries has really not come of age. She remains locked in an adolescent resistance of parenthood, while neglecting the substance of herself.
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Now, Fancy pushes at boundaries, while Imagination considers what she holds. A boundary is a thin line, which generates thin rewards, while what it holds, is of sights, scents, tastes, sounds… loves, friendships, many turnings and resting places… It is full of rewards.
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Imagination – finds intelligence of changing physics as we sense it, married to the inner morality of who we are. Since, we can neither deny that physics, nor the inner morality, imagination is the struggle to reconcile the two, so that who we are and where we stand become apparent. Imagination is a constant dynamo. It is a spring of happiness – it shapes us to fit the changes as new changes come. It eventually provides meaning, as we encounter unpredictable death, love, failure, success… Often, reality and our sense of self drift apart. Imagination re-joins them.
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Fancy – is disconnected from both physics and that inner morality. It drifts out to those boundaries and dreams transcendence. It is not helpful. It provides excuses.
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We can be as fanciful as we choose in an enclosure – we’ve right to choose, so says our Fancy. We’ve a right to choose nonsense. We’ve a right to fanciful consumer choices, to just the limits of our spending power.
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We cannot be fanciful on the common. Physics denies it and morality denies it. We’ve no right to choose the immoral, or even, amoral and we’ve no right to choose the dis-physical – that is – we’ve no right to choose nonsense.
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So, here’s a thing –
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Commons define a right to the responsibilities of imagination – that is, they define moral sense.
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Enclosure defines a right to irresponsible fancy – that is, a right to nonsense.
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That is why commons have been enclosed by elites.
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Should we not be allowed to lie back and dream frivolous dreams? – Of course, we should. Lie back beneath spreading branches and whispering leaves, or listen to the inhaling and exhaling breath of waves on a beach and let the fancy roam…
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But, should we be allowed to enact those dreams by right of our monetary, sexual, military, status, land, intellectual, or consumer properties?
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Dear Reader, those fancies are the cause of such a change in climate that all fancies may soon end. Now imagine the extinction of species after species and also an unprecedented and widening chasm between rich and poor…
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Elites are more and more violently holding onto their enclosures – that is, their accustomed and idle fancies – as physical evidence mounts against them. Enclosures, like fancies, have no sense of time.
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Our battle is to reclaim the common. All evidence, and all justice stands behind us. Imagine that.

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We reclaim the common, by reclaiming the guidance of our inner selves, combined with the evidence of our senses. The deeper we go, the more we are the same. Individuality lives in the shallows. Both depth and shallows are essential to the whole. That reclamation can only be achieved one citizen at a time, through her unique and lonely senses, combined with the power of imagination. Eventually, that citizen becomes Everyman. I am the species. Look what my species has done.
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Even so, the sands are running fast.
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Possible Foreword

Climate change is upon us and so what follows is very much more of the same, because the same is accelerating in its malignant potency and the very same that has been said, needs to be said with an even greater urgency.
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In just the nine months that the following has been gestating, it has become apparent, not in theory, but in palpable effects, that the benign, self-regulating life-cycles of the Holocene, which have enabled all that we call civilisation, are escaping, like wind from a punctured Earth, into dead linear chaos – the causes and effects of fossil-fuelled and bio-fuelled human cultures.
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The Anthropocene is not too grand a term, because our anthromorphic stupidity is monumental. Here lie settled human cultures, beneath the storm, flood, fire, drought and desert sand of their own making.
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Images of a bloke sawing trunk-side of the branch he’s sitting on, or thinking he can eat his cake (or his Earth) and also have it, are classic slap-stick comedies. The same plots are also tragic. Tragedy is of the heart, comedy of the mind. The heart knows what is deeply true, but comedy has the solutions, because it has tools to fight what breaks the heart.
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The tragedy of a consumed Earth is too great to bear. Even the comedy seems too glib; too clever by half… and so we shut down both mind and heart.
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There is a place where we may pass the deeply heart-felt; the deeply treasured, between generations. It is called the common. It needs vigorous comic revival.
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There remains a small chance that we can heal our punctured Earth and live convivial lives inside those self-sustaining living cycles. The odds are against it. We can only change the odds by changing how we live – by changing the causes of the Anthropocene.
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Banks, corporations, governments and their propaganda departments – newspapers, radio and television stations, such as the BBC and Guardian newspaper, are busy persuading us not to change – to rely on marvellous, yet-to-be-devised technologies, combined with the supply of green consumer choices and the elite’s similar “provision” of liberal democracy.
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All will be provided – each from its particular, specialist enclosure.
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This little book argues to the contrary. We can only change the culture by first changing ourselves and we can only find ourselves, by stepping onto the common.
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If we think, in the ecomodernist manner, that we can find “renewable” sources to power our currently-massive energy demands, then we’ve not a hope in hell. Ingenuity cannot replace resources. We will shortly have consumed the Earth.

 

 

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Afterword

Some sweet day, we shall gather at the river and be renewed… The crooked ways will be made straight and the last fears unbound. We’ll reflect beneath the shade of ancient trees, that generations will rest there too – the common flow of humanity – passing the spirit from departing generations to the curiosity, ingenuity and dexterity of the living.
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That’s what commons are – an inherited guide to proper behaviour. We also inherit the Earth. Commons teach maintenance of that gift, so that it remains as complete as we found it. Commons are a kind of artificial, moral genetic code for the anciently-learnt best behaviour of the species. As we accept the legacy, so our personal learning may contribute to it – that matching of appropriate social behaviour with the settlement of our community amongst the soils, minerals, bacteria, fungi, plants, fish, insects, invertebrates and animals of which it is a part.
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With the eyes of ancestors and descendants upon us, we also take up both honour and obligation as we embody their footsteps…
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Except that we can no longer conjure that day. The common – that is, the methods of convivial society, has been betrayed – the legacy cut short, by the most narcissistic and vicious generation ever to receive the gift. Without gratitude; without grief, we took the most copious gifts and squandered them. We betrayed each other and severed the essential curiosity for our settlement – our causes and effects… We took our rights – consumer rights, sovereignties and properties – and treated the common as an old and inappropriate thing to be enclosed and trampled by a right to carelessness (liberal values).
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Gratitude and grief – here is Andrew Cliburn – “We cannot seem to grieve anymore in rich and latticed ways (in public, loudly, for long enough, or deeply enough) and we cannot seem to know that in gratitude comes the kind of responsibility that engenders the act of return. Thinking of gratitude and grief as twins and as totally necessary ways of being maturely alive as a human is no longer a given and probably can’t be until there is a reckoning.”
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But the common is not a thing. It is a vision, honed, as Ivan Illich says by labour, craft, dwelling and suffering – that is, by time’s mutation of the nature of settlement. As we adopt the role of commoner and adapt to it – we find that the role has an obligation to observe – to be intelligent to change. The commoner is the species, in a particular time, in a particular place and with particular skills on which a particular community depends. The advantageous mutation of a community (and in macrocosm, of the species) is always a response to one pair of eyes and then another and so on. One pair of eyes, along with all the rest, connect humanity to her earth. Think of that. Without commons, we have a crazy casino, which most call the economy, we have cascading ecologies on which we all depend (and so must join the cascade) and we have catastrophic climate change.
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As we sit amongst our consumer rights, corporate dependencies, intellectual, status and property rights, the chance of poverty and the chance of riches, we have a supressed yearning for what we cannot express. We cannot express it because the language has fallen from accustomed use. Nineteenth Century poets pursued the difference between narcissistic fancy and physically-inspired imagination. Ordinary people, like me, also know it – standing on the common – in the physics of reactions to our actions – those destructive, or creative actions, which draw a frown, half-smile, or nod from the ancestors.
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The common is imaginative – it guides human settlement in the physics of changing landscapes and seasons. By physics, I mean all that can be sensed. By commons, I mean an intrinsic moral guide to negotiating that often unpredictable physics.
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The common has kings, queens, corporations, newspapers, politicians and bishops as its subjects. That is why we had the enclosures – so that the common became subject to corporations, newspapers, television news rooms, gangsters, politicians…
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Now, the common remains, only in tiny but numerous (billions) of enclaves – in the “sanctity of the home”, in family anecdotes, parental guidance, celebrations and holidays. By that, I mean everywhere. It is plain to me, that those enclaves are the very places (I also suggest, the only places) where the remedies to our currently crazy ways of living will germinate, ferment and finally overwhelm the blind, unresponsive fences of the current utterly-destructive power. A contrary power will not achieve it. This is old as the hills.
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I’m told, I’m away with the fairies – well, that’s also not a bad analogy. I’ll say this, there is no other way. What it means is simple – not esoteric, or deeply philosophic – it means that if I don’t change how I live, to accord with my intrinsic morality, then there is not a hope in hell for the success of my campaign to change society in the same direction. If I campaign for action on climate change by wildly jetting from podium to podium, there will not be a hope in hell of combatting climate change. To use the methods and languages of enclosure to fight enclosure, only spawns new enclosures. We see that everywhere – New Labour politics destroys labour movements, “eco-system services” destroy eco-systems, “true-cost-accounting” destroys priceless commons, organic regulation of super markets destroys organic systems…
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I think it is probably true that the established religions have all, once upon a time, been the formalised voices of the commons. Of course, that formalisation has led to dangers, as political hierarchies within religious organisations have come to “enclose” their status. Then (to use these islands) instead of church and state we come to have a state church (Reformation), followed by rapid enclosure of the last commons.
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If we are to end catastrophic climate change and also reverse the catastrophically increasing chasm between rich and poor, first, we must reclaim the common.
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In our billions of house-holds we have deeply-intrinsic rules – these are heart-felt. We also have pragmatic and conveniently-changeable rules. We have a household economy (actually a tautology) – in which we fairly distribute rations of time (chores and pleasures) alongside rations of things (food, clothing, toys…) We have forgotten that this is also how a society can be run and that this is what happens on the common.
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It follows that to fight resource depletion, inequality of distribution and climate change, we need look no further than ourselves. If we shut our eyes and then remember – the voices of parents and the voices of children, we may find that we already know what to do. As the physics of the world reacts unpleasantly to our unpleasant actions, by all that’s holy, we can set out to behave properly at last.

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On Choosing Peace

I recoil from the foul cess of the Brexit campaign – the bigotry, racism, scape-goat-ism and also, the entitlement to above-the-law criminality, yet I also recoil from the equally foul cess of de-humanised, corporate-supplied, big-is-beautiful trade blocks, such as the EU. Looking out, across lovely fields and woods to the undulating horizon of the Clwydian Hills, I imagine those two armies gathering to topographical advantage. The one encamped on Moel Famai, the other, Moel Arthur – both careless of the soil beneath their armoured feet and the ancient settlements of towns, villages and farms, which lie along the Vale. The victor will flood the land – whoever it is – with their own tides of pillage, havoc – and propaganda.
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I look nervously through my fingers from my vantage on the slopes below Foel Fodiar – the opposite side of the Vale. Friends of mine, feel condemned to join the conflict – to abandon their fields, turn ploughshares into weapons and join whoever they think ferments the least stench. Green Party leaders, who should know better, have similarly abandoned green pursuits in an all-out EU campaign. Civil war draws people in – the white rose or the red? At any rate, I’ll not join the muster of Green Party brigades. To me, white rose and red are equally unpleasant.
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Of my circle, nearly all are swayed towards the EU – into the mothering arms of Europa – particularly as Mad Uncle Sam puffs his ridiculous, but dangerous chest. To them, Europe represents enlightenment and environmental, religious and social protections. She also represents the settled ways of globalised trade and a stable percentage of perpetually growing GDP.
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Those currently-settled ways are pillaging resources, ransacking ecologies and burning so much of them both that climate itself is tumbling from life-regulated benignity into linear physics. Species are escaping from a punctured Earth, like gas from an increasingly-limp balloon.
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Both the leaders of Brexit and the leaders of the EU are set on a course to that chaos. There’s little to choose between them. In Brexit, spending will shrink and so UK effects on climate change will diminish to the same degree. However, that shrinkage will provide an excuse for environmental pillage and so, a return to the same old acceleration of climate change. In Europe, minimum wages, human rights and some environmental protections will remain in place. Neither advocated systems will change the truth that developed economies for all their climate targets and environmental protections are emitting 60% more CO.2 today than when nations first pledged to act on climate change in 1990.
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Plainly, citizens with a hope for the future must break out and away… Citizens with a hope for convivial, responsive, egalitarian and durable cultures cannot retain that hope either inside the EU, or alongside the current Brexiteers. Neither model will survive even to the point where climate change finally wrecks all human cultures. Money flow of either pounds, or Euros cannot expand much further beyond physical limits without a crash. Human fantasy keeps money flow in its banks (no pun) – chasing a punter’s dreams. But as faith collapses the whole deck of cards will become as meaningless as it actually was. All that remains will be social chaos, soil, water, biomass, biodiversity, climate, weather, human co-operation and human ingenuity.
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We come to the word fascism – I think the term is appropriate for the current leanings of many of those of the UK’s Eton/Harrow, or Oxford/Cambridge educated establishment, who back UK exit from the EU. Just as before 1939, it is not truly fascist, but the term remains appropriate. The Third Reich was built less by ideology and more by simple terror – fear, scape-goats and propaganda, combined with a privatised, military industrialisation. In striking contrast to its ideology of demonised usury and idealised indigenous artisans, folk music and nationalist crafts, the Third Reich was run by internationalist bankers and industrialists – not by the state, but by privatisation. The parallel is plain in nearly every respect. Fascism was normalised both by personal prudence (fear) and relentless propaganda – the same propaganda – notably and shockingly by the BBC – is unfolding today.
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Similarly-shocking, (on the Remain side) the once reliable Guardian newspaper has become a collection of sordid and spiteful gossip columns – a mouthpiece for corporate-backed, Blairite, pro-trade-block-EU career politicians and post-truth, journalistic acolytes. The Guardian is conducting a war (in war, we can abandon truth) of its own against the one glimmer of hope we have – an honest man at the head of the Labour Party. (In the US the Guardian would attack Bernie Sanders and applaud Hilary Clinton.)
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It is not surprising that we should run from the foul cess of both sides, but we should watch and think as we run. We need not choose between those two pitched encampments. They are pitched inside the Westminster Bubble. We ordinary people live elsewhere. We can choose peace. Brexit campaign, or Remain campaign – both use seductive cultural illusions, cemented by manufactured scape-goats. Both back the status quo of suicidal economic growth, cascading ecologies and catastrophic climate change. Both back a corporate-supplied, dependant consumerism. Both back lucrative (for UK) war in the Middle East and the most terrible destruction of ancient and beautiful cultures. Both are in the hands of fabulously-wealthy elites.
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There is another world where most of us belong. By a crack in the usual unfolding of time, a leading politician lives there too. A perversity in the course of history has left Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. He is as bemused as all ordinary people are, by the vitriol of both Leave and Remain campaigns. Both campaigns manufacture deliberate lies about him. (It is permitted to lie in war) After all, one from outside the bubble is not supposed to have influence. Caroline Lucas, UK’s only Green MP, spends most of her energy (at least on Twitter) taunting Jeremy Corbyn over his failure to join the Remain campaign. Even though I am a Green Party member, she has lost my respect. Jeremy is a life-long peace campaigner and will not join Caroline’s war.
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Though a majority of us in the UK remain in denial of climate change and cascading species loss – both of which belong to us – they are properties of our personal behaviours – nevertheless, I also think that a majority would prefer to remain neutral in this civil war. Caroline should concentrate both on that denial (the better world we could build together) and on maintaining that peace. The role has fallen to Jeremy Corbyn.

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On Being Conservative for the Common Against Those who are Conservative for Enclosure

I don’t think I can do whatever I like. I don’t think I have unlimited rights to express my creativity, sexuality and so on – though I do have some rights. In truth, we cannot be creative in a world without limits. We need forms. For example, every work of art is fleshed around a kind of moral skeleton, from which it has no liberty to stray without loss of meaning. Once upon a time, I came of age into a time of obligation and mutuality. I must be conservative. I also came of age into a world of natural delights, which were not of my making, but which I am bound to protect, celebrate and pass on for the delight of others. Those delights are not mine, but I can contribute my perception of them. I cannot “improve” them, but can easily do them harm. The protection of delights of the common is a learnt behaviour, which we first inherit and then bequeath as our children eventually come of age. Culture is what we do, not what we are or have. Commons are the inherited dynamo for methods to maintain a culture. Commoning may be dextrous, ingenious and inspired with new perceptions, but it must always be conservative.

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Enclosure is a device to escape the obligations of the common and so gain personal liberty to misbehave. Today’s so called conservative political parties have all been founded to protect the lawful amorality of libertines. Every enclosure is the same – land property, status property, intellectual property, monetary property – and their rents…

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Let’s think of commons and rationing – commons and the duration of space or conversely – the substantial punctuations of time…

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Here are some thoughts – The language of the common is rhythmic.
The language of enclosure has no sense of time.

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All is urgency on the common today – climate change, cascading species-loss and the invasion of dis-functional cult economics. Behind the enclosures we can gently sleep. In truth, the mass of population reclines behind the wire. Many though, anxiously pace labyrinths of debt and rent – in waking nightmares. Some are entangled in the wires, while commons call, like birds singing from inaccessible woods.

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Because most political, social and working life is enclosed, people falsely conclude that our struggle must be to improve those enclosures – not to step gently into the wood. That choice, to weave improvements into the wires, is the course taken by most of the liberal left. It endorses enclosure.

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Today’s conservatives would consider this writing to be “radical left” and yet, though I’ve little choice but to identify with the left, I consider myself at heart, conservative.
That is, because I would be conservative from the common – the common of the duration of things and of allotments – allotments of both space and time. I have rations of space and time. The heart of my economy is both the celebration of what I have and also its absolute rationing – fair shares.

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Farming practice is a useful model for every practice – the practice of rationing – the law of use and return, so that what we do is fitting. How do we fit? Within a restlessly paced boundary? – No. I say, by the practice of fitting and conservative behaviour.

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Green writers use the terms limits and boundaries, but seldom rationing – the allotment of rations and also the rationing of allotments! But a ration is a palpable substance that is also shaped by duration. My ration can be loved, hallowed, tasted, shared. I can rest in it and I can call it abundance for just a while. It does not ask me to pace boundaries, or to pause at an extent. I live at its heart. I am a part of both its nerves and its metabolism. I can enjoy my responsibility for it, knowing that my eaten cake will vanish, just as Summer comes and vanishes – everything, including the sequence of my heartbeats will vanish. We carefully share rations of such precious things. If we fit our ration – let’s say of soil, water… and follow the rule of return, then we can fit an undiminished landscape of soil and water that yet bears our traces. (see Ivan Illich, below)

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Commons define fitting behaviour and that behaviour must always be conservative. Consider this – a synonym for fitting might be happy – or felicitous…

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Also consider – modern conservatives, such as those in the currently extreme right-wing UK Conservative Party, would conserve their status quo of monopolies; of status – they’d extend the rigid shape of an existing fence-line into changing times, while this writer from the apparently radical left would conserve the far more ancient moral directions of the common, which also mutate as the times mutate.
Note that this conflict is an ancient one. It indicates why empires will always fall.

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Modern conservatives conserve no less than the stillness of property (land, status, seed…) at their imagined and preserved end of history. But history unwinds invisibly… – visible only to the unenclosed common intelligence of human beings.

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Here is a favourite passage of mine from Ivan Illich, (Declaration on Soil 1990) –

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“We note that (such) virtue is traditionally found in labour, craft, dwelling and suffering supported, not by an abstract earth or energy system, but by the particular soil these very actions have enriched with their traces.
Yet in spite of this ultimate bond between soil and being, soil and the good, philosophy has not brought forth the concepts that would allow us to relate virtue to common soil, something vastly different from managing behaviour on a shared planet.”

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In case that readers think that mere philosophy is a snowflake falling to the fire of today’s awesome problems, I note that the study of economics – the management of households and their supporting businesses – is a branch, I think the central branch – the trunk, of moral philosophy.
I’d go as far to say that commons are inherited and also bequeathed moral philosophies – the time-honed, ancestral guidance of community.

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Eric Linberg beautifully discusses the same in a deeply thoughtful article on the conservatism of Wendell Berry. (Look and See; Listen and hear: Wendell Berry and the Contradictions of our Climate, Resilience.org)

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He speaks of Wendell Berry’s “unembarrassed appeal to morality and its requirements. More specifically, the moral order of a unified society, Berry says, “requires the addition of a third term: production, consumption, and return. It is the principle of return,” he continues, setting up perhaps the most beautiful lines in The Unsettling of America, “that complicates matters, for it requires responsibility, care, of a different and higher order than that required by production and consumption alone.”

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And in a following passage:
“Thus, the great internal conflict within Liberal Environmentalism, not to mention left-leaning politics in an age of limits. Our natural environment requires this “care and responsibility of a higher order,” yet Liberal choice forbids any such requirements. We desperately need limits and constraints; yet our Liberalism requires that they be freely chosen and that they reflect our personal style. One of my main purposes, here and elsewhere, is to reflect on the way a reconciliation to this contradiction is or might be imagined. An originary Liberal attempt, lost long ago in the trenches of the Somme and scattered by the fragments of modernist culture, was the dream that Enlightened knowledge would guide us to freely choose a higher order. More recently, the systematic depersonalization of power, order, and authority represented by the market economy has been a facile proxy. Communitarians, in contrast, have hoped that finding a true natural order would provide a “reunion to that which one belongs and from which one is estranged.”

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The rule of return is the central principle of all farming methods. It is a part of both that belonging and the defeat of estrangement. It is also the central moral of the commons. One whose guidance is the rule of return may be called a conservative – conserving by methods which focus on, as Ivan Ilich says, not an abstract earth or energy system, but the particular soil these very actions have enriched with their traces.

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Of course, we may be imprisoned or worse for living beyond the wires, but we negotiate the conflict as best we can. From the common we must negotiate with the enclosures.
Dougald Hine explains the danger in that negotiation. (The Three Languages You Need to Bring a Project to Life, dougald.nu):

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“The Upward language is the language of power and resources: the language of funding applications, the language of those who are in a position to interpret regulations and impose or remove obstacles. It is not a reflective or a curious language, it is a language of busy people who make decisions without having time to immerse themselves in the realities their decisions will affect. It is an impoverished language and when you have to describe what you are doing in its terms, you will feel that something is missing. You need a guide who is initiated into the relevant version of this language, who knows which words currently act as keys to which doors, what you have to say to have a decent chance of the gatekeepers letting you through. Yet even inside these institutions, you are dealing with human beings, so if you can allow glimpses of what matters about your project to show through the filter of keywords, it may just make a difference.”

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He points out the dangers:
“For example, you might recognise the kind of project which has an Upward language but no Inward language, which appears to have been constructed entirely for the purposes of accessing funding and resources, with no underlying life to it. Whole organisations seem to exist to create such projects, serving little other purpose.”

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Many green writers, though usually with the best intent and I’d say, nearly all NGOs have lost their way with that upward – what we might call “grown-up” language. Such language is usually studded with acronyms and code words which demonstrate the speaker’s battle-hardened prowess in a “real” grown-up world. Such adversarial language is rather like the trespassers will be prosecuted signs at the fence-line of enclosure. It has not the diversity to celebrate what’s within the fence – to make it worth the defending – it is a tool to keep invaders out. At the edge of the Hundred Acre Wood in which Pooh and Piglet hunt for the Woozle, a sign so faded that only the letters, Trespassers W remain, leads Piglet to fancifully expound how Trespassers W was an ancestor of his. As David Bollier (and also Lee Hoinacki) points out, the common is a realm, more of verbs, than nouns. I’d go further – it is a spiritual world – the same spirit which was inhabited by our ancestors and must remain for habitation by our descendants. The wood (or guiding spirit) is populated by goings-on; by verbs; by responses, whereas the woodland property is made up of nouns – unresponsive things. In the language of commons, we can speak of time – of the duration of things and of a variety of clocks of differing speeds, such as receding, or returning felicity, decay, regeneration, life-span, ancestry, heartbeats, hopes, tides, diurnity, seasons, or the elasticity of times between hope, excitement or disappointment during a Woozle hunt in a hundred-acre wood…

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If grown-up language has not the capacity to express the whole of truth, then we should use it with the greatest care – though it may be a tool for defending those lawful (and lore-full) properties of a common – that is, their right to exist – to be acknowledged in the eyes of others. It may express simply – this common exists.

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When Theresa May leans forward, wagging her finger, to say, “there is no magic money tree”, she is using the ancient ploy of those who live by such trees to keep commoners in their place and without them. Theresa lives by magically debt-created money; by quantitively easing magic money into the money flow – most of which ends in increased property prices and increased rent – accumulating the wealth of those reclining beneath the money trees, while further impoverishing those, who by Trespassers W, have been expelled from the wood.

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But the phrase is effective, because there are no magic money trees on the common, or in an ordinary household. She appeals to both an ancient moral and a law of physics to maintain the depravity of the amoral and dis-physical casino which sustains her circle of friends and her government. Householders know that money does not grow on trees and so return home reflecting that our Theresa has a wise head on her Tory shoulders. Many, who would otherwise consider that social justice and climate change were a part of balancing budgets, instead, recoil from the idiocy of magic money trees (the social spending of the Left) and vote for Theresa in the following ballot. Citizen-contributions to pay for that social spending are similarly demonised by the wagging finger as importunate attacks on hard-working households.

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I suppose the lesson of this little essay is to beware of grown-ups – the grown-up in ourselves as much as in others. Our true coming of age is into the spirit of the common; into the responsibilities of the rule of return and the maintenance of the joys of precious things. That is – to become conservative and to stand against the violent conservation of suicidal, time-dead, greed-laden fence-lines, which has become the purpose (in UK) of Tory, Liberal and New Labour political parties. The world over, it seems that similar stories unfold…

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