The great corporations offered governments and their electorates a similar bargain in the last quarter of the Twentieth Century. Governments and their electorates did not refuse and became idle and frivolous consumers.
My mass folk movement down the bonny road towards convivial town centres, proper shops and workshops and integrated farms and fields is evidently a very different offer to the corporate one. But history does recur in dauntingly unpleasant ways. Over centuries, many writers have proposed similar roads. Moreover, more specific proposals in which rigid ideas have been imposed on an illusive world have usually ended in chaos and bloodshed – as did Cromwell’s commonwealth, Marxist communism and today’s “democratic”, neo-liberal, anti-capital “egalitarian” revolution.
Just as even the best ideas cannot replace resources, so they cannot replace long-evolved social systems.
So I am Quixote.
The corporate revolution has proved a massive success in its extent, so it is possible, just possible that quixotic days may come simply by quietly filling the vast spaces left by the corporate failure. Corporate bread and circuses can continue, for only so long as fossil fuels continue to flow and for so long as we attend the circus.
If the corporations seem all-powerful, we must re-consider their composition – armies of very many people – often without national boundaries – and very poorly-defined in both purpose and identity. They are not a quantity, but an abstraction. It is possible that corporations may fragment as softly and silently as they arrived – as many do anyway in mergers and takeovers. None today are as well-defined as their progenitors: The Hudson Bay Company; the East India Company and so on. (Both had private armies as powerful as small nations) The fantastical and whimsical casino of the stock market has removed many a “great company” at a throw of the dice.
Employees of those corporations can softly and silently merge into my folk movement as corporate power fades. It is simple – as a super market closes, so proper shops will open. This Earth-full of people and resources will remain, though the greatest corporate abstractions of the casino fall apart. Looking from an astronaut’s orbit, Earth will have just the same populations, species and resources, before and after the corporate collapse. The astronaut may also see where the nightmare has lead – Earth lit in a gloriously-wild futility of fossil-powered lights – from buildings, towns and cities and from roads lit by streaming headlights – ringing towns with their sparkling corporate patterning of ring road and retail park – and like this insubstantial pageant faded…..
As you know (but we must keep saying it), the times are these – wild over-consumption of rapidly diminishing resources, an increasingly-wild climate and no-one in charge in government. Governance has been given (often, not even sold) to wild privateers and careless mercenary bands. I say wild, because those privateers have not evolved within cultures, but have invaded them. I say careless, because following statutory law, they have no care for physical, biological, ecological and economic law. Statutory law considers only inter-human transactions. What’s more, modern statutory law protects the properties of enclosed commons.
Government and corporate employees might come to consider that all law is founded on the maintenance of the common good. On that reckoning, corporations and their pocket governments (nearly all nation states) are illegal.
Like old Norman mercenaries who bore the cross, the privateers bear the Sign of the Druid. (Progress, education, economic growth and their trickle down)
The druidic miracle is the replacement of resources with ideas – the transubstantiation of the Earth. Those ideas need not be ours but the Future’s, so that we defer responsibility to mythical children. Messianic visions rise from crumbling civilizations. The potency of the post modern druidic vision is that it is fervently held by the most powerful and in the case of the UK, by the largest political parties. It is also held as central doctrine by the BBC.
Anyway, the messiah is oil-powered, or in the messianic fantasy, cleverly-realised oil-replacement-powered. Fossil fuels (and lately and worse: bio fuels) have unbalanced atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels which will probably crumble civilizations within a generation.
I suppose we say such things without horror, because we believe we are powerless to change them. The provisions and unprecedented powers of fossil fuels are undeniable and the thought that we must be denied them, seems (to the consensus) the greater horror. So we yawn, as the decadent do & return to the “egalitarian” internet to book another holiday flight.
Since we don’t control cultural tools, we cannot change them. That is a convenient way to say that since we don’t control our lives, we cannot change them. A problem with such dependencies is that they kill curiosity. With the loss of curiosity we lose the delight of ingenuity. Dependency also removes moral choices. My holiday flight has been approved as my right. At work, where I’ve earned the wage to pay for the flight, I deliver right to prescribed services to others. I suspect that the complexity of rights machinery has enslaved most of us in a very sticky amoral web, in which we are so engaged with asking for and also delivering rights, that we have no opportunity to consider responsibility.
Of course each holiday flight will make such holidays for our children less and less likely.
We know that continuing to live and consume as we are, will soon destroy how we live and consume. The utter craziness of that truth is accepted by most and then promptly forgotten. It is a measure of how small-minded and parochial in outlook, we’ve become. We accept powerlessness.
In my midsummer night’s dream it becomes possible to adapt tools of our own, escape the ennui of dependency, make moral decisions and to search for the good life. While I hope for a mass folk movement towards the common good, such a dream can also be realised on the smallest scale. As a farmer I can move on my own, by selling produce in market squares and farmers’ markets, hoping to meet customers with similar thoughts. As that mutual economy enlivens and swells, so my husbandry can change. A small farm supplying super markets must concentrate on one commodity to achieve economy of scale. So it ends with an ecologically-inefficient mono-culture. Market squares asks for variety, which creates a variety of cropping and so of rotations, which can conveniently and flexibly integrate into a more efficient agronomic/economic/ecologic whole.