It should be a natural process to return to ordinary flows of history and escape the cult perversities of our lives today. A return to normal should prove a relief. By leaving fossil fuels in the ground we recall ancient skills of the trades. Power can sit on its sofa/cabinet/boardroom/throne, while people unpick and reweave lost threads of worthwhile ways of life.
As archaeologist, Francis Prior convincingly argues, understanding of ancient history as a progress towards today – Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age – is a modernist self-congratulatory fantasy of future technological progress, projected retrogressively backwards.
Francis Prior expounds what is universal to all periods – the skills of the trades, the sense of home and of family. Such things do not change. He suggests a date of 1500BC (Late Bronze Age) as a time of hierarchical change and that culturally Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages flowed seamlessly together.
Romance could put another slant on that arrival of warrior cultures – (as Geoffrey of Monmouth semi-fictitiously relates) the landing of Aeneus’s son Brutus on these shores after years of wandering after the sack of Troy! That arrival, or more likely the catalytic infusion of a warrior culture, created pretty much what most of history has become accustomed to, from then until today– vane, strutting, gold-torqued idiots on thrones and everybody else busy growing food, baking bread, building houses, sailing ships, making music, poetry…
The post modern tragedy is that gold-torqued idiots, for the first time, control the growing of food and the baking of bread.
Farmers and bakers now have the urgent task of reclaiming the responsibility for their trades from the amoral, and to us immoral, greed of gold-torques idiots.
Otherwise a gold-torqued monopoly will pillage both economy and ecology until, beneath a wilding climate, all history will end. Descendants of wily Odysseus will be finally defeated by the wine-dark sea. Bronze Age cultures would flow on regardless, while leaders played silly games in the waves. Unfortunately today, the sea will overwhelm us all.
Here’s a sad truth – climate change has been caused, not by Hector/Odysseus/Cameron/Murdoch, but by those they have enslaved, bullied and coerced to over-consume. That we, the coerced, have been both enticed and bullied to cause climate change should be no excuse – we must escape the coercion and take responsibility – the coercion is mitigation, but not justification. That some of us are so chained to ways of life, that we see no escape, does not mean that we cannot search for escape routes.
The remedy is not a Paris Summit for British Princess, or Saxon or Viking thanes but a reclaiming of culture by the rest of us. We have been coerced to cause climate change. We have been coerced to live beyond our means. Now, let’s refuse to be coerced.
Until the arrival of black gold, the powerful had played no part in the creation of cultures. Now, uniquely to Post Modernity, blind cultural interference has brought us to the very edge of history. Reasonable (actually wildly-unreasonable) middle class voices of courtiers to the descendants of Bronze Age Brutus quietly coerce us from BBC Radio Four.
Now as the black gold stays in the ground, Brutus has lost the means to manipulate. Yes. If we are wise and also very lucky the beginnings of climate change may also bring the beginnings of renaissance. The skills of the trades make the culture. The black gold has unmade the culture – just as it has unmade the trades.
One citizen is not insignificant. Everything is made or added to, one by one. One by one, we’ve added to the vast power to cause climate change. Similarly, one by one, we could contribute to the equally vast power necessary to bring about a culture which can sit happily in a self-renewing landscape – and to pass on what is good in knowledge and resources, to its children.