I set two pivotal dates in the evolution of (at least European) societies – 1500 BC and 1980 AD. The first, when Late Bronze Age warrior elites began to coerce people away from sensible economic decisions towards the maintenance of esoteric fantasies of power- and the second, when descendants of those once-idle elites (& their acolytes) finally took tools away from the skills of the trades and imposed centralised, though wildly unskilled tools of their own.
Of course 1500BC is a speculative, modern view of pre-history, while the final take-over by oil-driven consumerism could be set at a variety of dates. Anyway, wherever we set them, both those events signal pivotal victories of ignorance over sensibility.
Our post-modern battle to displace that ignorance with sensibility is facing a kind of chronic systemic defeat. Power (of course) has its way. Power (also of course) owns newspapers, radio and television stations which repackage our bad news as good news and our small hopes as niche silliness or sometimes as subversive evils. It’s most effective packing station is the BBC.
If the defeat is systemic, then we have no choice but to escape the system and to build one of our own. For many, escape routes are blocked by ties to employment, infrastructures and so on. Even so, to argue for improvements to a system which is designed to defeat us is folly. Such conversation gives it false, egalitarian credence and reinforces its longevity
Meanwhile resources diminish, ecologies are unbalanced, climate changes and economies approach the brink of collapse. Nevertheless, the powerful continue to increase their wealth, while the rest increase their poverty. The powerful have no wish to change that feeling. Such decadence is the classical recipe for collapse of civilisations.
Unfortunately we have a new ingredient, unique to our times – oil. Fossil fuel has delayed otherwise inevitable economic collapse. Having exhausted space, modern cultures have created an empire of pillaged time – of fossilised years. It is a popular illusion that fossil fuel has overturned a once universal law of history. But the law still stands, because our time-pillaged ways of life have caused a change in climate, which will soon collapse the spaces of everything we know as normal living. Having sacked the cities of the future, why should we expect a future with anything but rubble to stand in?
The same blind power that emerged in about 1500BC and that we celebrate as Odysseus; Hector; Achilles and then as Post Imperial Arthur; Alfred… playing silly war games to keep from boredom, still plays such games today. Trashing lives and economies is part of the fun. Of course those who hold power are as human as the rest of us and so it is the chance drug of power which has transformed those people into monsters. When journalists discuss the current Tory government’s “plans” (without utter ridicule) they give credence to the collapse of civilisation. Further impoverishment of the “stupid” poor to give wealth to the “ingenious” rich is the same plan followed by the idle Greek elite to finance the siege of Troy. As today, money and fear will recruit the best of bards. Money flows away from labour which actually makes & grows things. It flows into the enclosures of status and property. While it is impossible to make money by good work, it is easy to make money by holding land – by doing nothing at all – That status quo is the Tory “plan”.
Snug the Joiner & friends’ entertainment was (fictitiously) ridiculed by the court of Theseus – even though without their trades, the court would have no food; clothing – no roof over its helpless head. Theseus was just wise enough to know that he depended on those rude mechanicals. (not they on him) Today, the sensibility, dexterity and ingenuity of Snug the Joiner, Bottom the Weaver and so on, are imprisoned, while nothing at all has replaced them. No-one is running the economy – while elites play silly games.
Theseus; Ajax; Achilles; Elizabeth; James now have interests in ring road and retail park to supply food, drugs and disinformation – in exactly the same way that in youth, they burnt ten pound notes in front of homeless people. Some drank the drug on the fields of Eton and now are hooked – just as their acolytes & sycophants are hooked. There is no reason to it, nor reasoning with them. We cannot reason with the BBC’s Today programme – wily Odysseus & editorial bards present the siege of Troy and nothing but the siege of Troy – its virtue, necessity – even (Oh silver tongue) its “human” sadness which they’ll depict for we rude mechanicals from the furthest wine-dark sea.