Feeding the Beast

Feeding the monster by improving its diet and behaviour with, let’s say, organic and fair trade produce and by putting solar panels on its lair, maintains and prolongs the life of the monster.  The beast is delighted by our attention and we hear our friends reflect – what a nice monster it’s become.

The monster has swallowed the ordinary courses of cultural history.  It devours the main political parties and after supper, speaks at leisure through the BBC.  It sucks the life-blood from towns and villages into its ring road encampments of retail park, slave souls and anaesthetised self-worth.

It knows that devouring the current Earth as it does is a diet that cannot continue – but this is a religious beast.  It lives by a cult of the trans-substantial future – technology will keep pace with its desires made manifest in an alchemy of something from nothing.  The miracle of fossil fuels – of many millions of years of fossilised photosynthesis gave birth to the monster.  It was not advancing technology which fed it, but simply a rapidly increasing diet of coal, gas and oil accompanied by destruction of anciently-evolved commons of human ingenuity.  The beast proposes that it will be spiritually-fed – it spreads the doctrine with a fervour which expands as its physical supply diminishes.  It is fervent for three things – economic growth from diminishing supplies – the spreading of the good news of that miracle through its media network – and the control of an upity democratic world by consensus pre-packed politics.

As atmospheric carbon dioxide increases and ecological supplies diminish, economies teeter at a cliff edge.  The doctrine keeps them holding on, because it is not laws of physics which cause economic collapse, but failure of economic belief.  Of course laws of physics will eventually undermine any belief, but currently, economies sit at the cliff edge – functioning as before.  Inhabitants intone the story of the Cargo Cult of Time (not space).  Ideas will replace resources, cleverly-educated children will achieve what’s impossible today – the trans-substantiations of mere space, and the marvellous technological progress which has made humanity so comfortable must be celebrated (as The Beast’s philosopher, A C Grayling explains).  He says ingratitude for all we have (holiday flights, televisions & etc) is wrong.

For without the Beast, we’d not have that weekend flight to Paris.  If we still have a village, or corner shop, it will not have the variety of organically grown and line-caught produce provided by the super market.  We asked for organic and the market was happy to provide and the beast also has solar panels on her lair.  The consumer is king.  The beast is her servant.  Shoppers would like to save the planet and so the beast will come “onside” with more and still more planet-saving produce – until they think such days will never cease – as the beast proposes (with deep apology to John Keats).

The beast is here to stay.  I cannot be serious to propose a life without the beast.  – That is what nearly all my green friends say.  Yet they also say “Keep it in the ground”.  Well, if we do keep it in the ground, then we also bury the beast.  We can have almost nothing which was once provided by the beast – that holiday flight, the family car, powerful agricultural machinery, the ring road, the retail park, the commuter life-style, suburbia, artificial fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides…  The provision of those things by renewable energy is utter fantasy – a fantasy as crazy as the fantasies of the beast.

We’ll have a pre-beast economy of sail-trade, organic agriculture, bustling towns & villages, repopulated fields and workshops, evacuated and re-centred suburbia, shrinking city squalor, expanded ingenuity; dexterity; conviviality; self worth…

That dreamed self-renewing economy has four thousand years of muddled history (& archaeology) to inform it.  We’ll not escape further muddle, but we begin with our cup full, not empty of ingenious models and tools.  The generations have evolved better and better tools – so we are fortunate.  However the generations have not evolved better and better people, or better morals, or better social systems.  Folly is a common.  Let’s also remember that.

Now I must whisper a secret – the beast is all of us.  It is composed of each of us, one by one.  Perhaps we are the DNA, oil is the RNA & the flesh of the beast is the final protein.  We are essential to its longevity, but also, without the oil/RNA the corporal frame of the beast will shrink, cell by cell, while its religious fervour will grow more intense.  (and the worst are full of passionate intensity)

There’s no such thing as society?  (a beastly phrase).  Let’s leave the carcase to its cult of economic growth from empty air and form a society of our own – one by one, trade by trade and fed by the natural physics of soil and climate.  Because folly is a common, we needn’t be afraid.  All answers lie hidden in mistakes.  We must find an economy on solid and earthly ground.  It will be much, much smaller than the one we have, but are certain to lose, and it may be beautiful.  The only step is the first step.  All that follow are abstractions.

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