The Borderline and the Footstep

Peer review is not a source for curious and diverse perceptions to enrich and steer academic courses towards a new, or revised fruitfulness. On the contrary, it is more likely to bring curious and diverse perceptions back on the old straight and narrow to dignified, serious, unresponsive consensus. Its harvest is winnowed, dried, graded, bagged and stored – and thus more likely to be well-paid. Of course, that dignified consensus will often, and we might say shadily, coincide with established, commercial consensus.

That’s not how it should be, but how it is.

Fields of research sown with questions and harvested with answers? On the contrary, many are sown with answers to harvest the dried illusion of questions – peer reviewed research has shown that our technologies are…

In a similar way, research funding steers academies prudently towards reticence, enclosure and intellectual property. It is quiet out there in the scientific field, where commons of life perform ever-present diversity, as William Blake sings – silently, invisibly – where scientific peers are most usually technologists – that is – influential imposters – harvesting what they need and not what they don’t – that is product endorsement, money and silence.

Of course, William Blake held in his heart, what he had not told – and these things can be held in a scientific sceptical heart, where they remain for both hypothesis and later – after the day job is over, for both celebration and perhaps some useful tinkering in the garden shed. Most technologies and tools have emerged from amateur (of those who love) garden sheds. The scientist as technological amateur may be a useful addition to any culture.

After that nine to five, the whole of a scientist contains the whole of what is human. During the nine to five, the scientific contribution is valuable, but limited. It cannot tell us what to do.

When a “scientist” steps out from her sceptical role to comment upon technology, she must shed her scepticism and adopt the morals of citizen. When she enters the public realm, it is an affectation (& a mistake) to maintain the scepticism necessary for her scientific work. For instance, those dry pronouncements on apocalyptic climate change are the oddest affectation. It would be more appropriate, to ordinary human behaviour, to ascend the mountain and lean against the winds of the times like a proper prophet of legend – not jetting to the next climate change conference to speak of a minor adjustment to the data. Of course, absolutely no one, who understood climate change, and with her humanity intact could possibly jet to a climate conference.   It is an uncontroversial truth that anyone who jets to a climate change conference is in climate change denial. In consequence, I hold to this statement – More than ninety percent of climate change authorities are in climate change denial.

Here’s another statement – Science can usefully observe and note atmospheric, terrestrial and sea changes – temperature, mass and so on, but she cannot contribute to how we change our tools and adapt ways of life to mitigate those changes.

Deference to authority – scientific, economic, judicial and political is holding us back from our essential inheritance as trade’s people and citizens – probity, personal judgement and plain duty to act on our knowledge and to contribute as parts of the whole. It is stifling the ways of living we must devise to sit happily within reduced resources. It is supposed that tool-makers make tools. Today, (as a significant economic effect) they don’t. Those who do are tool sellers not problem solvers.

We need to rewrite history to suggest how and where to begin and for what and where we stand. This is a mythic place in an epic time. We’ll not begin such a journey without a maternal and paternal hand of history on the shoulder – a ruffling of hair. We could be actors in a play which has been written to the point where we learn our role, for better, worse, comedy, tragedy… Where’s the story? We’ll not set out without the reassurance of others – both living and dead – ancestral footsteps receding back from the point where we embark. The dead have passed on commons of soil, water and so on – laying down their roles for us to inhabit. That generosity is also an inheritance. Tyrannies of dependency, consumerism and misplaced science – have stifled bequeathed responsibility.

Without characters to inhabit, we’ll not become actors in the cultural drama of settling within much-reduced means, while facing climate change – roles pre-written as cultural part of the whole. We are social creatures. It is not vanity to long for a recognised part.

Modern history has been coerced from pens of the sycophants of power. They narrate war, invasion, marriages and treaties of power. Today’s newspapers and other media do the same – as though the goings on of life which create a culture (the 99%) were forces of nature which politicians and corporate boardrooms steer to the advantages and disadvantages of nation state and empire.

Poet Douglas Dunn speaks of those who “inhabited” the Glasgow tenements, while others (of law, state and bank) “resided” elsewhere. Well, inhabit is not a bad term to reclaim for settlement, as those who reside in the corporate illusion cause collapse.

The home truth is this – Climate change is accelerating, not because of the foolishness of governments and corporations, but because of the foolishness of ourselves. That governments and corporations are foolish is inherent in their abstract nature – they have no senses – no means to intelligence. We (ordinary people) have both, and yet still we defer to the abstractions that are governments, research institutes, think tanks and corporations. I have proposed in previous essays that this deference is unique to modernity – to the Oil Age. The remedy is simple and in plain view. We attend to our senses and deal with that intelligence, because there is no one else who can.

Francis Fukuyama was right that history had ended, but he was wrong that culture could continue without history. Many millions of years of fossilised photosynthesis had negated (in the imagination) the passages – the seasonal migrations of hope. Spring and Autumn migrations have passed overhead, while human settlements have paused – outside time – fed by those fossilised years. It will be our ancestral inheritance; duty; delight to turn history’s wheels back into motion. Humanity has fallen behind and apart from evolving webs of species which together make the ecological and economic whole. She lives in anachronism – in a fossil-powered crystal cave – a narcissistic cult of achievement, progress and democracy. Only when cultures synchronise with living (not fossil) time, can climate change and economic chaos decelerate to fit their evolving spaces.

Here’s an old sophistry of mine – When economy and ecology are seamlessly enmeshed, then both can run at optimum speeds. When they are not, then friction between them will slow both their cycles, grind down biomass and release wasted economic heat.

That fossil-fuelled pause over which we must leap to the present has left a similar gap in space – in resources – pillaged heartbeats, levelled ecosystems – the photosynthetic capacity of Earth.

In leaping time, we must accept gaps in space – and shrink our needs to fit the islands which remain.

Some still jet the Earth, speaking to the powers about climate change. They remain where history paused – in anachronism. I hope they might cancel the next flight and quietly consult themselves – the chair they sit on – the species of tree which gave up the wood – the grace and dexterity of the chair-maker. Cultures reveal past lives like tree rings through Summers of memory; tools; architectures – while inheritance flows on through skilled fingers like the grain in the wood.

Through time, the powers have sat on wool sacks and thrones – they’ve never, ever made thrones, tended forests, baked bread or saved seed corn. They make laws, enclose commons and charge rent. They cannot think of climate change. That is the province of those who make chairs, save seed corn, pass on commons and so on – those who note the effects of their causes. Past powers knew that the populace would take care of everything. Today’s (uniquely-perverse) powers have come to know that fossil fuels or substitutes for fossil fuels will take care of everything. They need a science priesthood to write (or underwrite) their doctrine of messianic new technologies to similarly take care of everything.

That enclosed science has become a terrible thing – a priesthood without restraint. The merging of church and state in the English Reformation led to depraved enclosure, the sack of social commons, starvation, mass migration and city slums. A merger of science and state may prove far worse.

The truth is simple – Unless we return to the ordinary course of history, in which the populace does take care of everything, the destruction of what we know as civilization is almost inevitable.

The bad news is – In an ordinary historical period, we could hope for the future and ride out the present, but with regards to climate change our hopes must be for the present. Nothing is presently happening.

The good news is that returning to the ordinary course of history need overturn only the small weight of an extremely brief perversity of time. It will feel like coming home.

At home, it goes like this – everyone has a trade and is respected for it. A joiner understands species of trees, which come from woods, to be re-planted as harvested. Languages of tools connect – the growing, felling, seasoning, transporting and uses of timber. Shop windows tell the passage of seasons and the passing of hands – scarcity, abundance – the fruits – strawberries to cherries, plums, apples – tomatoes and peppers to roots and kales. Nothing becomes as it is without a chain of hands.

Climate is changing because we are burning fossil mass and biomass at a rate which releases more gas than remaining biomass can absorb.

True, sceptical science notes rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, melting ice, rising seas and temperatures. It notes the volumes of burnt oil, gas and so on. We value that contribution.

But it is not a scientific, but a technological problem and we don’t need scientific advice to fix it. Climate is changing by how we live. We must stop, or at any rate, dramatically reduce our burning. In some ways, tools come closer to the truths of nature than science could ever achieve. Yet we adapt them to work without proven hypotheses. It would be more accurate to say that nature adapts tools, through the errors in our trials, to become more or less appropriate.

Like other farmers. I know how to farm. Why write of it? But how farmers integrate in a culture, is problematic to me, so I write about that. How multi-national corporations enclose farming techniques is also problematic – another subject. My role as a citizen is similarly difficult.

Modern education is a dangerous thing to an open mind. I’ve no wish to add to that clutter by some dignified pronouncements on farming. Conversation, admiration, curiosity, sanctity, probity lead towards the good life. If we are connected, then a conduit opens to story-telling and identity. Walking the footpath in a barley field at dusk connects beer and conversation to the doming wheel of the night sky around the radius of our particular eyes – an optical illusion, suggesting that the soil beneath our shoes is the fulcrum around which the emerging view of the heavens may quietly revolve. One by one another star appears. Which educator would not be silenced by such a beauty? – every step at dusk is on sacred ground. We cannot pronounce words such as Evening Star, Venus, or Hesperus, but in church tones. My Palaeolithic ancestor would speak the same.

All this is ever so ordinary and ever such a relief. We could easily choose it. Who needs a peer review for a footstep?

Every essay of mine becomes a replica from a fractionally different angle. There is a border between dependency upon that soon-to-vanish corporate supply and participation in a new and old as the hills culture. Anyone can step over it. Occasionally, it recedes from the mind, but never from the heart or inherited human soul. That soul is pre-written to survive. It is a mythic line. It is my storyline.


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4 Responses to The Borderline and the Footstep

  1. joshuamsikahutton says:

    I’ll just pick up on one thing: The idea that we can clearly distinguish the powerful from the powerless. You differentiate between the creators and the consumers of culture. Between elites and people. I am not so sure of this distinction.
    Aren’t we all to some extent a blend? The powerful, the elites, the 1%, are all ultimately anchored to their inherited, genetic humanity, with an ancestral understanding of the value of tools. Are there really people whose singular occupation is to “make laws, enclose commons and charge rent”? Many law-makers, monopolists and landlords also have gardens with sheds in them where they exercise their inherited dexterity and creativity.
    Conversely, do the rest of us (Note the “us & them” rhetoric) not participate in the making of laws, the enclosure of commons and the charging of rent? Foucauld argues that to a large extent, modern states work because we govern ourselves, not because we are physically coerced. That rings true to me.
    This leads me on to think about Orwell’s fictional book “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism”,

    Liked by 1 person

    • bryncocyn says:

      Agree entirely – but that doesn’t contradict my moral point. It re-enforces it – that everyone and anyone (given the fortune) can cross the borderline in either direction. That is why I think of the powers as abstractions – roles – not personalities or moral beings. Us and them is how the world has been, but who becomes us or who becomes them is fluid. It occurs in microcosm – farmer to farmworker, master to apprentice, even mother to child (to the extent of a mothers absolute authority). My central hope (given the times) is that history shows that either remaining, or becoming one of us is (ironically) empowering, since “they” have an inherited function to organise “us”, whose function is to organise the social provisions of the whole. It is for us, and not for them, to organise ways of life to face the times. Meanwhile, all of them remain just as human as any of us. Tinkering in garden sheds is a pleasure to all humans. Furthermore, as I say, it is us who have chosen to cause climate change. Abstractions that are the powers have no physics to do so!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. alexheffron says:

    A very thought-inspiring piece.

    “The home truth is this – Climate change is accelerating, not because of the foolishness of governments and corporations, but because of the foolishness of ourselves. That governments and corporations are foolish is inherent in their abstract nature – they have no senses – no means to intelligence. We (ordinary people) have both, and yet still we defer to the abstractions that are governments, research institutes, think tanks and corporations. I have proposed in previous essays that this deference is unique to modernity – to the Oil Age. The remedy is simple and in plain view. We attend to our senses and deal with that intelligence, because there is no one else who can.”

    Completely agree. The Other serves as a useful tool for us to ignore doing the hard yards ourselves. Sure, people are being manipulated and are taught to think they can’t make a difference, yet the objective truth is that of course we can. I think what you are highlighting above is that our real problem is not so much technological, rather it’s cultural and mythological. We have the science, the data, the knowledge, the tools, the methods but not the stories, or at least we’ve become disconnected from stories that matter and lost in the story of consumerism. The importance of a local, hand-made, economy is that it has a story and a place in things. That’s why learning a craft, or trade, and practising it in an old-fashioned sense can be so rewarding, fulfilling and ultimately revolutionary in a time like ours. Because it has meaning. Meaning has been drained from life, and like you day above, by peer-review science and scientists who forget to take their white coats off when moving about in the real world. I very much like Martin Shaw’s idea of ‘romanticism as activism’ – dryness doesn’t move us to action. We inherently make rather irrational decision, because its at the core of our nature – so perhaps it’s tine for the rational to make space for the irrational in public discourse?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bryncocyn says:

    Thanks Alex. Yes. Cultures are woven together by inherited stories, common ethics and accepted roles. In retelling and adding to the stories, behaving more or less well and maintaining through our roles, the common resources we’ve received – we pass on the inheritance of a means to living. The simple economy of a market stall is bound not only by the transaction of produce for money, but by trust, gratitude, criticism, gossip – a common understanding of seasons passing, of the song the busker sings in the square. Those things are as crucial to an economy as the fluctuation of scarcity and surplus – in truth, they are the resource which can solve the problems of competition during scarcity, by a common understanding of proper behaviour. Proper behaviour is part of the story – behave well and we are written in – we are a part. We are social creatures. Because we are a part, we can be happy.

    Consuming the corporate supply has made us forget. In scarcity, we’ll be in competition without accepted roles to occupy and we’ll be unhappy. Of course, we haven’t forgotten everything. I reckon that remembering will come as a relief – a return to the ordinary course of things. Meanwhile, since the corporate supply is heading for collapse and is also a source of unhappiness, we can do our best to have the seeds of a proper economy to grow from beneath its ashes.

    I can’t tell how on Earth we can do it. It can’t be simply proposed and accepted. It must grow – by gossip and as you say by all those intangible things that make culture live. That’s why I start by corner/village shop, proper shops, market squares – things everyone understands and most are nostalgic for. It may be that Trump and UKIP voters are actually nostalgic for those things too and their confused anger is for that loss.

    Local currencies will be a buffer when the casino collapses. The only other buffer might be perennial human nature. We can do foul things in a corner, but I think that may be a perversity of extreme circumstance. We are wired to be altruistic.


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