I have not stopped pretending. I’ve not joined the winding caravan to the valley beneath Dark Mountain – nor descended from her peak, confident as rock and ocean. Yet I sort of agree with the eight principles of the Dark Mountain Manifesto, copied below. Sort of? What kind of proposition is that? Well, sort of is what’s missing from the manifesto.
THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF UNCIVILISATION
“We must unhumanise our views a little, and become confident as the rock and ocean that we were made from.”
I’ve started badly by disliking the quotation – confidence is the problem, not the solution. I’ll consult the principles one at a time.
1.We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
My “sort of agree” finds disagreement in that there is insufficient guilt at our personal contributions to that unravelling. I agree with the first two sentences. But facing reality honestly doesn’t have the healing power of contrition and reparation. We have a social problem. I distrust presented honesty. It proposes personal achievement – achieved integrity – superiority – hubris.
2.We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
It’s true that technological and political solutions which maintain or “green” current ways of living are futile. We must change how we live. However, the tools we’ll need do present a “set of problems”. Reductionist and holistic thinking are both essential parts of all settlements and of all thinking. We’ll need to be very busy with very many problems. Solving particular problems in particular ways is a delightful thing. We love our garden sheds.
3.We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths
4.We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
We also weave lies, political illusions, excuses, pedestals, messianic visions, false incantations… Cultures emerge and narratives follow. Where narratives emerge and cultures follow has been evident in the failures of communism, fascism, capitalism – in the myths of economic growth and progress.
Meanwhile, real footsteps meet surprise, pain, delight, comedy and tragedy. We can tell the tale of the footstep only after the step has been taken, weaving moral spirit into both right step and wrong step. (We will take both) We can weave tales of inheritance and ancestry, but we must collide with reality – finding surprise, delight, bruised shins and punctured egos – to find reality – and before beginning to weave with it.
6.We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
Pure brutalist, scapegoat fascism
7.We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
Once, I attended a Dark Mountain gathering and met none with metaphorical fingernail dirt. I found theory and ideology. True, I met musicians of a skill that could only be built by hard work, but for the rest, the above (principle 7) has provoked me to react that I found lost souls, without skills to impart. How fulfilling (for lost souls) to find that elemental, cut-stone words might build fields and towns of resilient culture! Druidic catalysts – word on stone make primal citizens of dark mountaineers. But faced, first with stone, and then with words, I reckon that ordinary, frail, diffident, curious, doubtful, convivial Everyman might find better solutions to both dressing stone and discussing the work than a proudly elemental dark mountaineer.
8.The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.
Agree – because it contains the word unknown, which connects to another, doubt and also to the phrase, sort of… In that unknown, a culture may emerge, where three anciently-embedded words have been tentatively saved as seed and then re-sown. Landing by chance on both fertile and stony ground, they are faith, hope and charity.