Lords of Misrule

We fall out more vociferously with our friends than with our enemies.   Old enemies are defined and safe. Enemies within are dangerous – they defile sacred ground. For instance, I would feel more “at home” reviling “New Labour” than I would “Tory”.   Similarly, the “organic movement’s” very New-Labour-like embrace of the same super markets, which have sacked and emptied organically-evolved town centres and villages, is to me “a sin” worse than any committed by those same super markets – which are what they are – that is “other” – the old enemy.

Many leaders have rounded on scape goats as tools to power – bonding safety against fear – leading to a holocaust “in the national interest” – surely the foulest episodes of all history. But then Stalinist communism comes (in its effects) very close to that stench. So, what unites those tyrannies is scape-goat-ism. Trump, Farage, Le Pen, Daily Mail, Sun, Express and Fox News newspapers are united in that respect with Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, Stalin and Hitler.

We cry that Trump, Farage and the so called, alt. right should be labelled properly as fascist. Well, le Pen, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco… are fascist – they have a fascist cultural vision. Trump and Farage have not. What unites them all is not fascism, but thuggery, narcissism and scape-goat-ism.

Both left and right can be united in humanity against that brutalism (with apology to innocent brutes). From my market stall, I’ve witnessed, ordinary “decent” people voice the brutalism of Daily Mail, or Sun front pages. Many of those people are my customers. They unite round a front page, with their hands to the fire, because of a lost way of life – they like street markets for instance – and then proper shops and real tradespeople. They don’t like the “thought police” of dietary health advice, safety regulation and political correctness. They choose to shop at my organic market stall, because, like them, I’m a little man – in my case, doing his best to grow good food in competition with corporate supply. They voted UKIP because they see Farage as their little man in politics. So – I can like what they like – it is defined, while disliking (hating?) their scape-goat-ism. Those scape goats are less well defined. In truth, shadowy, ill-defined figures have been the baddies, demons, bogeymen, goblins… of most cultures. It is easy to evoke them by group incantation – huddled around the fire. But define them and they become real and the shadows are gone in a puff of smoke – some of them.

So, the populist yearning for lost culture, which has led to swelling support for Trump and Farage, is the same yearning which could also swell a green and socialist movement. Socialism and fascism have been closer than we suppose. They share the same spring. The green movement has been even closer. Some founders of the UK organic movement in the 1930’s and 40’s, were openly fascist. They supported the small man against the state; the dexterity and ingenuity of the trades – from finger-tips of respected skills to the soul of culture. Many supported proposals for social credit and restorative justice in land rights and defined commons. They supported labour value against usury… – with Usura, hath no man a house of good stone

Past cultures have been regulated – drawn back from extremes by common ethics of ancestry, sweat lodge, mosque, church, temple synagogue… Common ethics are made potent by vivacious gossip. Today, our common is newspaper and internet news. The tragic merger of church and state had handed moral authority to an amoral media. Gossip in town is all of the nine or ten world news stories that have been selected, then touted and sold by central news agencies. The almost infinite goings on of life – however profound, have been sorted into the basket named, trivia. Questions in parliament, for the most part, raise those same nine or ten sold stories. Gossip in town is also of those stories. Search twitter and it’s the same.

How do we coalesce into a broad consensus that makes convivial society? Past communities have gathered round the receiving and passing on of ancestral commons and a common view of history, the land and our places in it. Religion has woven roles into both work and pleasure – dignity of trades, festivals, shrines, holidays…

How do we set up the warp for a weft of the times? We’re unravelled by oil, neoliberalism, consumerism and consensus politics. Political parties are marketed in the same way (and by the same agencies) as pot noodles. We’ve no appetite for either pot noodles, or current political parties. We’ve also few common purposes, or sanctities.

The confused cultural yearning that leads to support for Brexit, Trump, Farage, Le Pen and so on, is similar to that we’ll need to cement a common cultural understanding, as money markets and growth “economies” of neoliberalism collapse around us. The isms are blurred – left and right, socialism and fascism… Here are some opposites that are never blurred – cruelty and kindness, inclusion and exclusion, peace and war, conversation and contumely, poverty and wealth… How do we bring those ordinary things back into both political conversation and the ordinary gossip that binds societies? What is happiness?

Our liberal support for labour rights, land rights, gender rights and so on, have become necessary to counter the essential amorality of free market liberalism. It has also led to a perverted support for those that promote those rights – such as American Democrats and the UK New Labour Party.   It is perverted because those parties pursue enclosure, corporate monopoly, rentier profiteering, debt-created “capital” and the levelling of protective barriers. They have created the need to fight for those rights.

New Labour/Democrat pursuit of unfettered economic growth is a cause of both inequality and climate change. Yet how can we not rush to the barricades with anyone at all at the sight of a Trump or a Farage? Bernie Sanders fell into that very human trap in his rush to the barricades with culturally-destructive, neo-liberal, Hilary Clinton.

Everyone is looking for the unifying phrase that matches – make Britain/America great again…

Yet culture is what we do. Actually, New Labour/Democrat governments have caused neither climate change, nor inequality. They’ve lobbied for them. They’ve legislated for them. It is we little people, one by one, who have been coerced to cause them.

Only we little people can find a way back. My one empowering thought!

The whole of contemporary politics is inappropriate. That is why we have Trump and Farage. Those of us who argue for least worst options in the ballot, because they are the only surviving options, have been defeated by Trump and Farage. Trump and Farage supporters are not clones of Trump, or Farage – far from it. But there is no conversational nuance, because there is currently no reason to politics. They yearn for something deeper – in the soul – beyond reason – towards a yet undefined reason. They’ve been nastily manipulated by an utterly-cynical, corporate press, which noting the yearning, has misused it. But then we’ve also been manipulated, who voted for a Hilary Clinton, or an Ed Milliband.

I’ve a vision of the convivial society, but no vision to convey it to others. But I’m convivially connected to the Farage supporter at my market stall. They buy Welsh Black beef, pass on recipes, and discuss the virtues of Ribston Pippin, or Adam’s Pearmain. I’m grateful for the money. We are morally closer than I am to the leaders of super-marketed Soil Association, or to the corporate status quo of New Labour Party. To my customer, I am far left, and to me he is far right. I think we are friends. We happily argue. Racism? Sexism? Homophobia? – He denies it. Immigration is population density – numbers – resources – finite space.

What does this mean? Well, if we are not sure – and if none of us are sure, then there’s a comic beginning to a unified society.

There are many (such as Thomas Pinketty) who note the destructiveness of neo liberalism. They see the need for protective borders to specific cultures and specific needs. They see the need to act on climate change. But their proposals to improve and adapt the free market, end by prolonging and endorsing it – and so endorsing both accelerating inequality and accelerating climate change. They see the free market as simply there – as much as seas, rivers, mountains and the breath that follows breath are there. They see the super market, the family car and cheap holiday flights as similarly there – as though those things were the natural projections of human nature.

In microcosm, much the same thinking destroyed the organic movement in the UK. I suppose it did the same in the US. It is easier to visualise in microcosm.

The yearning; the ill-defined nostalgia, which has (for some) swollen the ballot for Trump and Farage is for a pre-free-market world of full employment and defined roles – corner shops, stores, family firms and trades – grocer, builder, joiner, stone mason, baker, butcher, miller, tanner, shoemaker, milliner, weaver, blacksmith, shipwright, woodsman, sailor, fisherman, farmer… The free market has brought a post-identity world, which delivers consumer right to the limit of production cost on the one hand and to the limit of purchasing wages, on the other. Those wages are shrinking and becoming more scarce. People want their identities back. People with lost identities can easily be pushed into gangs of them and us – which round on scapegoats.

People with lost identities could equally be enthused to a role in re-building what they yearn for – actually the very world which green thinkers would also love to create.  Capitalism, communism, fascism, localism… share the same spring – social justice – but each in differing reaction to differing times, politics and places.

Remove the thuggery, the scapegoats, and the party-political monopolies and all those ideologies can come together like voices of the ancestors. For ourselves we must grow a philosophy by the trial and error of what we do. Every ancestral voice is utterly contrary to the free market casino. Those voices are at our backs as we step forward. In truth, they were, without exception, specific moralities created to counter the amorality of specific power. They are bound to time and place. When power over-steps commonly accepted ethics a new counter-ideology must emerge. We are bound to a new time in perhaps, if we are lucky, the same places.

That thugs have waved ideologies as flags in the slaughter is not the fault of the ideology. Many blame capitalism for our destructive behaviour, but actually, like communism it has never existed. Adam Smith’s was a moral philosophy which, if adopted, could undermine the frivolities of kings, stock casinos and currency manipulators – that was its purpose. It was never adopted. Similarly, Marx’s communism and Kropotkin’s anarchism have never been adopted.

Ah well. Perhaps it’s as well that we don’t follow the books. The powers have used the books for their own ends – & the worst are full of passionate intensity…

The free market is very young. It has not matured. It has failed. A few have got very rich by it. Most have become poorer and many have starved, or been killed in the oil wars. It is a brief perversity. It has invaded ordinary life and ordinary responsible roles. Since amorality is its foundation, it has not replaced that responsibility with its own. Ordinary life – ordinary house-keeping, which Everyman (sexless term) understands, must return to fill the void. To be blunt – there is no one in control.

Those who voted for Trump and Farage (if we remove the thuggery of Trump and Farage) may lead us more quickly home, because they are not deluded by the passionate intensity of the neoliberalists. We may also stay safe if we are not deluded by the passionate intensity of the Alt. Right.

Meanwhile,

That blessing comes by pure accident from a very dark place. Narcissistic clown, Donald Trump, was born into fabulous wealth, educational opportunity and above-the-law privilege. His money comes from idle rent – from land enclosure – dragon’s gold. He is consumed by, or affects to be consumed by hate for what threatens that hoard – namely poverty, women and foreignness. That leads him to protectionism – for import tariffs to protect “domestic industries”. Like many in possession of great wealth, he sees himself as the little man against the modern institutions. Pacing borders finds enemies and scape-goats in every direction. Mexican walls are in the imagination before a breeze block is laid. His little man rhetoric is attractive to those who’ve lost something precious – meaning and purpose.

Hitler, Stalin and Henry VIII were similarly ridiculous. The terrible nightmares they created began as narcissistic dreams. They were made real by ordinary, serious people – many in fear, many in delusion – until delusion in the national interest normalised the most hideous cruelties.

Governments, in diplomacy, are speaking of Trump as a serious, democratically-elected leader. They are very wrong. They should use the evidence of their ordinary human senses and converse with him as a democratically elected clown.

We can both respect and empathise with the nostalgia and sense of loss, which many of his and Farage’s supporters hold, but we must treat the clowns as clowns, or we’ll end by colluding in the creation of reality from a mere nightmare.

 

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2 Responses to Lords of Misrule

  1. alexheffron says:

    Very good Patrick, thank you! An inspirational and insightful read. There must be something in the ether as I had some similar thoughts to you this morning after milking, although not quite so well elucidated. You’ve laid it all out, not much more I can say. Most of us are striving for the same things, just under different banners. If we can capture that then we can move towards a much more equitable society (not perfect, just better adapted to the coming future). Or. The Neo-Nazi’s (I’ve had enough of Alt. Right. – new name for the same old philosophy) might capitalise upon the dissatisfaction and promise a solution by scapegoatism – and of course will inevitably fail, even for those who are ‘fortunate’ enough to fall within their definition of what is human.

    “Hitler, Stalin and Henry VIII were similarly ridiculous. The terrible nightmares they created began as narcissistic dreams. They were made real by ordinary, serious people – many in fear, many in delusion – until delusion in the national interest normalised the most hideous cruelties.”

    I ‘liked’ this bit. Very prescient. Too true. I’ve had the discussion so many times with people that your average German in the 1930s and 40s was no different to you or I. They weren’t evil people. Many of them did evil things for sure, and if we want to know who will be prepared to do those evil things again then we need only to look in the mirror, and speak to our friends and family. It’s us, not them. And it’s our choice, not theirs. We are not merely innocent bystanders being manipulated like pawns. We are being manipulated, but we are not innocent. Like you say, Le Pen, or Trump or whoever can point the way, but it is up to us to go to war for them, and commit atrocities for them.

    “If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against… Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.
    “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.140”

    On another note. I’ve become dissatisfied with JMG over recent time – why can’t he utter anything critical of Trump? And why doesn’t he ‘allow’ much criticism of trump amongst the commentariat? Does he seriously believe that he might be a force for good? The same went with Brexit too. Be interesting to see if he comments on Le Pen. Perhaps schadenfreude and a slight nihilism has pervaded with him of late? Surely this is not a time for supporting Trumpism. Yes I get his point about The Democrats, and liberalism, and Hillary and Obama… I got it by the third time, but the seventh or eighth? I’m disquieted.

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  2. bryncocyn says:

    Thanks Alex. Yes. Somehow we need to ditch the ideologies. Yet since we’ve no longer a common inherited moral to fall back to people like you and I begin to form ideologies of our own. I suppose JMG sees Trump as the natural reaction of history – a period to negotiate and not dismiss. One thing I know is that I don’t know much. It ‘d be great to embrace everyone as us – like a great matriarchal arm – & say, Children! Play nicely and you’ll all be happier – You’ll feel better if you share? Who can come up with that masterpiece of ideology? It’d have to be a comedy – bearing in mind that comedies and tragedies share identical plots. Of course the great religions and arts have it all written down. Yet Chaucer was in the ear of Henry VIII, Shakespeare was in the ear of Oliver Cromwell, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert were in the ear of Adolf Hitler. So however beautifully we sing the truth to power it makes little difference. The Daily Mail prints rubbish and people repeat it next day in the market square.

    At least the Trump has shoved the seemingly immovable consensus for neoliberalism off course. That course was to a darker time and place for all Earth’s species, than the fragmented, fragile, already-chaotic course of the Trump has power to achieve!

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