These essays, with one exception, have been written over the last six months as small havens against the turbulence of the times. Storms are yet to come in Europe (they’ve arrived with a tragic vengeance elsewhere), but a shaky political stage has been set in that short period. Of course, the causes are older, but the fruiting bodies of a political anti-mycelia, have emerged. I’m keeping hope at anchor – just offshore to the personality cults and staged, counter-realities to what could be a green and pleasant land. My weather eye notes atmospheric insecurity. It also notes 1930 parallels. History will have acquired unexpected causes, and so we can hope for diverging cycles to the following – Industrial monopolies were expanding in 1930, weirdly hand in hand with a contradictory fascism. Today, neoliberalism and a contradictory nationalism are promoted, hand in hand at the hustings. Scape-goat-ism is common to both times. Scape-goats are undefined, shadowy figures – props for political theatre. Meanwhile, and on the contrary, clearly-identified dangers can invoke solidarity, companionship, empathy and a protective arm for the common good of a loved and diverse culture.
The disregard of climate change, even among green thinkers is surely a perversity unique to our times. My green friends will still jet to holiday destinations (and climate conferences). Yet, their behaviour is a clearly identified danger. Those same friends recoil at the climate change denial of the shadowy ill-defined Trump.
We acknowledge the clownish narcissism of today’s right wing politicians, but the trajectory of New Labour and American Democratic policies, has been similarly ridiculous. It heads to impossible economic growth, rising wealth gaps and catastrophic climate change. Neoliberalism (anti-capitalism) is promoted alongside a balance of legislation for human rights – gender rights, environmental protections and so on. The illusionist makes everything just as nice as the fantasy of an oil-powered, monopoly-supplied, yet liberal-spirited Acacia Avenue.
My friends’ consensus is that the once-working-class have fallen off the rails for ISIS, Farage, Trump, Brexit and so on. But there remains no dignity in tracks to where trades have vanished, wages have shrunk, rents have risen, skills have been spurned and a community of pub, corner shop, library, church, chapel, or mosque has evaporated into the baseless fabric of another’s (middle class) vision. Of course, the young man, who joined ISIS, may have had those things (and his loved ones) bombed to extinction.
Meanwhile, some newspapers are produced for the once-working class on an imagined Desolation Row and others for those who think themselves classless at leafy Acacia Avenue. Make no mistake, delusively-reasonable, Guardian, Times and BBC Radio Four, spread as much post-truth as do the Daily Mail and Sun (despite the bile). Class? Yes, it remains.
I wonder, if considering the suppressed, but still living understanding of class, we might find a convivial route to a classless, or rather, re-classed humanity? Certainly, only a cultural renaissance can transform our black economic/ecologic predicament. At any rate, that is my pursuit – the pursuit of the convivial economy.
The following pages don’t refer to class, but on the one hand, to those who hold tools and so make the culture, and on the other, to those who administer it. That the former is the nobler, may lead us to re-write history. What’s more, the binding theme of this book, is that cultures are composed people, doing things – one by one – not by the left/right leanings of politicians. Are we sure that left/right has retained its meaning? Commons against enclosures may be more appropriate. At any rate, we’ve inherited a common need to support one another. A deep lacework of mycelial benignity passes between generations. Anti-mycelia, whose fruiting bodies emerge in times of stress are ephemeral. The Trump and the Farage have emerged from a social wound. They are perverse, but exist for a reason. The reason is the wound. It may be more productive – less to fight the Farage and more to heal the wound.
Monopoly supply (enclosure) has taken tools from the hands and the self-respect of the skilled, in return for a delusive consumer-right. If there is a battle, I reckon it is this – for people, one, by one, to adopt responsibility for a particular corner of a common culture. One by one is no small thing, if we consider that one, by one makes everyone. It is more powerful, because it is the ordinary course of history – baker, farmer, joiner, weaver, sailor… As the casino collapses we must make sure that we stand one by one, leaning together, on economic ground. The casino is promoted by every major political party and also by what used to be called, captains of industry. The captains have emerged again – another 1930 parallel. This time, they navigate cargoes, less of manufacturing, and more of usury, gambling chips and rent- of both intellectual and land property. Politicians and captains dance their charisma on front pages – but it is the captains, exotic by fabulous wealth, around whom the politicians dance – sharing the light.
How on Earth do we build and maintain a whole culture one by one? I suppose we’ll discover that by our mistakes. Don’t forget, that every experience, which has entered common culture, has first passed through the receptive senses of an individual. My pursuit is made easier by a recently published map – a dictionary of lean (and highly convivial) economics. I advise readers to dip into to it now and again as a compass during our passage to a more green and open-hearted land. It is called Lean Economics – A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive it, by the great David Fleming, to whom I dedicate these pages.
(23rd December 2016)