Speed

What of fossil-powered speed – the borrowed muscular lives of fossilised years? Do we forget ourselves in consequence?
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What of two people walking side by side? They are more or less equal until they step into what money can buy – a car; an aeroplane…
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What happens when the energy required for cars and aeroplanes exceeds available energy – that is, exceeds what is possible? Is that a partial recipe for equality?
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But does that speed lead to a forgetting, not only of human speed, but of all human qualities?
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What of the time between destinations – both the space/time and the space? Does shrunken time, also shrink space and so the richness of a life?
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What of the purchased fancy of traveling between places, without the revelatory truth of the places in between?
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If the places in between are a nuisance to be transcended by those millions of purchased photosynthetic years, is our knowledge not impoverished and our imagination stunted? Certainly, our chosen purchases must crowd out what is unpredictable, sacramental, revelatory, beautiful and true.
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Listen, as we slow to walking pace, so the great mass of life comes around us in the ways we’ve evolved to live – in obstacles, delights, gradients, weathers, sights, sounds, scent… As we slow, revelation accelerates. That is, as we slow, what is human accelerates and swells. Also, what is possible, accelerates and swells.
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Here’s something else, as we speed by our purchasing power, so we impoverish the passage of time. That’s as old as the oldest philosopher.
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So, is slower richer in rewards and faster poorer – even though slower is poorer in money and faster richer? Is unnatural speed, not a perfect parable for folly?
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May that (if we have sufficiency) be a paradigm for everything? – the poor little rich kid and the convivial cottager? – or, our current ways of fossil-fuelled life relative to a life lived within human limits? I propose that a future moral, good life could be very much happier – and happier for all, than today’s lives of copious consumer-choices for some and debt and anxiety for the rest.
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What of the speeds of a lifespan? A journey passed without event is impoverished and empty. Is a full passage of obstacles, physical efforts, surprises and unexpected delights really less full of travelling power than the sleeping traveller purchases from those ancient fossilised years? Unless we move at human speed, can we be fully human? Can we think straight?
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The office worker who complains of the slow pace of rural life is truly confused by the delusions of her speed of purchasing and speed of supply. That rural life is far quicker (in both senses) with urgency of confronted obstacles and the celebration of delights.
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In a recent Guardian article, George Monbiot provides this –
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Guy Debord argued that “the spectacle” (the domination of social relationships by images) is used to justify the “dictatorship of modern economic production”. It both disguises and supplants the realities of capitalism, changing our perceptions until we become “consumers of illusion”
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Let’s think of reclaiming commons as reclaiming past and future – reclaiming the flow of time. Let’s consider re-synchronisation of motion, so that lost things and places become apparent as they re-enmesh. Let’s become the beat of a pulse; the inhalation of breath; the sound of a footstep; the delight and honour of walking side by side with other humans and all the species, which together both reveal and partake in the unfolding of Earth-time. The enclosures fly past along the white lines of a parallel world that has lost a dimension. It is fast and poor. It flies past what is – a common and marvellous gift, to chase what is not – the consumption of a private, purchased and enclosed illusion.
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Climate change is the last great sorrow; the divorce from time; the last cause of the first cause for humanity at least. Did we come to think of space/time – of the time-full morphology of space? It seems not. We speed above space, but that space became the thickening layers of the greenhouse. The strata of fossilised years became a new. atmospheric strata, and in the same linear manner that we flew from place to place, it weighed down the beneficent living cycles of the Holocene. We thought in straight lines and received them back like a cruel reflection, or final knock-out. Poor Narcissus.
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We moved by the speed of many millions of fossilised Summers, in what we thought was a new Summertime at the end of history. We thought ourselves transcendent, but Narcissus was not transcendent. He was deprived of the wonders of sense, just for the fanciful consumption of that self-illusion in the pool.
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***
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So, if we can ingeniously negotiate the coming casino crash and its real economic consequences – of collapsing businesses, unemployment, shrunken tax revenues and so withered social and infrastructure spending – if we can negotiate that, while looking out for one another, leaning on each other’s skills and somehow trading each to each, having divested from the casino – if, if, if we can, then we may find a world far more rich in possibilities than the one we’ve just left behind. We’ll have lost non-human speed and regained what is human. And we’ll have the possibility to end our further contribution to that highly-personal stock-pile of atmospheric CO.2.
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Just as money flow detached from its gold standard, raced away as fast as debt would carry it, so our economic reasoning detached itself from reality. Aviation, the family car and suburbia are all detached from reality. They flew at unreasonable speed. Now (we hope) they are beached at the end of history. We can walk away at Earth-speed as history resumes.
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In truth, money has remained very shakily attached to an unspoken oil-standard – hovering above it on a lengthening, uncoiling, debt-created thread.
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We’ve a massive monetary shrinkage to face, as we pass through circles of Hell to benign, Earthly ground. First, we must sink though acceleration due to debt-creation, then through acceleration due to fossil fuels. We’ll find on landing, just the acceleration due to gravity and to life in all its forms. Money will be directly related to just the power of what ingenuity and dexterity can do – that is acceleration due to people.
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Acceleration due to people cannot maintain the casino. It will crash.
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We can step onto the common and watch our own footsteps either collide with the world, or else gently slip into it. As we synchronise with the clocks of other species, so a world of wonders can expand. The natural world – its crop-producing soils and so on – the potential for the happiness of human societies – will remain immediately after the crash. Thereafter, it can increase by regained awareness – by renewing lost intelligence. Powered by oil, we’d forgotten to be intelligent to our surroundings. Meanwhile, the national governments we elect (Let’s hope. Why not?) can nationalise private banking and let money flow at the speed of human action within the natural physics of a national terrain. Let’s not forget that money is a means of exchanging what we do to contribute to society. The money standard of a society is the sum of what its citizens exchange. Much of what people do, is not related to money, or directly to exchange, because many of our behaviours are productive, but moneyless. Our reward is membership of common humanity. Don’t forget those riches, as we descend through the veils of oil and debt towards solid ground. Meanwhile, personally, each to each, we can devise local currencies, so that communities exchange their trades in ways which are apparent. If my local currency seeks, let’s say, a wind turbine blade, and then finds it must use the national currency to purchase it elsewhere, then a craftsman from the community may see that she must learn the skills. Thus, the community can become more resilient, ingenious and complete. Money cycles can also serve as cycles of recognition, trust and respect. It is only recently, that communities became dependant on “the kindness of strangers”.
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The corporate stranger will evaporate as we divest from both corporate wage and corporate spending. Corporations were only ever the sum of our corporate consents. Now we invest in each other – in collectives of households on a common soil. We also divest from the corporate media of the BBC and the corporate newspapers – Times, Guardian… We disconnect from those trashy sounds and those trashy prints may mulch that weedy garden bed. Catch the pages as they fly too fast, on the malign wind of oil power and bring them down to feed the bacteria and fungi of good earth at earthly speed. As we enmesh with Earth Time, so past and future may become apparent and reasonable. At fossil time neither exist.
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