Exodus

Consider this: everything we do to support current ways of living is so destructive that it will cause the end for human cultures as we know them. The jobs we do; taxes we pay; purchases we make, all contribute to self-destruction.
.
To lobby for improvements; efficiencies; for a greening of that way of life, gives it further credence and worse – a greater longevity. By that lobbying, we endorse destruction and we signal support for a more efficient but still destructive status quo.
.
The answer is a mass exodus towards another way of life. For me, it is a journey from the extra-ordinary to the ordinary – from anxiety to sweet relief – from the end of history to history again – and from a crazy, fossil-fuelled levitation, to a specific ration of time inside a measured allotment of space – palpable things, which weigh easily on my understanding and which I can love, share, smell, taste, touch, hear and see.
.
It is an exodus from cyber money to real money; from an internet of illusions to the physics of things; from travelling without travail to the obstacles and rewards of terrain – rivers, hills, seas, peoples… Our journey will pass from dependent consumerism to personal management of a fair share of time and space. We inherit that share in the passages of time and we are tasked to bequeath its undiminished space as our time also passes. We fulfil an ephemeral role, which was similarly held by generations of ancestors. We occupy but one small human space in the larger and grander flow of history, but the grand is made up of all its individuals. Past action created my ration, just as my present action creates (or diminishes) future rations.
.
The idea of an allotment, or a ration is very different from ideas of limits, or borders.
.
A ration is both physical and spiritual – my allotted garden is full of wonders, changing seasons, visiting species, evidence of personal histories on a terrace here; a tree there; many stories and moral lessons attached to the physics of things. I see the actions of ancestors embedded there too, as clearly as I can read ancient words emerging from a page. Similarly, both my allotted house and my allotted workplace are repositories for memory; obligation; celebration and are catalysts for new ingenuities to fit the inevitability of changing times. My allotted time and space are fluid, ever-changing and also changeable by my actions.
.
The ancient term we have for such allotments is the common.
.
On the other hand, limits and borders, remain as thin lines, which we cannot cross. They can’t be loved – only defended. They sometimes appear inside the common as taboo – that is, things which we cannot say, or do, but more generally they destroy the common. We have liberty inside a border to do as we choose – home as castle – profession as castle – money as castle, and where we override another’s morality, we can become lawfully immoral. Monopolies of land, profession and money, exclude the specific ingenuity, dexterity and sensual intelligence of others. The consumer is limited only by the thin line at the edge of her borrowing and spending power. Her right as money-property holder overrides moral commons of proper behaviour.
.
The terms we have for borders and limits are enclosure and property. Inside my property I am libertarian – I can be profligate, selfish, cruel, or (I defer), kind as I choose. Enclosures are untouched by nature – they have no nature. But they can be bought and sold, or violently lost and won.
.
***
.
The now accustomed measure of economic success is GDP, which in recent times has been mostly composed of spent assets. Tragedies of war and natural disaster, as well as foolish and profligate behaviour, plus usury and rent, all lead to a swelling of GDP. If we applaud GDP as a measure, then we applaud those things. If we applaud a shrinking of GDP, we may seem to applaud the shrinking of those things, but nevertheless we still signal approval of the measure itself (de-growth of GDP). For instance, GDP measures the expenses of climate heating as positive.
.
We may reason that to fit within the means of a terrain, we must shrink that spending – we must achieve rapid de-growth to just the point that our limited means will provide. And yet, we can see that degrowth will cause “economic”, or rather, casino collapse. Casino collapse (of banking, share and stock markets and currencies) will also cause real economic collapse (of manufacturing, labour, social infrastructures…).
.
So, our exodus must be from GDP to a different measure – from the spending of assets to the maintenance of assets. Our hope is not for the casino to degrow to a point – an apparently positive end within the same measure – but for the casino to collapse, while at the same time, we have built a new life boat economy defined by new measures to rescue the falling fragments of the old. I say life boat, because there is unavoidable chaos ahead. The life boats can then deposit us on durable ground.
.
Pursuit of the de-growth of an impossible way of life, does not change the way of life, it merely presents it with new limits. In any case, enforced degrowth is impossible without chaos and human misery.
.
If, like any business, or household, we measure community success by measuring assets (not the spending of them), then we enter a brave new world of possibility. The Inland Revenue measures my annual household income as assets in year two, minus assets in year one. In the same way, so can a national accountant. But then, if we ask the questions, what are assets? and, what do we mean by assets? – we surely leave the amoral world of property and enclosure to enter the both pragmatic and spiritual world of the always moral commons. The study of economics is, after all, a branch of moral philosophy.
.
Everything I do has an effect and so also a moral. My property enclosure allows me to deny that truth. GDP as a measure also denies that truth. It liberates bad behaviour.
.
What are my assets? I say, family, friends, good air and water, birdsong, green leaves, scent of flowers, ancestral music and literature, good cooking, musical instruments, pubs, libraries… Some have monetary value, some not. All have moral value.
.
Do those assets survive from year one to year two? Even though they may not and become lost in war, famine, or flood, GDP may still soar, and by the same expenses of war and post disaster re-building that those lost assets bring. It does not measure destroyed assets as a negative. It does not hear the weeping.
.
GDP does not measure even monetarily-valued assets – furniture, tools, property, or existing social infrastructures, such as electricity cables, water and sewage systems, hospital buildings, roads, harbours, bridges, work-shops, houses– it knows neither the presence, nor the lack of them. They become visible when they are sold. Monetarist UK governments, such as Margaret Thatcher’s, Tony Blair’s and all others since, have paraded rosy “balance sheets” by exchanging such assets for money (privatisation). However cheaply they are sold they will add to such “balances” and also add to GDP. Asset stripping is a well-tried method to stave off bankruptcy – or to make hidden subsidiary companies (otherwise known as favours to a friend) rich by the cheapness of the purchase. But a bad end is inevitable! Yes, if GDP is a measure of the good, then a bad end is inevitable.
.
The government of Bhutan has introduced us to an “Economics of happiness”. From Latin America, we have learnt “Buen Vivir”. “Liberation Theology” teaches much the same, while the thoughts of Ivan Illich require urgent revival. Then we have the lean economics of David Fleming.
They all point to our first steps of exodus – the pragmatic answer to the question, what is happiness?
.
***
.
Those who argue for de-growth of our current way of life, perhaps combined with a green new deal for more durable infrastructures, must be careful what they wish for. If it supports the same, but less profligate and more green way of life inside the same old world of amoral enclosures, then it is doomed to failure – more money to fund the impossible – flood, famine, storm…
.
However, if a green new deal is diverted to support the pack-horses of Exodus, with provisions for the journey and for the final settlements, then money can mutate to an asset again. Money, which has once spent, or extracted real assets can be returned to the common from where it gained its destructive power by bleeding that common. Like Tom Paine’s land value tax, which returned enclosure-generated money to the common, a green new deal can be seen as restorative justice.
.
***
.
Here is a very simple truth – only good personal behaviour can bring humanity as a whole (literally) down to Earth, and to living within a ration of Earth. All intelligence of the goings on of life, must first pass through unique and singular senses. There is no corporate, or consensual way listening, scenting, seeing… What’s more that intelligence is specific to its time and space. Cultural adaption is specific to its terrain and to its time in history, and so is personal in the same way. Of course, personal action will be in, or towards concert with others. We are a social species. We love to share intelligence and we love to live and work together. We are empathetic and sympathetic – personal good (or, I suppose bad) behaviour is contagious.
.
Political behaviour can be useful if it speaks in defence of an established, or establishing way of life. It is up to us to establish that life, only then, can we defend it – that is, we must have something, or at least the infancy of something, to romance others to join it.
.
Otherwise, we punt just another idea in the greater casino of ideas. We say, that others must distort their realities to an alien idea. Of course, hierarchies, armies, police, secret police, manipulated ballots, commercial advertisements and persuasive newspaper barons, do that as a matter of course. It has not been productive. Its purpose is destructive.
.
Our purpose is to escape that course towards the truths of a human settlement within its ration of larger nature.
.
However, there is much that can hinder that personal journey, which we may need to repel by argument, ballot, or violence, but unless we are personally on the road and unless we know what it is that we defend, then political, or violent, or so-called, non-violent action will be futile.
.
So, if we are on, or are about to step on the road, or even simply dreaming of the road, then political action may assist the journey. Certainly, unless the so-called body-politic can see our journey as a palpable thing, then we flaunt a mere idea, which can be neither emulated, nor shared – nor truly attacked.
.
***
.
So, our extinction rebellions must be primarily against ourselves. Without our billions of small purchases, the corporation would not exist. We must urgently create an economy amongst ourselves, which can survive the crash of banking, stock and share markets, currencies and everything which depends on them. To be sure, the richer we are, the more planetary harm we command, but from where do those riches come, but from ourselves? Our argument is with people – with the vicious rent extraction practised by doctors, lawyers, architects and so on – many of whom may well take part in the extinction rebellion. It is no accident that those status enclosures usually define themselves as a practice – medical practice, law practice, architectural practice and so on. We argue for an exodus from the economic drainage of such practices. When Adam delved and Eve span…. Once upon a time, professionals professed. Now, as a casino has replaced an economy, professional means one who has enclosed a trade and can charge rent for it. It means one who must never profess, but must be reserved, taciturn discrete… To profess is now labelled, unprofessional.
.
Arise ye professionals and profess – because you are currently the very foundation of our suicidal, but peer-reviewed, rentier casino.
.
I am an atheist, raised by two atheist parents, but surely our exodus must be a religious exodus? Don’t we join the swelling caravans to protect the sacred – good soils, clear water, vibrant forests, teeming seas…? Are not invisible ancestors spurring us forward in shame and ain’t that an invisible future I hear calling through palpable veils of richly-spun illusion? Certainly, for myself, I feel my mother and father looking down and it is hard to bear the steady eyes of children. How can ephemeral powers compare to that? And how can ephemeral power compare to this – my present action creates the future?
.
Are not clear springs and ancient woods invisible to GDP? What calls us forward has no peer review and the language of that calling is the language of the Koran; of the Bible… We respond at the deeper level of fine music, poetry, prose and painting and of the primary lessons of childhood for what is deeply right and deeply wrong.
.
That lesson is currently invisible to journalists and politicians, but as the saying goes, they are people too – especially in the small hours of the night.
.
When I say fine music and so on, a folk song, or an elegant two-up, two-down house can be fine things. Ancestry calls for present action to create a future. It says culture is what I do. It is the voice of the commons. Our exodus is from the ennui of enclosure, to the ingenuity, dexterity and conviviality of the common.
.
***

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Exodus

  1. Joshua Msika says:

    Not really related to the above post, I found the following quote while re-reading David Holmgren’s book “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability” and I thought you might enjoy it:

    From the Mountain Peak
    When we picture the energy climax as a spectacular but dangerous mountain peak that we (humanity) have succeeded in climbing, the idea of descent to safety is a sensible and attractive proposition. The climb involved heroic effort, great sacrifice, but also exhilaration and new views and possibilities at every step. There are several false peaks, but when we see the whole world laid out around us we know we are at the top. Some argue that there are higher peaks in the mists, but the weather is threatening.
    The view from the top reconnects us with the wonder and majesty of the world and how it all fits together, but we cannot dally for long. We must take advantage of the view to chart our way down while we have favourable weather and daylight. The descent will be more hazardous than the climb, and we may have to camp on a series of plateaus to rest and sit out storms. Having been on the mountain for so long, we can barely remember the home in a far-off valley that we fled as it was progressively destroyed by forces we did not understand. But we know that each step brings us closer to a sheltered valley where we can make a new home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bryncocyn says:

    Thanks – I enjoyed it very much. You spur me to sit down and read David Holmgren properly.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s