Convivial Revelry is no Small Thing

Once upon a time, not so long ago, economic transactions using money, were out-weighed by economic transactions, which did not. Still, that moneyless economy, though much shrunken, remains a force for good. Without it, the whole edifice of wages, spending, rents, money interest, stocks, bonds and shares would collapse. Today, because money has accelerated beyond control, “economies” are teetering on the edge of collapse. As we know, parenthood is often deferred to paid child-minders, nurseries and schools. Music is bought in concert tickets and recordings, while singing around the pub piano is a distant memory. Apprenticeships have been replaced by expensive and inappropriate university courses. Monopolies of medicine, law, architecture and so on, charge fabulous rents, merely for their enclosed social status – and of course, much else for which people are paid wages, is futile, ugly and useless.
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Only sixty years ago half the population remained at home, without wages, yet working full time – cooking, caring, teaching, washing, cleaning, telling stories, singing nursery rhymes… But for the upper middle class, half the population (women), probably worked harder than wage-earning men. So, in the above respect, unpaid work outweighed the paid. Add to that football, cricket, productive gossip, pub sing-songs – yes, I agree, women often missed out on those things too.
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Let’s fade back into the Thirteenth century, when, as David Fleming has eloquently reminded us, a massive part of everyone’s time was passed in religious and seasonal festivals. Economies were hugely resilient, because money was but a small part of the whole. Always, when things went wrong the unpaid probity, ingenuity and dexterity of people could step in.
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Don’t mention medieval hierarchies and the unjust distribution of male to female labour. It’s plain – so we can change it for the better. In any case, hierarchies today are spiralling out of control by pillaged and utterly irresponsible wealth. A lord of the manor had function and obligation and was, in any case, poor by today’s standards. In medieval times, (I speculate) Richard Branson would be imprisoned (or executed) for transgression of common law. We are not performing well on the male/female balance either…
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Truly, I can see no alternative today but to resume such models. Though money is useful for more complex trades in scarcity and surplus, a so-called steady state, or circular economy must be largely moneyless to achieve resilience to the unexpected and also to achieve self-determined happiness. If every household had a garden, some musical instruments, a store of ancestral tales and rhymes, surely that household would also produce new songs, tales and rhymes of its own. The stimulus would not be money, but conviviality.
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Of course, if half of us – a mixture of men and women – worked for money, eight, or so hours a day for four, or so days per week, producing, by our various skills, what our communities need in the way of food, fabrics, furniture, metal work… and that money circulated entirely within that exchange of trades – but for a tax – say a tythe, or perhaps more – as contribution to common infrastructures of hospitals, harbours, libraries, irrigation sluices, bridges and so on, money which, in consequence, would cycle back again – then still that activity would be a small part of a twelve-hour seven-day whole, which one half of the adult population would have for pleasure. The other half of the population would have similar pleasure time (slightly less?). But their day jobs of cooking, cleaning, caring…. Would involve no money.
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I do think, we need to welcome the return of uncensored long sentences along with long balmy Summer days to sit by the river and practice the fiddle, or to stroll into a deepening intimacy with our landscape, or to read and write and tell each other stories of how these things came to be. You bring the wine. I’ll bake the bread.
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As the world sits in coronavirus lock-down, a common Guardianist sentence is – You said the economy was everything, now we can see that it isn’t. As usual the Guardian is wrong. The economy is everything, but the greatest part of that economy is moneyless. The true economic dynamo is common understanding of good behaviour, which needs no payment, and is certainly its own reward. Yet, Left Liberals would put money value on “eco-system services” by their “true-cost accounting”. They lobby for basic income for house-keepers. They lobby for more money. It’s true that basic income is a temporal remedy to social injustice and it’s also true that it can stimulate real economic activity. It’s true that it’s the best course in our current shut-down. But if that money is simply created by central banking, it will add to still more destructive money-flow. If it is generated by a tax on enclosure, as Tom Paine tells us, money flow would remain the same, while its restorative justice may add (it also may not) to commons of good behaviour.
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The truth is that increasing money flow by adding still more fictitious “natural capital”, would be another step over the edge for the soon-to-be crashing casino. Commons of good behaviour teach that the ecology of which it is but one small part, is priceless. Reverence is useful. It has proved effective in just about every culture, every-when and everywhere.
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As we’ve explored, much else is priceless too – parenthood, the delight of attained skill, bonds of friendship and family, the sight of a good crop of corn, laden apple trees, well-brewed beer, a lovely fabric, a dove-tail joint well-fitting, tale-telling, music, dance…
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Money as a tool for more complex exchange than barter, is liberating and useful. Money as property is an always destructive power. Enclosures of money, land and status into irresponsible property are at the chore of our amoral pillage of both nature and each other. Present action creates the future, just as past action created our present.
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The reason I slid so easily into organic farming and subsequently became so alienated from most “new” organic farmers, is this, my definition of the word, organic –
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Organic – method, which seeks efficiency and resilience, by imitating the cyclic behaviours of organisms. Organic as a method applies to everything – to every trade, infrastructure and pleasure. Its primary attitudes are reverence, belonging, study and the learning and application of skills. Such a definition was commonplace to agriculturalists of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. By 1990 it was utterly betrayed. It entered the market-place and wanted as much of it as it could. However that market was “organised”, or rather disorganised, was no concern. I remember, David Fleming as a solitary voice of discontent at one packed Soil Association meeting. I loved what he said, though what it was escapes my memory. Anyway, it’s a comfort to me now that I have his writing. My younger, and shy in public, conviction is affirmed. As Wendell Berry says, Eat and you are involved in agriculture. We might as well add, Eat and you are involved in everyone and everything.
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2 Responses to Convivial Revelry is no Small Thing

  1. Joshua Msika says:

    Yes! I start working 4 days a week, down from 5, on the 1st of April. The purpose is precisely as you describe it, to do more “house work”, creating true value.
    The reason I can do it? The mortgage will be cleared this year. Once it’s paid, we would have enough to live very well on just my wife’s income, working 3 days per week. What’s earned above that is superfluous and must be invested somehow. But there aren’t many ethical investments available these days. The ecological land co-operative share offer is one. I’d much rather invest surplus time than surplus money.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bryncocyn says:

    “I’d much rather invest surplus time than surplus money.” That’s possibly the answer to almost all our problems. We are prevented, only by parasitic enclosures, which force us to pillage to pay mortgage and rent. Joshua, I wish you well with those coming four productive days. Do you know what I’d like? – To read your resultant book!

    Like

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