Foreword to the new Book (possibly)

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)

 

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The Moon Behind the Casino

The travelling moon casts tree shadows across my field in time and space – time crossing space. Time passes. Space mutates. Though my hand moves space, time is unresponsive. Often, there is insufficient time for my hand to mould sufficient space. Considering time/space, the night takes my energy and its morphological contribution. Hearts beat towards atrophy despite sea anchors of space – property, status, well-framed sentences… Climate change accelerates, resources shrink – whatever I’ve done remains in either matter, or energy, but still, I think of inexorable time and malleable space.

You never enjoy the world aright, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars… and perceive yourself to be sole heir of all the universe – and more so, because all others are sole heirs also… wrote Thomas Traherne

Consequence steps at a rigid pace. What’s done is done. I’m sole heir to what I’ve done – and all others are sole heirs also. That’s where the passage of commons melds mutable culture to immutable passages of time. Property freezes time into brittle and defensive stasis, in which consequence and moral understanding are excluded. Property will decay despite its patrolled borders and still, ancient commons will pass between generations. The vitality of present commons unfurl cotyledons for generations. That is, if enclosures have chinks in them – like chinks in denial for the acceptance of time.

Meanwhile, existence, life as we live it, advances as time advances, conjoined to all the sensations of space…

Here’s something – The study of economics (house-keeping) is an exercise in moral philosophy. It asks, what is social happiness? And then, in what ways can we achieve it? Yet they adopt the identity of economist, who study or manipulate the odds of house values, share values, interest rates, status, currency exchange and rent – the very things that Adam Smith (the moral philosopher) proposed to regulate and tax, so that the true moral commons of economies could find true capital values – in valued labour and resource. Modern “economists” live in the very same casino that Adam Smith would have banished to more easily liberate the wealth of nations. Of course, they are imposters.

Here’s another thing: the deeper we go, the more we become the same. Individualism – the search for self-expression can find only the trivial, because it is only in triviality that we are different – sex, wealth, status, race, nation-hood, skin colour, job description… Self-expressive art is always trite. Enduring artistry searches for and then attempts to express what is common to all.

Property, the most trivial of attributes, has had a power to change modern societies, which is in tragically inverse proportion to its triviality. All enclosures are the same – land, ideas, seeds, status… – they halt the flow of time inside a brittle enclosure, where there is no social judgement, or physical consequence. Cultures are not states to be protected. They are what we do. Enclosure is the right to deny that truth. Enclosures also drain the flow of time (and so mutable space) in what we do, by charging rent. That rent is gathered from the productive movement of time and sequestered in the stillness of space. All, whose wages are above the ordinary, bleed the flow of culture – landlord, lawyer, banker, medical practitioner – all charge rent for a variety of enclosures: land, status, signorage…

The consequence of that lack of consequence is evident in climate change. Responsibility notes it, but the propertied need not. Thames water will lap at the feet of Big Ben and at the seat of a parliament, which cements the power of property and denies the powers of good work. It cements the state of frozen time and is blind to methane rising from the tundra and ice sheets melting into the heat-absorbant sea. Property is outside time and cannot note the rising water. After all, the chancellor of the exchequer will present his economic well-being figures to parliament – not as a presentation of assets, but as a simple addition of spending.

Step back into time and we step outside our properties and into flesh and blood and rhythmically time-bound hearts – our common humanity – and ultimately our common biomass with all the species of Earth. Our heartbeats embody both time and space. If we engage in time and with space, then we must shrug off the sequestered spaces of enclosure. We’ll not spend the common. Yet we can live it.

Anti-capitalists rail at the wrong target, because capitalism has never been applied. Find me a corporate energy, ag commodity, or chemical company, which values capital… They should rail at the casino of bonds and shares; at the currency manipulators; at the idle rent gatherers.

True cost accounting & ecosystem services both strive to place capital in the casino. But the casino has no means to register capital. Worse – the illusion of capital falsely endorses the casino. Capital exists in labour, energy, soil, water and so on. All that exists has effects and so every engagement with capital has moral consequence. Morality lives on the common. Here, on Earth, as the moon swings tree shadows across “my” grassland, Thomas Traherne reminds me that I am sole heir to all the universe – and more so because all others are sole heirs also. The produce of the field is mine and I exchange it for money – but that exchange is impossible without trust. Trust lives on the common. I enclose the common inheritance of soil in its produce, but have moral responsibility to maintain and pass on that common. So, I grow capital and maintain a common, which can grow generations of capital. It follows that without a moral common, capitalism collapses. What’s more, without trust, every premise of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations will also collapse.

Capital and commons are conjoined. Commons are the means to maintain the just flow of capital. Outside moral philosophy, capitalism can have no meaning.

The capital we hold issues from and returns in tribute to the common. The exchange of enclosed capital for money is also interwoven with the common of trust. You see, solid capital becomes a liquid flow from and to the common.

Moral regulation, or restraints to the casino fail, because the casino is designed for amorality – It has not the means to note the regulation. The morality implicit in organic, recycled, fair-traded (& so on) products in a super market gives false moral credence to an amoral market. True cost accounting and ecosystem services do the same. Similarly, the social justice sought in social mobility, must accept and engage with the unequal hierarchy through which it would rise.

The casino, or rather the governments, corporations and citizens, which live by it, have not the means to note climate change, resource depletion and rising social inequality – that is they are unaware of the sack of the commons – and also of possible roads to the future wealth of nations.

David Fleming’s lean economy sits quietly on that common, valuing its capital. The wild gambler’s dream – of increasing the spending of diminishing resources – is bound to collapse. It responds to neither capital, nor the common – ancestors, or descendants. It will collapse when punters grow unsure of their punts and of each other. The trouble is that cascading casinos collapse communities of people – wages and tax revenues evaporate, leaving insufficient for social security relief. Infrastructures crumble.

If David had his way, we’d have rationed energy – we’d have thought of finite, palpable capital and how to restrict and fairly distribute it. We’d have remained on the moral common. Food rationing was very effective in the 1940s and 50s and it was fair. He did not have his way – applied energy restraints have used the mechanisms of the casino and have utterly failed. They’ve been used as gambling chips by traders.

The sooner the casino collapses, the smaller will be the cliff edge over which it falls.

The later the casino collapses, so the more time may be had to gather in the convivial market square of the lean economy. We’ve become culturally disconnected by the overwhelming provisions of the casino. If we can re-connect sufficiently, then together we’ll stand on culturally-prepared ground as the confused prodigals of the collapsed casino blunder destructively into forgotten laws of physics and of nature. After all, the casino is an abstraction. Corporations are abstractions – and governments also. People exist. Soil exists – and water, sunlight, biodiversity, biomass… Prodigals may howl at the moon, until they come to love the silver light. The common releases delicious, delightful, useful capital in exchange for efficient return of wastes. Biomass to human-mass to biomass again. That’s where ingenuity must live – not in the provision of driverless cars, agricultural robotics…  Of course the casino is precariously held  up, far beyond its natural span, by the simple, but perverse energy of oil.

Sooner or later? – we can only watch and wait. The casino will blow like wild weather. Meanwhile, we may as well gain some pleasure watching the moon, while keeping a weather eye on the displeasure of Trump, Farage and Theresa May. Their trite ambitions are perennial to human nature and to history. Think of this – they serve the casino and the casino is doomed.

The doomed casino may drag what we’ve worked to maintain into its own chaos – real economics, organic economics, convivial economics, lean economics, romantic economics… At any rate, crashed casinos don’t consume much energy. They’ll end like thin smoke without flame from the heaps of couch grass – and if we can arrive somehow, still culturally joined, we can aim to go onward the same, though dynasties pass.

At any rate, happiness is, and always was, wanting what we have, not having what we want. This particular tree shadow across those particular blades of grass, points to the passage of a uniquely-timed moon. It is a good particularity to want, since my retina has it imprinted- that’s for a start. All others can have something similar – but shining to their particularity – as Thomas Traherne says.

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Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty

It’s hard to avoid engagement with the rights and wrongs, wisdom, or foolishness of those who live inside the wild consensus to cause mass extinctions and climate change. Otherwise, we remain silent whenever we meet a friend, colleague, or neighbour, since they’ll all start with the assumptions of that consensus. The assumption will be that super markets, family cars, the internet, suburbia and holiday flights are ordinary ways of life. Conversation must start there and then consider the green energies, which an enlightened and ingenious humanity will devise to replace oil, coal and gas. Listen to Radio Four, read the Independent, or Guardian newspapers and you’ll encounter the same consensus. Yet in even conversing inside that view, we at least partially endorse it. It is a deep sorrow. Easy gossip, commonly-accepted humours and also unspoken moral connection are essential to happiness. When I wake, I know that I’ll find only sorrow. I’ll have no conversation – even within my closest family. The only engagement with others can be as clown.

Yet, the notion that human ingenuity has created our way of life is deeply comic. The pomposity of the thought is outrageous. Our way of life has been simply and foolishly, created by excessively burning coal, oil, and gas. Now, the pomposity turns from burning fossil mass to burning what remains of the living mass. So, it gets worse. Of course, comedies and tragedies share the same plots – bloke walks along singing a list of human achievements as he heads for a high-powered job interview. He fails to note the deep puddle ahead and muddies his brand-new suit. He has not time to both change and still make the appointment. That is poignant – funny and sad together. It could be simply funny, or otherwise, simply sad. It could be funny to us and sad to the bloke, or on the other hand, a little bit sad to us and funny to the more well-adjusted, self-critical bloke. Here’s a world-weary, but probably accurate thought – “Important bloke falls in a hole” is the archetypal tragic plot, while “ordinary bloke falls in a hole” is the archetypal comic plot.

I feel my inability to communicate with friends and family as a deep sorrow, but of course, they see it as mildly comic. I cannot be serious to consider a life without family cars, air travel, high-speed rail, internet shopping, super markets and leafy suburbs. Yet those things are causing a change in Earth’s climate, which will eventually destroy the lot – another archetypal plot. The futility of powering that life with renewable energy is another bloke falls in a hole plot. Take way the coal, oil and gas and we create a hole in the ground – we take away the path the bloke is taking. The paths that remain will be much more gently held up by laws of physics and nature and will be much like the paths that ordinary humanity has taken for thousands of years.

We’ll have man-power, sail-power, horse and ox-power – and we’ll have just as much electricity as can be generated by wind, water (gravity), sunlight and tides. After domestic “essentials”, since we must stop burning biomass, we’ll have little surplus for the electric car. However, we’ll have the same acreage for crop production and if we are wise, an increase in its fertility. Organic techniques far out-yield what we presently call conventional agriculture, whose vast inputs are never subtracted from published yield figures. Henceforth input will be subtracted from output. The at least ten-fold and in arable regions fifty to a hundred-fold increase in agricultural labour will assist in the employment of dispossessed labour and in the re-centring of suburbia. Similarly, manufacturing and new infrastructure projects – house-building, turbine races, mill races for direct traction and so on will also demand a dramatic fifty-fold increase in labour. With the vast increase in labour comes an extraordinary increase in happiness, which will effervesce from a new curiosity, ingenuity and dexterity. We’ll need the skills of shipwrights and sail-traders. We’ll need foresters to grow the right timber. In short, we’ll need a community. If the community succeeds, we’ll have a renaissance. You’ll note that my figures are fancy of my imagination. You should also note that we have no better figures.

Meanwhile, all those things – organic techniques, renewable energy, revived street markets… create the illusion that we are on a path without a hole in it.

Beauty is truth and truth beauty, that is all you know on Earth and all you need to know. Many literary critics have misunderstood John Keats’s truth, because they seek aesthetics, rather than the moral guide to artistry which Keats proposes.

He says this – that which is beautiful, but not true is idle fancy (our critic would agree).

But he also says – that which seems true, but is not beautiful is a blindness of imagination (our critic would disagree, because she’d point out that there can be ugly truth)

Keats’s statement is moral admonition. Everything can be morally understood. If it is fully understood it can become beautiful. Our critic has not understood the meaning of tragedy. Keats does not say that every ugly truth (the holocaust) can be immediately understood as beautiful. He would say that the holocaust remained outside moral comprehension and that the fanatical heartlessness that lead to it was beyond artistic rendering. Because all proper works of art are both beautiful and true, he would say – I cannot compose a verse on the holocaust. His statement is perfect – probably infallible. That which is true, but ugly may or may not be beyond the human capacity for an artistry, which removes the mask of that ugliness to discover its beauty. Human fallibility is intrinsic – Keats applies the test to himself – Is what I have composed both beautiful and true? Sometimes it will be the one and sometimes the other. Occasionally I can marry the two – usually not. After all, it is a rare thing for anyone to marry beauty with truth.

I cannot marry the current consensus for self-destruction to a beautiful depiction of the gift of humanity. I cannot marry a young couple and their loved new child to their choice of a holiday flight to destruction – a nativity scene, in which the carless innocence of youth decides, on a balance of current pleasures, to remove the future happiness of their own child.

There is something else to explore – the nature of comedy and tragedy and where each is appropriate. Of course, a whole moral perception can fulfil both – cry with the heart and laugh with the head, because tragedy is a mishap noted with the heart, while comedy is the same mishap noted with the head. Both tragedy and comedy can bind a social group – the one with a binding empathy for pain and the other with a common view of the ridiculous.

To friends, my tragic vision of their consumerist trajectory is ridiculous. To say it is ridiculous, forgives me as a bloke and for them, allows me to remain a friend. It ruffles my foolish hair with an inclusive hand. My attempted verbal contribution is levelled and remembered as a forgiven pomposity tumbling in a linguistic hole.

So once a consensus is established and regularly agreed in gossip, newspapers, radio and television, it is very hard to break. Seriousness, (as we’ve explored in other articles) is a state in which we remove both thought and feeling, so that we can assert a superior view – looking down from an established plinth in the market square, or perhaps wishing to establish a new plinth and topple the old. Unfortunately, seriousness is not a vehicle to convey the complexity of truth. It uses simple polemic techniques which are confined to linguistic slogans and defensive ridicule in irony and sarcasm. People fear and respect both irony and sarcasm, much as we prudently both fear and respect violence.

Jeremy Corbyn has been insufficiently serious for Labour Party political opportunists. He has attempted some complexities, which cannot endure on a marble plinth. Yet he is extremely popular as a person amongst a large part of the electorate.

So, in speaking of species loss, impoverished ecologies, climate change, resource depletion and their economic implications, we cannot be serious ourselves – or we could not express it. Yet we cannot be taken seriously by others, because we are not serious. However, we may, like Jeremy Corbyn, find souls in common.

So, the climate change movement, and movements for social justice and so on, are coalitions of lost souls. In the past, priest, prophet and shaman could take the powers to task. They could reassert the beauty and truth of complexity. Complex thought and language was ritualised in festival and song and kings and chieftains were their subjects.

G K Chesterton reminded me of this from the Catechisms – There are but two sins – of presumption and of despair.

That more succinctly expresses what John Keats sang. Despair is truth without beauty, while presumption is beauty without truth. If we let John Keats and the Catechisms guide us, at least we may find tragic and comic fulfilment and then if we are lucky in our eloquence – finally speak some truth to power.

What’s else to do? Work well. Devise well. Look out for one another.

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The End of Theism and Atheism – The Return of the Ancestors

Once upon a time, and everywhere, ancestral voices guided proper behaviour. Despotism was dwarfed by power of the dead. Commons preserved those older voices in gifts of good soil; good water; good place – received as legacy of past behaviour and bequeathed as a legacy of our own. Bad behaviour spoils ancestral gifts. It is an outrage. Future tales will tell, write, sing of the bad ancestor – the dark archetype in the battle of right and wrong.

The act of enclosure is a nihilistic act – a denial of inherited culture and the assertion of personal right to amorality. No ancestor, priest, politician; no village tittle tattle – nor wagging finger of cultural tradition can instruct what I do in my own property.

Considering our predicament of extreme resource depletion, cascading loss of species, wildly impoverished soils and crazily-man-made climate change – are they not predicaments of enclosure? We look around from our properties; our homes as castles and ask who is responsible? But no one claims responsibility. All, sit behind enclosures – oil monopoly, land monopoly, intellectual property, democratically-elected monopoly…

Enclosing commons, we silence the voices of both ancestors and descendants. And we silence the truth of natural physics – even though to listen would be to our selfish advantage. Flood and storm will ignore what is private to our property. A kind of narcissistic transcendence of laws of physics, is sought in the privacy mirror – a decadent meditation, which is actually a form of nihilism. Without fossil fuels, collapse would follow such decadence and out of that collapse a new romantic beginning… But we have transcended a once universal law by the power of coal and oil, because we have mined it from outside our particular time and space. That has led to a discounting of our own time and space. Instead of romantic renaissance, we have climate change. A single species cannot change the living climate of the Earth? Perhaps not – even by a plague. It has been done by liberating the flames of very many millions of Summers of fossilised photosynthesis.

The tragedy of the enclosures removes this profundity – both the physical earth – the intelligence of our senses – and the transcendental earth – the ancestral gift of personal morality – are not to be transcended, but lived and lived properly – the one physically and the other spiritually. Receiving and passing on of commons is a sacramental cup which feeds both personal and social happiness. It is the primal tool for the spirit of the good life. It is the primal spur to the physics of the good economy.

We can see that the tragedy of the enclosures is a desolate, self-destructive and lonely business.

Considering the great modern religions – Judaism, Islam, Protestantism, Humanism and so on – Has their adoption been a prop to the property holder, sustaining the idea of unaccountable privacy, which is at the heart of the pillage of nature and of climate change? My actions are confided between myself and my god/conscience.

Protestantism of the reformation was exactly that. It liberated the depravity of the most brutal period of English history. Church and monastery had adopted and maintained most aspects of older religions in local gods of place (in shrines of saints) and in adapted, ancient seasonal festivals and holidays. Time and place kept their ancient sanctities. People were both located and synchronised in landscape and economy. Ancestral voices spoke in the evidence of strip fields; in the trade guilds; the (albeit shaky) subjection of state to church… Of course, Hinduism and Buddhism retain similar elements today. This writer finds no significant difference between theism and atheism. In shedding ancestral instruction, Protestantism mutated seamlessly into Humanism, while atheistic Buddhism remains highly religious – rooted to ancestral shrines and devotions…

Anyway, religions which suggest transcendence of commons are but a blink of the eye of human storytelling. The modern religions which have found human behaviour replicated in the movement of the spheres, with the transcendental power of the human intellect, or with a single creator of everything – have come, either with concepts of fields and property, or as a repost to fields and property by monotheistic nomadic cultures. I speculate that ancestral voices evident in the passage of commons have ruled for most of Homo sapiens span. Heaven may only be five thousand years old. Perhaps. without property, or without imagined borders to nomadic cultures no one would have dreamed of heaven.

Maybe it’s time for a return – for an excavation of the neglected strata of the psyche – for a return to properly-evolved, ordinary human behaviour. Surely, ordinary inherited moral behaviour should prove an effortless relief? For a brief perversity of a few hundred years we have defied inherited wisdom – firstly by land enclosure, whose justification spawned cultural enclosure – and secondly by the magnificence of the flames of fossilised life and the super-humanity, extra-humanity it has lent to our finger tips.

In shame, it is time to face both ancestors and descendants. Ancestors gave us the Earth. Will descendants inherit it? Or shall we sit before the mirror of property, hugging proprietor’s rights – the privacy of conscience? The enclosures radiate in two dimensional circles, rectangles and hierarchical triangles – all of them under an Earth-transcendent heaven of some kind – atheistic, or theistic, but also judicial. They replace common responsibility with private right. They replace complex moral consequence with simple, amoral stillness. Inter-connected; multi-connected, both deep and shallow complexity is ended in law by a simple fence line.

Meanwhile, common resources shrink, species cascade, atmospheric carbon dioxide swells… We could easily step down from the transcendent rights machine and occupy the vacant roles bequeathed by ancestral effects – the culturing – the receiving, fermenting, maintaining and, in turn, bequeathing what we discover – the means to the good life. Footsteps leave impressions – some, as they should be, others not. It’s a curious, surprising, engaging, comic, tragic, both in and out of step passage to the sorrow and happiness of shrugging off the rights machinery and adopting responsibility for commons of soil, sea, water, air, biomass, biodiversity, which we’ve received for both better and worse from the hands of ancestors.

It was a dark and stormy night. We told the tale-teller, tell us a tale. It was a dark and stormy night…

The great religions have maintained older sanctities of place and time and they remain fixed in our moral understanding. Today, we interpret those things in commons, shrines, festivals, venerated masterpieces of music, literature, architecture – things done by this or that ancestor. We are anchored to their humanity. We read them and sing them again. We repoint the stone. No god in heaven; no reading of the revolving stars can help us face the catastrophe of climate change. Culture survives by what we do one by one, not by grand coercive power, or by the ornaments of property, but by stumbling, as best we can, across that sacred ancestral ground.

What is this writer puffing on? Betrayal, shame and an attempt at reparation. Is the above any use? It is a comfort. It carves my role.

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The Marriage of Basic Income and Land Value Tax

Get real, say basic income evangelists from symposiums and podiums with robotic futures on prophetic tongues. Automation and increased leisure need a reciprocal and productive arrangement between producer and consumer.

Yet, their culture of driverless cars and robotic manufacturing is only decades old and will soon lose the sources of energy which power it. Such thinking is street – consumerist – of hip products in on-line, high and democracy street.

The story on Consumer Street says that by paying for the product we create the need for it and so have right to a participant’s share of the profits. The robots make profits, but need no wages, beyond cost of materials and the protective intellectual property right claimed in design. Anyway, social security relief payments are more costly to administer than a simple basic income for all. Moreover, a consumer of robots, who is equipped with a basic income, may find monetary liberty to use that understanding to design better robots herself.

Well, it’s true that automation is the natural progression of the oil age.

However, it is not the natural progression of the digital age.

Fossil fuel has created the digital revolution. It is surplus energy – not human ingenuity, which truly powers robotics.

If settled cultures are to survive we have to face this truth – we have no surplus energy – we have an extreme deficit.

Renewable energy cannot power fossil-fuelled ways of life. We only know that it can power a well-organised pre-fossil fuelled way of life.

Fossil fuels had made manual labour largely redundant. We employed fossil fuels and sacked people. Now we must employ people and sack fossil fuels.

Our primal renewable energy will be man-power. Other sources are bound to absolute physical limits. Those limits make these things redundant – suburbia, the family car, air traffic, industrial agriculture, super markets and internet shopping. Those things have been powered by millions of years of fossilised photosynthesis – from outside our time and space. All happy futures will be bound to the limits of each, particular and singular season as it passes – and bound to particular places – soils; resources…  We must change our ways of living to sit happily in time and space.  Only then can we look about for available energy supplies.  We put the cart before the horse, if we think firstly of green energy and afterwards of how to use it.

Places are mutable by personal behaviour and by the unpredictable passing of time and seasons. As Ivan Illich says, soils are enriched, or diminished by our traces…

Basic income will be productive in quite another way – As Tom Paine proposed – in restorative justice. Depraved yeoman farmers and aristocrats, enclosed ancient commons, forcing settled, convivial self-sustaining communities into wage dependency, city slums and further rent extraction by city landlords. Every proprietor owes the community a ground rent for the land which he holds. Basic income is that ground rent.

The pillage of the Reformation had also imposed a state doctrine. Protestantism replaced shrines, festivals, gossip and holidays with a totalitarian new-speak. Complex, evolved cultures were displaced by brutalist, unremembering austerity. That imposition has survived through every turn of post-reformation history and remains as our cultural narrative today.

Literature and music easily recall that lost pre-reformation complexity – Falstaff babbling of green fields – Farwell, rewards and fairies of which the moping owl doth to the moon complain…

The cultures we’ll need to survive without oil, sit within just the means a landscape supplies – alongside trades of scarcity and surplus with similar neighbours. We’ll not build such a culture without shrines, festivals and holidays, which were the punctuating memorial repositories of pre-enclosure times. We need complexity. But there’s no recipe. David Fleming reminded us that large scale tasks need small scale systems, working within that large system. Today, we have large scale tasks employing large scale solutions, which compound the magnitude of the task. I met a fool in the forest. The beauty of the only sort of society that can survive and mitigate resource depletion and climate change is that it is small scale and includes every one of us. If we can respond instantly, intelligently and ingeniously to our personal mistakes, then those mistakes remain just as small as we are. But our solutions is connected to the larger community. For I am come with broom before – to sweep the dust behind the door…

We’ll be bound to place – to responsibility for it – for the passing on of soil, water, biomass, songs, morals, ancestral adventures… Basic income is reparation for enclosure of those commons – for replacing ingenious culture with idle sheep and then the stupefaction of the factory gate. Little people can reverse big history of oil and land monopoly with personally-identified intelligence, ingenuity and dexterity. Basic income can have a part in re-centring suburbia and repopulating fields.

That is – a massive migration of people – an epic change of culture – and an unprecedented wave of irresistibly contagious happiness can only be made possible by all of us – one at a time.  Only small, locally intelligent systems, which communicate together, can create a properly-responsive, large-scale change.

That will never happen? – That’s probably true. But if it is true, then young women today would be wiser not to bear children.

Meanwhile, an intellectual property rent, reimbursed as a productive cycle through the pockets of hipster robot masters is not the basic income I’d choose.

Since the Reformation, rent has bled production dry. Through passages of empire, advantageous trading and industrialisation, wealth has been sucked from the acts of economies into acts of enclosure. Cultures are what people do, and yet wealth has been extracted from the value added by good work to be sequestered in the pockets of idle monopoly – principally land monopoly. Others are status (lawyer, medical practitioner, politician, banker and so on), resources such as coal, oil and intellectual property in seeds, medicines, chemicals, machinery… The better people work, the more the values of those properties are enhanced and the higher the land rent extracted. Rent extracted by doctor, lawyer & etc. also increases, while doctor and lawyer gain surplus wealth for the purchase of further land property. Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, where wealth accumulates and men decay.

Even now, the rich grow richer by sitting idly in their properties, while the poor grow poorer in waiting on them – laying drains, building roads, growing food… Nearly five hundred years is a long time to hold down a festering injustice. I think we may have seen the pot boiling over in the Trump/Farage phenomena – the unpleasant side of reaction.

A better side may be celebrated in a Spring festival with a fiddler, a song and a marriage ceremony – for the marriage of Land Value Tax and Basic Income. When that Summer with his sunne softe – has the Wintre wedres over shake…

Donald Trump is Lord of Misrule for a day, but tomorrow…

Even black-hatted John Milton sang –

Rough satyrs danced and fauns with cloven heel, from the glad sound would not be absent long, And old Damaetas loved to hear our song.

Of course, those who hold monopolies never have, and never will agree to be taxed, although many have proposed it. Most certainly, it will prove the same today. But this decade is probably the most epic of all human times. It is likely that human cultures will not change and instead, step blindly forward into the havoc of climate change.

Grasping at straws is the best, most realistic, most convivial and most hopeful thing to do.

Take a straw.

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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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The Dark Mountain

I have not stopped pretending. I’ve not joined the winding caravan to the valley beneath Dark Mountain – nor descended from her peak, confident as rock and ocean. Yet I sort of agree with the eight principles of the Dark Mountain Manifesto, copied below. Sort of? What kind of proposition is that? Well, sort of is what’s missing from the manifesto.

THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF UNCIVILISATION

“We must unhumanise our views a little, and become confident as the rock and ocean that we were made from.”

I’ve started badly by disliking the quotation – confidence is the problem, not the solution. I’ll consult the principles one at a time.

1.We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.

My “sort of agree” finds disagreement in that there is insufficient guilt at our personal contributions to that unravelling. I agree with the first two sentences. But facing reality honestly doesn’t have the healing power of contrition and reparation. We have a social problem. I distrust presented honesty. It proposes personal achievement – achieved integrity – superiority – hubris.

2.We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.

It’s true that technological and political solutions which maintain or “green” current ways of living are futile. We must change how we live. However, the tools we’ll need do present a “set of problems”. Reductionist and holistic thinking are both essential parts of all settlements and of all thinking. We’ll need to be very busy with very many problems. Solving particular problems in particular ways is a delightful thing. We love our garden sheds.

3.We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths

I agree.

4.We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.

We also weave lies, political illusions, excuses, pedestals, messianic visions, false incantations… Cultures emerge and narratives follow. Where narratives emerge and cultures follow has been evident in the failures of communism, fascism, capitalism – in the myths of economic growth and progress.

Meanwhile, real footsteps meet surprise, pain, delight, comedy and tragedy. We can tell the tale of the footstep only after the step has been taken, weaving moral spirit into both right step and wrong step. (We will take both) We can weave tales of inheritance and ancestry, but we must collide with reality – finding surprise, delight, bruised shins and punctured egos – to find reality – and before beginning to weave with it.

6.We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.

Pure brutalist, scapegoat fascism

7.We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.

Once, I attended a Dark Mountain gathering and met none with metaphorical fingernail dirt. I found theory and ideology. True, I met musicians of a skill that could only be built by hard work, but for the rest, the above (principle 7) has provoked me to react that I found lost souls, without skills to impart. How fulfilling (for lost souls) to find that elemental, cut-stone words might build fields and towns of resilient culture! Druidic catalysts – word on stone make primal citizens of dark mountaineers. But faced, first with stone, and then with words, I reckon that ordinary, frail, diffident, curious, doubtful, convivial Everyman might find better solutions to both dressing stone and discussing the work than a proudly elemental dark mountaineer.

8.The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.

Agree – because it contains the word unknown, which connects to another, doubt and also to the phrase, sort of… In that unknown, a culture may emerge, where three anciently-embedded words have been tentatively saved as seed and then re-sown. Landing by chance on both fertile and stony ground, they are faith, hope and charity.

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