Alan and the coming war

From the title of this piece you might think I’m advocating the kind of conflict where bullets get fired and people get hurt. Of course, you could take your pick from any number of epicentres from which conflict could explode but I’m talking about the current messy collision of world views that are collectively running us full pelt into a physical wall of limits. A wall scarcely noticed in the insatiable rush to grab ever more. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to use a metaphor of conflict because that’s the way many of our modern messengers boys ram their concepts down our throats.  Oh, I might sketch it out below with a sarky snipe and a sprinkling of simplicity but change is happening now and is already divisive. We seem to be spoilt for choice these days about which of the latest crisis flung out by a frothy mouthed media might actually bubble over – the fire under the pot seemingly an ever widening gap between what people need versus what a dominant minority do – but the simple reality is that the bill for our rapacious industrialisation, and the feeding frenzy of off shoring, debt and consumerism of the last three decades, is due. All of us will have to pay.

Immigration, energy, housing, transportation; everywhere limits are being reached and resources that cannot be renewed exhausted. Its driving those with their hands on the levers a little crazy (take a look at how oil company Exxon are peddling thin air), and its pushing others to look in the wrong direction for an answer. You might think that it is The Fates, bored mightily by waiting, who churn busily a tombola of problems any one of which will be sure to split out and spank our collective behinds. Yet the Russia baiting, Fracking, TTIP, Banker bailouts, NHS privatizations, Britain’s unplanned exit from the EU, disenfranchisement, Donald Trump, Police shootings, International terrorism, energy crises, Middle eastern wars, Media and language debasement, education, species extinction and all the others tatters that tumble in this titanic tombola are actually indicative of a consensus under strain, because we can no longer afford to live as if there are no limits. Conventional oil has peaked. Redistribution of resources is not going to cut it, only a recognition of their finite nature.  Reality fights back.

Look at it this way: Our house in which we’re only tenants is a comparatively comfortable house. Yes, we sense the underlying dysfunction but we’ve been sweet talked to have faith that it’s the very best house anyone ever did have, yes sir. We’re used to its brightly painted walls, warm familiarity, apparent liberty and perpetually stocked cupboards. Yet, despite this accepted arrangement, really the only thing we’ve been allowed to have a say on for the last god-knows-how-long is the colour of the curtains.

We encouraged not to think about how we get to have what we have. We forget that many have to lose for every one that wins. We don’t concern ourselves with who or what cleans up after us. Every now and then the colour samples are broken out and we all get to pick. Of course, the colours available are a little limited but only those thought impolite, unwashed or stupid have the temerity to suggest alternatives. Besides, we’re promised the new curtains will make the rooms all the brighter. The problem of new people from over the street wanting to come and live in it, how many of the current tenants feel like they have to pay more for less room and how large parts of the garden have been sold to next door are never discussed – let alone what’s keeping the lights on. I see a war coming that will bomb the retaining wall propping up this pretence.

The current landlord, neo-liberal doctrine, the strings that pull, the socio-economic order, call it whatever, call it Alan if, like me you enjoy frivolous personifications, hasn’t really had to answer to anyone in this house for a long time. Alan likes get rich quick schemes but has powerful friends so never has to swallow losses when it all goes bad – he knows you will. Alan crafts the questions and the answers to prevent any discussion of what’s actually going on. He’s all about the profit today and pays little mind to what we’ll share tomorrow. We all thought that was fine when there was more than enough to share around, but once Alan began desperately scraping the oil barrel for the last easy drops since conventional oil peaked in 2005, and began pocketing ever more from our fast diminishing basket at the same time, we’re all getting a little restless.  Yep, Alan just points elsewhere and lets someone else take the blame for his greed (usually those lacking the means to respond). He used to be able to shrug off questions about his lackadaisical approach to the future, but lately disaffection has trumped these manoeuvres – elections/ referendums anybody? – maybe we shouldn’t have enabled his whims for so long?

Those of us that think we’re not allowed to make choices about the stuff that actually counts around here are about to be called up by circumstance. Most of us pretended and looked away when we used the planet as a dump and other people as slaves, but in a shrinking world that’s never been a strategy with a future. We know Alan’s friends are influential people with interests to defend against the coming conflict so waiting for imagined change from the top is futile. We also know that the solutions are there and have been for years – from Transition Town to the Simplicity Collective to Buckminster Fuller. Yet the chances of these ideas dominating the discussion is minimal in the divided room we’ve chosen to accept. The coming war has to be fought to keep us together and against separation. Let’s huddle.

Besides, what’s the use of blame? Blame is the child of irrationality and easily manipulated. Blame is the ultimate thought stopper and licence for inaction. Old Al loves it. If we’re going to get past the predicament of dwindling energy resources coupled with increasing climate volatility blame has to end – as does most of the stupid and short-sighted, self-centred and destructive behaviours of our (yes our) three decades long feeding frenzy. This house needs cleaning and Alan put back in his box. The coming war will be a fight against the blind reflex of blame.

Of course there’s plenty to do besides trying to avoid scapegoating someone else for everything that’s going down. We could in fact commit cardinal sins like, gasp, using less, not buying the stuff we don’t need and thinking about how to keep the lights on when they start to flicker. There’s no point in listening to calls for reprisals, rather finding common cause and cooperation is about the only thing that can avoid conflict. I’m not messing, things are going to get turned upside down. Stay on your feet.

Perhaps nothing encapsulates our need for unified action in the face of a changing climate and dwindling prosperity as the example of the third nuclear power plant in Somerset at Hinckley point. In one stomping, fouling white elephant of an idea Alan once again proposes all the follies of our era – the privatization of a natural resource (in this case, energy production), the subsidisation of failure, the environmental consequences of profit motivated short-termism, the marginalisation of public opinion and the pursuance of an ideology at odds with reality.  Allowing a foreign power to build an over subsidized toxic waste dump/ nuclear bomb when there are proven and cheaper alternatives to the problem this dumb ass ‘solution’ is trying to solve??

Alan can really piss you off.

For me, and perhaps for many, Hinckley point C marks the end of the game, maybe the end of any loyalty to the consensus. It feels like the end of any identification with what it is to be a member of my own society, the end of a compromise to the establishment at the expense of the country. It is the end of any faith whatsoever in the grasp of sense, the rule the law arbitrarily applied with its exemptions for the loaded – heads up red tops, it’s not only those of a conveniently demonised religion that can feel radicalised! And it is good that I feel that way.

But notice I’m still advocating unified action – action that involves more than jettisoning broken ideologies. It has to be inclusive. Obviously, my first impulse when confronted by yet another unilateral wrong turn that sells off more of the future to placate the board, to shred another opportunity in exchange for shitting in all our bath water, to allow old, fat, avaricious and selfish Alan to win once again is to feel an surging rage. And separation. Sometimes this crumbling house seems so crazy it’s easier to believe he’s one of those looting alien overlords who don’t care about the consequences rather than a silly human intent on grabbing it all for himself – who wouldn’t want to slap him?! We all have a right to the way we feel. Yet now, like a restrained mum deprived of sleep for the fifteenth night running, never have we had the necessity to remain restrained, yet firm, in our response.

Many who feel this way are not stupid enough to get into the professional violence that a rather rapacious right enjoys anyway – so this has to be a radicalisation with roots in reality and a soft heart to the alternative. By that I mean an openness to change and the realisation that we can’t get from here to there without taking steps that might look steep to begin with. Protesting against something like Hinkley C is easy compared to the long work of living within the means that will negate its so called ‘necessity’ in the first place. The coming war will be out to defeat the carelessness of how we do things now.

We’ve got to begin to make decisive, unapologetic moves against the way we currently do things. Climate change and resource constraints have already declared against us anyway. So all these words are a call for localisation not isolation, cooperation not confrontation, ideas not ideology. Alan has always been brutally clear in his approach whereas those with eyes to the whole picture have been concessionary, diffuse and apologetic – that’s left far too much space to be filled by the unanswered problems that have now become advancing forces.

Despite that fairy tale terms in which we describe the way we live, there has never been any guarantee that things always get better by themselves. In reality, our universe leans towards chaos, so now might be the time to consider it our job to participate in the beautiful order our own planet engenders. This is not a passive act. It will require force of numbers and a whole army of ideas but there’s a war coming and we’ll have to fight to get through it. Fight for each other. Fight to live with, not just in, our environment. Fight for the truth of our equality and that of each living thing. Fight to connect with reality and defeat the old stories.

Now, take out the rubbish and tidy your room, you’re not going to be living in Alan’s house for very much longer.

Advertisements

Letter to KMO of the C-Realm podcast

Here’s the letter I sent following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. The letter was read in full on the C-Realm podcast ‘Parsing Brexit‘.

Hi KMO,

I thought, as you both have had plenty to say with regards the US election and gun control, you might be interested to hear a perspective on a monumental shift in our own country – outside the frame of the media. We’ve left the European Union with only 52% for – a bit too close for comfort as the country is divided now along many lines of race, class, age and status.

Within our print and screen media the usual binaries apply – ‘it was a victory for the working classes who told the political classes to shove it‘ vs ‘those who voted out are stupid, uninformed  and selfish’.

Tensions are running high as the camp that pushed for our exit has now been exposed as having no plan to cope with such a move – ad they have admitted that their campaign promises were in fact a lie – they can’t be delivered at all. This leaves us with one half of the country wishing we could recant the decision and the other half inflamed because they likely won’t get what they voted for. In short no one is going to be happy with the outcome.

As for myself, I voted to stay. Voting to leave wasn’t an act against the political class when just last year we voted in a Conservative government by a large majority that has more culpability for the neo –liberal policies the country has fallen beneath. Nor was voting to leave going to bring back the good ole days of empire as many believe. I live in a rich bubble in West Sussex with a well to do and ageing population with lots of money. They were en masse voting to get back to the good old days.

My own parents voted to leave – we’re from a working class background in Birmingham; I worked full time and paid for my own degree through the Open University. What I am trying to say is that as many rich, privileged and educated people voted to leave as the so called underdogs in our society. There can be no one group culpable except…..

The red top media and papers like the Sun (Murdoch) and Daily Mail. They have stirred and turned neighbours against each other in the name of sales – they have harvested the grains of antipathy in our country and made sure they grew strong stalks of dissatisfaction and blame.

Anyway, younger people are heartbroken at being isolated, bigotry is bolstered and an exit plan does not exist. Turmoil. Scotland, Northern Ireland and even London talk of going it alone so they can remain in the EU. Civil wars have occurred for less.

1000 years of war on this continent seems to have been forgotten by half the country. Peace can only ever come from Union.

This is what I see. As I said elsewhere, the EU was far, far from perfect but isolation in today’s world is worse. We shall see.

Hope you’re well – and thanks again for all your great work with I follow weekly – and religiously..

Dan

May

This time of year I drive down increasingly and riotously green country lanes all frantic with the eruptions of life, hedgerows crammed and secret shades of shoots with creatures crouched on the verge of all the possibilities this year can serve. Then I can stroll the streets in the city spilling with bar and café life, after hours drinking as everyone takes advantage of the lull in bad weather, cold beers so worth the ache, so what if it’s Tuesday, the time is now. Birds chirping and calling in the early morning light warn me to stop doubting, reminding you that hesitation will leave you standing whilst the grass swallows you up. I just want to get out into it. I want it to last because I know nothing so good ever does.

What is the delicious anxiety that comes with the merry month of May? It sometimes makes me feel like a boy staring through glass as the snow lays smooth and tempting drifts that I just want to sink into. Is it that the tumbling, cascading exuberance of the season is so captivating? The attraction of a cuddly kitten, the tumble of a snowmelt stream, the lull of warm winds swishing their arrival at your cheek – sensual pleasures you want to get inside, to dissolve into, to know it as you know you’re feelings but somehow you’re left on the outside.

The greenwood marriage, the deep pools of dusky glades, the furtive slide of the fox over the fence, the queen of May dancing the hedgerows, the return of the light, the Mythic, the hawthorn petals framing the sky, magic dew on your morning lawn, early to wake and late to bed and every last beanpole to celebrate with white flowers and the dancing bees. This time is true now. I’m standing in the grove awaiting a connection to be restored.

Permaculture Design Course – High Heathercombe. November 2015

I had no idea what to expect. The drive down, sharing a car with a fellow PDC (Permaculture design certificate), course attendee was pleasant enough, and we’d made pretty good time down the long, winding coast road from the rainy and windy South East into the surprisingly sunny West, but now as we approached High Heathercombe, our training centre on Dartmoor, I began to worry that two weeks might be too long to be tucked away with 15 others who’d signed up for 72 hours of Permaculture; you’d have to be mad, right?

This is not an essay about gardening. I won’t try and tell you exactly what Permaculture is; you’ll find explanations as numerous as the pages of any old growing guide. In fact, the subject stretches itself across many disciplines so broadly that a quick attempt would probably fail. And besides, you no doubt already clued up. And maybe you’ve already breezily dismissed those commentators using short-cut-to-thinking soundbites about the ‘muesli eating, hair-shirt brigade’ types who are supposedly into this type of thing. Unfortunately, and despite myself, my expectations couldn’t help but be tainted by those sorts of tatty innuendos – even my Dad, admittedly a bit of a Thatcherite in his 70’s, dismissed the idea of it as ‘hippy nonsense’. Sometimes it’s hard not to succumb to preconceptions, even if they are someone else’s.

So it looked like I’d be arriving at there on Dartmoor that winter Saturday afternoon with a guitar, two weeks’ worth of clothes, a laptop, and all my metropolitan anxieties about being stuck in close proximity with ‘hippy trippy’ folks fully stoked. I didn’t want evangelism, therapy or dogs on strings. I wanted to learn something multi-faceted that could maybe be applied to any number of areas – not just my veg patch. I hoped Permaculture was it. And, with any luck, I’d meet some like minds.

I mentioned Metropolitan. I’d lived in London for 19 years, working various media, office based roles but had recently moved to rural West Sussex and resolved to push my life in a different, perhaps more meaningful direction. Undertaking the design course was part of that statement. A way to get into another mode that’s not all about what you have. When you’re living in a city it’s easy to see plenty of examples of how poorly we conduct our relationships with the natural environment but now I wanted to do more than just put up with it. I’d become fed up with the dreary consumerism and the grinding wheel of work, buy, work, buy that seems to have swallowed most us whole with its insatiable appetite for compliance. One life: has to be other way – and there has to be some way to put something back.

I took this mixed bag of hopes, niggles and neurosis straight to the front door of the centre.  Now, if you’ve done a residential course, you probably already know that sharing your space with people you’ve never met before can be tricky. If you haven’t, you might even find the idea a little off putting. Me? I couldn’t believe I’d been such a sissy about it all. As soon as I got inside and started shaking hands with everyone all of my presumptions looked not just a little pathetic. Everyone was friendly, interesting and just as eager as I was to get onto something new.

I don’t need to give a rundown of the timetable of the course – sign up for one and you’ll find out more than you think – let me just say that for every day of those two weeks, for twelve hours a day, we seemed to absorb more ideas than the moor did rain.  Seemingly, all the travails and trials of all those permaculture pioneers was handed to us in the neatest of packages by our tutors, Aranya and Klaudia – they bestowed on each of us a pair of permaculture goggles; a new way to look at the world; practical insights that might mitigate our crazy messes; we took it together and it was all the more potent for it. What I’m trying to say is that it was the people, tutors and students alike,  that smashed my shaky little doubts about being there. They were honest, friendly and curious. We were all there for what, at first looked like different reasons. Some wanted to improve growing techniques for plots already worked, some wanted to learn from others on the course and some wanted to apply permaculture to their already established businesses. But beyond all that there was something else, something a little deeper.

I don’t know about most, but what struck me about that this group, who’d chosen to break with routine and come here – and anyone who chooses to go to Dartmoor in November surely knows they’ll get no holiday – didn’t seem to be getting what they needed from the usual day-to-day routines, weren’t satisfied merely to consume. They were aching for something else. Maybe they didn’t all buy the common narrative where your life’s just a line that rises from childhood and ‘progresses’ through education, on into work and develops into an all-encompassing career satiating your every desire – and all the time as if the world around us was merely a backdrop to our desires. Apparently, this is an ideal ostensibly suited to all.

Leaving aside whether or not you’ve ever met anyone whose life is actually like this do you think that this could, or should, fulfil everyone? Of course not, but one way our culture herds us to play this game is by applying binaries (hard worker/ slacker, all/ nothing, dreamer/ realist), that pressure our thoughts and emotions whilst leaving out large chunks of all the other inconvenient bits of reality human beings actually need. Why am I grossly over-simplifying this sticky little paradigm – one that I’ve already shown I can be drawn into? Only that I think it’s fair to say that our collective ‘ache’ stemmed from the realisation that there was more to life than what we’re ordinarily fed. We wanted a taste of it – leaving out the bit where you trash nature.

You didn’t have to dig deep to expose this yearning; we were cooked some amazing organic food during our time there and the mealtime conversations were just as tasty. People talked openly of their frustrations and failures and passionately of their hopes and plans. There was plenty to learn and opportunities to share. All in all, it was a brilliant learning experience in an idyllic setting but I don’t think anyone there thought they’d find answers to everything they were seeking. Yet for me, the chance of meeting people on the same wavelength was an important part of what I wanted to achieve. I had lost, buried beneath city years of quotidian scepticism, the reasons why it’s always worth it to push your boat out into unfamiliar water; the joy of different perspective.

Permaculture is no panacea to our problems, people are. It’s in places like this where you’ll find the ones willing to start the change.

 

 

Neo-liberals on the run

I have written elsewhere about how the current and apparently immutable, {if what you read in the red rag papers is to be believed), political situation is now on its way to reversal. There’s no shortage of signs that neo-liberalism, the nifty system of market led economics rigged up to ‘liberalise’ through the privatization of our public assets, deregulation of the financial sector and concentration of wealth now has its best days behind it – you’d need to be asleep not to have heard the rumblings of dissatisfaction cutting across all strata of our society right now. Of course, this thing is pretty entrenched, thanks to decades of deft manoeuvres and deep pockets a plenty, so I wasn’t, and still don’t reckon on anything overnight. More specifically though in ‘A good thing the tories won…’ I was referring to the bizarre situation of allowing the ‘Conservatives’ (they do anything but conserve wealth for a minority), a party committed more than any other to neo-lib creed, the free rein they gained in the recent election. My argument was simple: indulging a serial offender to do more of the same to solve problems caused by previous behaviour could never result in a happy outcome. You wouldn’t employ someone suffering an alcohol addiction to run your bar and expect his wellbeing to be assured – or yours for that matter. Do you think that kind of arrangement would last?

Now, everyone knows that trying to put a face on the future is a fools game but a few months down the track from that assertion I’m not the least bit surprised as to where we are now. We’ve had promises broken (child tax credits, child benefits, tax free childcare – who said ‘anti-family’?), scandals (anyone for pork schnitzel?), and the usual list of affronts to any desire for a humane society. So far so typical Tory. What’s more heartening though is the reaction out there in the real world away from the crumbling walls of Westminster. You know, that place where people routinely live without subsidized single malt or immunity from the laws of nature – or those of this country.

Some of those people have gotten their act together quick fire as coherent opposition to the nasty neo-lib ideal of austerity – that practice of pinching from the populace to pamper the poodles; you know, cuts for those that need stuff, breaks for those that don’t.  The People’s Assembly believe that austerity is entirely unnecessary and they’re right. Detailing a comprehensive manifesto that dares to actually make sense and have a plan they’ve boiled up from the simmering underground to quickly become recognisable on the UK political landscape. Of course, you’re not going to find them discussed in the silly sidebars of your rehashed dailies (those are owned of course by those with everything to gain by keeping things exactly as they are), but you will find them on the streets in many towns across the UK, outside party conferences and talking freely, and daily in the social media sphere. They have many friends, and even some economists agree that austerity is counterproductive – I don’t think it’s going to be possible to pretend they don’t matter for long but you can be sure that many will give it a good old British try. Can’t let the shine come off the silver spoons yet.

Others have done something that might seem radical against the bland background of pay-per-view politicos but is actually just clear thinking: return a mainstream party back to its founding tenets. You see, despite a plethora of pundits paid to predict political outcomes, not one seemed to anticipate the hard left Labour would turn after Ed Miliband’s exit stage right. Of course, it’s easy to miss the obvious when you spend all of your time in the company of those down the club but you’d have thought someone might have looked outside the window once or twice? Had they done so, they would already have known that the divide between their doorstep and the man on the street had opened beyond the ability of platitudes to repair.

So it is that Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of the Labour Party. MP for Islington, Chair of the Stop the War coalition and campaigner across a range of issues for some 16 years, Corbyn appears to be everything other MP’s aren’t: honest, sincere, grounded and willing to stick his neck out. I listened to his address to the Labour Party conference last week and was astonished to hear a man on a podium talk about things that matter to the majority; to stand up and float some solutions – I don’t think I’ve ever seen the likes. Of course, most of the UK media have jumped on the opportunity to sneer and jeer but these days that’s just a sign that you’re onto something good – something natural and not the by-product or endorsement of a corporate strategy. It’s pretty easy to dismiss their bought and paid for ‘opinions’ as quickly as a prat in a pinstripe. What matters is that at last we have the chance of a real opposition in the House. Who knew?

I’ve focused on a couple that matter most to me but there’s no shortage of signs and backlashes breaking out against the increasingly evident, not to mention depressingly ubiquitous injustice and greed of the neoliberal creed. Across the land we’ve placards paraded, barricades erected, petitions posted and, in contrast to the message of apathy routinely broadcast, the electorate engaged on a wider range of issues than ever before.

The bottle we’ve been drinking from for too many years has become bitter, something new is now brewing.

Moving to the Fields Edge.

On Friday September 11th we’re going to be moving to rural(ish) West Sussex to a house we’re actually going to be naming ‘Fields Edge’. This is partly to do with the ongoing project of this blog (and an attempt to invigorate it!), but mostly to do with the fact that the back of the house leads out onto fields as far as the eye can see. Instead of railway lines, we’ll be seeing sky, instead of traffic and MAMIL’s galore we’ll be seeing open ground – we’re really looking forward to it.

We’ll be growing more of our own food, making more of our own stuff and mostly working for ourselves – well, that’s the plan.

More as we go….

19 years in London tomorrow

Just found out that I moved to London 19 years ago tomorrow. Considering the whole idea what to get in and out by 1998, it seems something must have carried me away a little bit. So what’s been going on? Much.

Quick as I can, let me see what happened.  I started off living on a friend’s floor in Colliers Wood whilst working in a recording studio in Fulham (Maison Rouge, now buried beneath a shopping area). Hours: 80 + per week. Pay: £50. Result: skint, burned out chain smoker. It all got a little better when I moved to Jive Records in Willesden to work and into a flat in New Cross to live. Good times. Pay £9K per annum. Rent: £350 per month…

Since then I have worked as a copy editor, press officer, sales assistant, session musician, administrator, music tutor, office manager, box office assistant and music rights administrator.

I’ve had jobs in Fulham, Willesden, Soho, Chelsea, Shadwell, Limehouse, Brixton, Kentish Town, Streatham, Hammersmith, Wandsworth, Kilburn, Putney, Kings Cross.

I’ve lived in New Cross, Stockwell, Wandsworth, Esher.

Written 38 songs, 119 poems, 44 gigs, 5 bands.

Composed soundtracks to 6 films.

Worked with stop the war coalition for 2 years (interviewed for documentary We Are Many).

Began Transition Town Wandsworth, Evolver London, Bramford Rd Community Garden, Beetroot Books.com

Obtained a degree in French/ English (2.1) from the Open University.

Classical guitar.

Cycled 8 miles a day (on average) five days a week for the last 6 years.

Lost a fiancé and met my wife.

Friends from all over the world.

Managed to see an awful lot of good times, interesting times, hard times, risky times, beaten down times, hilarious times and inspiring times.

Maybe I could have done more. Certainly more to do.