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.