Posts Tagged values
I’d ached for a long time.
Waiting for a break.
One day I saw as in a dream,
a world about me that closed in upon me,
then crazed and shattered liked stressed glass
exploding in a dance of differing circumstances.
Then all became quiet and I opened my eyes.
Millions of people stood watching me, waiting.
The air was still and wet with despair,
the oceans stilled by flotsam and filth,
and the land was hard and lay stripped bare.
Then some spirit of wisdom rose up and declared
that love and respect and considered desire
was what was required.
I told them. I showed them.
And still they denied.
Driven by lust and short term want.
Now sighing winds
blow through their bones,
singing their epitaph.
A quieter world now
that when it sighs,
It’s all too complicated. I’m tired of complicated.
I want to get up in the morning, attend to those things I need to do in order to exist, with respectful regard to whatever it is that provides those means, and then to go to sleep again.
I want space and time within this simple process that allows me to reflect on its beauty or its ugliness, and to express my responses to those in words and images. To have my quiet say.
And I want to know my place amongst others, and the world around me, and not to have to worry about whether I deserve that place or whether I understand it.
I want my process of existence to contribute to my context simply by virtue of its being.
For my love not to be considered but naturally emergent, and for other’s love to be naturally received, without thinking.
I want to be, and to understand naturally, so that I may move on with greater understanding.
That hard bit just now,
after that warm and yellow bit.
I wonder what’s next?
Humanity has to find a way of massively reducing its per capita use of resources – be that energy, minerals or land – or we actually do face a potential reality of the collapse of modern civilisation. This isn’t hysteria, or the imaginings of a treehugger. It’s simple reality. We have to find a way of living with less impact. And career politicians are not going to achieve this. They can’t, however well intentioned, because our voting systems would not allow them to do what is required. So its down to each of us, across a world of 7.3 billion people, most of whom live in abject poverty. It’s quite a challenge. But the first step has to be for everyone to start to open their eyes and read, and let go of pre conceptions, and political assumptions. The way we live now isn’t the only way. It wouldn’t actually take much to make the adjustments required. More local – work, travel, food etc. – would probably do it.
With proper attention and investment into developing country cities to provide clean energy and vertical farms.
It can be done, but we really need to move now, and even then, it may be too late if certain greenhouse gas release mechanisms have kicked off as a result of existing warming. We can’t tell yet. But we have to assume that there’s still a chance, whilst there might be one.
So many of our great cities are surrounded or permeated by squalid poverty – tin shacks and people shitting in the street where children play. Humans are more than this. What we regard as the lowest forms of mammalian life don’t live like that. Rats.
How have we allowed this to happen thus far? A revolution is required, in people’s aspirations and expectations. And in how we interact. And how our societies, given that hierarchies will emerge, are structured (and they’re not God given things; we make them) to ensure that all of us are at least warm and fed. The rest is frippery and excess luxury. Fine if it isnt made available at the cost of the squalor of others.
This is a poem.
I can say whatever I like.
Poetic licence and all that.
I can say without fear of ridicule
that I am lonely and mystified by life.
The whirlpools of logic and illogic
and unfathomable stupidities.
And the wonders and astonishing things.
Aspects of grand realities
that seem distant and huge.
And I’m allowed to confess that I cry,
often and loudly,
because I’m a two sided coin.
And other things too.
The sense of smallness
that makes me gently humble as I look around.
That sense of contiguity with all that is
that occurs occasionally.
My smallness and my scope.
My all encompassing modest place.
Watching wise if I’m lucky.
Defined by my context.
Laughing while crying and vice versa.
A happy soul is one
that’s learned to let go.
Like a seed from a dandelion head
in a sunny breeze,
that let go
of its anchor point
and turned to face the breeze
and the skimming land below.
To arrive where what is.
There were four,
but then it fractured
And I curled and died
with shame and pain.
But they’ve risen from
and fly proud.
What part did I play though
as was my understood purpose?
That purpose that faded away
so I could only watch
And cast faintly heard praise.
they’ll live better lives.
For the past ten years or more, I’ve pondered the state of humanity and the world we believe we’ve created, dependent as it is upon a natural environment that we continue to take for granted. I’ve looked at most issues – from antibiotic resistance to population growth via land use, deforestation and biodiversity reduction, economic inequity and excessive consumption, pollution and climate change. I’ve seen how all of these problems are interlinked and are interdependent. How all cause each other.
I’ve seen how our political and economic systems manage these issues as stovepipes, independent from one another. And I’ve seen how religious and political dogma work against the human ability to rationally assess contexts and solutions. How ignorant people are led by ego driven fools. And I’ve seen how our simple minded greed is driven by our selfishness.
In short, I’ve seen how our ignorance is driving our demise, as well as that of most other species, compounded by our stubborn stupidity and ego.
I believe that human civilisation, as we understand it to be, will be no more eighty five years from now. And that within four decades, we’ll be experiencing a sense of upheaval that will render most people’s lives unpleasant at best, untenable at worst.
That by the end of this century, humanity will comprise some ten percent of its current volume, some existing self sufficiently, growing their own food and living a simple life, whilst a minority contiue to try to utilise our knowledge to our advantage, but in doing so come to represent an elite that may have complete control over the rest. The ignorant will finally become subsumed, and the fate of humanity will rest with the ability of those with knowledge to resist becoming arrogant. Our final destiny lies with these people.
I don’t have much hope.
Walking drunk down the passageway
past the sorry rooms
to gaze through the window
at the grey skies and
the blown crows
I have to ask why
things worked out his way.
Had I known that I needed to know
such certainty of ambition so soon,
perhaps I could have focused.
The crows know a secret
that the wind shares.
You must follow your true nature,
if you can filter it out from the deafening noise.
I know I’m not supposed to admit this.
It’s neither dignified nor manly.
Because men only think about one thing.
And they’re not allowed to cry.
Pillars of society,
We joyfully join the scrum.
Pretending indifference to the quiet voice.
We have to scorn the quiet voice.
That’s what it is to be a man.
Quiet voice that in quiet moments
Allows us to wonder at the unfurling clouds
And the emerging beauty of spring.
That oh so gentle curve from neck to shoulder
That might simply be beautiful rather than just sexual.
Even that small voice of a child.
Any intuitive interaction
That might be seen to be too gentle
To be masculine.
Women’s preconceptions preclude these sensitivities.
I know. I’ve seen how the bastards always win.
Taunted by thigh and tit and scorned for responding
Unless we’re fancied or are able to be ruthless enough
To ignore another’s value. Like bastards.
However good you are in bed,
Or how large your heart may actually be,
The bastards always win.
And seem welcomed for this.
Even as they pretend to wail,
I scorn those crying women.
Past the train station.
Its old stones and arching glass having seen
Tanks and wars and revolutions.
I stood amongst shoppers with garish bags
From all the top brands.
Then past me walked a woman in blue plastic
With tears running down her face
As she saw the cold night ahead living on the street.
And I wanted to give her something to help
But I didn’t.
I stopped and turned and watched her walk away
Through the hurried, selfish crowd.
Now it’s I who weep.
For my weakness.
Amongst the Autumn tawny leaved trees
With the oily, boiling Danube coursing by each side,
I came across the ruins of a Franciscan church.
Placing my hand on a stone embedded in one ancient wall,
My mind’s eye saw what the monk who built it saw.
Autumn tawny leaves with the Danube boiling by.
Things of real value don’t change.
The rest is ephemeral distraction.
The truth is that as you get older, the old illusions fall away. The trivia you once aspired to, become worthless, or at least worthless in your heart of hearts. Ignore the false heart that’s fed by those outside. You become someone who’s worth more than them.
You don’t have to be old for this insight to occur. You could be just 16. Or you could be 84. It doesn’t matter. What this process is, is the emergence of an understanding. It might be triggered by something you read, or thought, or was told, that grew into something bigger that belongs to you now because only you really see it, even though you can’t describe it.
It might be an understanding that is the purpose of your life.
Odd that God, or whatever force that drives what is, should ask so little of us. Given what it’s given.
If you’re lucky, and you succeed in gaining such an understanding, I hope that when you’ve moved to a different state, you’ll be kind enough to look over your shoulder and give me a hint. Hopefully with a smile.
It’s hard to let go of things.
But once you let go of the first one,
And the memories associated with it
Become like those clouded passing visions
We all remember from childhood,
Then losing the next item becomes easier.
And then the next item becomes
Easier again to choose,
As if loss throws value into relief.
And when that next thing goes,
The context that one’s built over years
Starts to dissolve.
A process of distillation takes place
That concentrates your
Value of things
To a few.
Enough to carry with you.
Then your perspective changes
As you let go.
If you’re lucky a lightness takes hold
And your life thus far seems contrived.
Like a game played by a child.
There aren’t many years left now.
Time to turn and face yourself.
And just as your things reduce and fall away,
The markers you measured yourself by
Fall away as well.
And you’re left with a wide open
And wondrous world
That’s yours for you to wander through
For the first time.
It isn’t too late.
Because it takes just a moment
To realise the extent of your smallness
And the scale of what you’re privileged to know.
So complex you make
Your life and its words to be.
Guided though it flows.
Spinning up the motorway
I looked to my right,
And there hanging over the endless
Was a creature of such majesty
As made me see
Myself trying to be
Somewhere I had to be but wouldn’t know
Until I arrived.
That soaring cumulonimbus monster
Spoke to me
In tones that shook me
To the core.
As I drove up the motorway.
I saw us all
At real scale
And knew us
And saw us all
As very small things.
In other cars.
I’m sure I knew a world once that was round
And not sharp and jagged and jarring,
But which ululated
Sibilant sine waves
Of gentle experience.
Slow knowing and emergent wisdom
That felt right relative to
A gently shifting world.
Not this blind frantic electronic rocket
Through twisting changes so fast
That I can’t see what’s right and what’s wrong
And where there’s no chance
To stop and think.
Cast off your uniform
And throw back your head
To watch the clouds and see
How they do what they do regardless.
And hear the birdsong.
Whether the majority of us know it or not, humanity is undertaking massive genocide of hundreds (actually it’s thousands) of species of other creatures. We are proactively creating the Sixth Great Extinction, the last one being of the Dinosaurs. In doing so, we’re destroying the very biosphere that supports us. We are without doubt, unfathomably stupid.
The last Great extinction occurred 66 million years ago. And it took at least a thousand years, probably several thousand. If you map the lifetime of the Earth to a 24 hour clock, humanity has been around for about 4 seconds. In this blink of the planet’s eye, we’ve eliminated at least a third of the world’s forests and hundreds of thousands of species. If we’re so stupid as to commit collective suicide through religious and political dogmatism and ignorance, that’s our choice (and it is a choice). But we have no right to take every other species down with us.
And all this derives from our value systems. The way we perceive what wealth is, and how we manage it. Money. Particularly debt based money. And the externalisation (leave the consequences for someone else to clean up) of the bad impacts of wealth acquisition. The conventional political right and left both maintain these value systems, and many religious perspectives, especially in the US, support and advocate them under the guise of ephemeral supposed ethical standards like ‘freedom’ and ‘the work ethic’. How many corporate CEOs and bankers attend church every Sunday? Did you know that the pay of CEOs has risen 127 times faster over the last thirty years than 99% of the US population? What do you expect the consequences of such greed and inequity to be, particularly at a global scale, if not conflict? And as this money wealth is squirrelled away or squandered on yachts and stupidly big houses, it’s unavailable for such things as building cities that are worth living in for everyone, for education and the encouragement of more enlightened perspectives, the protection of the very biosphere that contains and supports us, and every other crying need that the fruits of all our labour is supposed to allow us to cater for. Yet the religious right encourage it.
Factor in other emerging crises like the impending failure of our medical systems through antibiotic resistance, shifting and more extreme climate events, ocean acidification and the consequent destruction of marine food resources, desertification and water shortage.. and a host of others, virtually all caused by humanity, and there’s good reason to believe the better minds than mine that predict global ecological, societal and economic collapse within just a few decades.
Life comprises many strands. Like sine waves, they overlap each other. Some peaking as others dip.
Music is one such sine wave. As a cultural phenomenon. In the West, the music sine wave peaked in the 18th century with the advent of music from the likes of J S Bach.
In terms of happiness, that wave probably peaked just prior to the First World War. Or perhaps shortly after it.
The sine wave for the visual arts has a longer wavelength, and probably last peaked in the 19th Century.
The wisdom wave arced high in the 1960’s, even as it became dissipated and high jacked by perceived economic necessities.
Economically, in terms of managing money within our societies, we probably last knew a peak in the 1950’s and again the 60’s.
But one thing is for sure. With the noble exception of the technology sine wave, all are at a low right now.
There was a woman who stood beautiful,
Who being made of stone and soil, was as tall as the clouds
And who looked down even as her legs were blasted to dust.
As she cried her imperious cry to the righteous,
Her voice was drowned by the sound
Of the driven masses.
As she reeled and collapsed into the swarming crowd below,
She pleaded with them to hear her dying message
As she shrivelled and shrank before her time,
And crumbled into her own sweet ground,
Reaching out to the plaintiff sound
Of her own kind as they died.
That the power of markets and democracy are two different things.
Power and voice like oil and water.
One floats upon, and smothers, the other.
That the land of the free has become the great illusion,
Corrupted by the greed of the few,
And allowed by the complacency of those
Who think they know better.
Through a hundred metres
Of aquamarine, shimmering beauty
At sunbeams shining down
At acute angles to each other
And fading away into marine gloom.
And the flickering fish swimming
Across the view.
So small am I hanging here.
So very small.
A mere fluorescing fleck
Born by strange and vast currents.
Where I’m taken I go.
What I see, I marvel at.
Sitting ankle deep and trying to resist
The slide downhill through
Sticky clay forming itself to my shape,
I watched muddy water race past.
Seething surface curving up and down again.
Currents that take goggle eyed flotsam,
Astonished and watching down into depths
As blue sky blurs to swirling death.
This river flowed past me so sure.
With its bulging swells and pretty whirlpools.
Sitting in mud and bent grass,
Watching the inevitability of it all.
And so I stood up and wiped the clinging mud
From my legs.
And I plunged headlong into the writhing river,
And was carried away.
Gasping and striving for the hot blue sky.
Then the green and grey cold swirl
That carried me away
Swept across my face looking upwards
And watching glassy eyed birds watch me
With blank acceptance
I washed up then on a stony shore,
Where I was able to turn aching and see
The seething thing that had spawned me,
For what it was.
A brown green heaving thing
Born of the context that fed it,
Guided by the landscape that led it.
I was a by product.
I do try to play the game.
I really do.
I apply for jobs and earnestly await replies.
I truly try to be enthusiastic about new product lines
And marketing and corporate social responsibility.
But then one night I take the trouble to stand on my doorstep
And watch the silent scudding clouds,
A passing gap silvered with shining moonlight,
And I listen to distant owls
And feel the stillness of the air.
And I’m sorry,
But the truth is that I don’t care
About your world or your profits
Or your corporate goals.
I’d rather lie back and sigh
And watch the world unfold.
It’s so beautiful
And so powerful
And is so much more
Than you or what I’m supposed to work for.
As I pondered the madness of the world
With its discordant harmonies that jar my senses,
A small moth alighted on the wall opposite.
Such exquisite perfection in shape and form.
Beautiful and pretty and small.
And perfectly symmetrical.
And more complex than anything
I could ever conceive
Or worry about.
An instant component of my view
That wasn’t there a moment ago.
Shame. I’d thought I’d understood just then.
But this whirling thing of such complexity
Flitted quietly by and landed there.
Just like that.
And changed my view.
And there came a time when to sigh or to cry
Was deemed antisocial behaviour.
So we all put our shoulders to the grindstone
And behaved the right way.
But up there in the tops of the various towers
They laughed at us and took away
What was rightfully ours.
Then one day the foundations of a system
That all abhorred
Shook and trembled
And started to fall.
Now the trick is how to make sure
That the fragments of crumbling edifice
Are shared well between those
That made it all happen
And those for whom
Wealth and justice
Befalls those who play the smartest game.
And how to generate a society
That makes manifest humanity’s greater wisdom
Without having to shoot the lot of the bastards.
Watching through the dirty glass of my living room window,
The old people walking bowed and supporting each other
Towards the church that rings an appeal.
Some laughing youths ride the other way on their bicycles
As they go oblivious to the glares that scorn them.
A pigeon standing aloof on the opposite roof coos its disdain.
Then it begins to rain and like a slow motion film of flowers opening,
Umbrellas spring open wide to make a dancing parade of gaily coloured circles
Each swirling and moving as one towards the random rhythm of the ringing bells.
A dance of souls in faithful abeyance to the call of the profound.
But the youths are back and whirling like dervishes on their bikes
Between the baffled faithful they hurl their foul mouthed scorn.
And even the pigeon falls quiet.
Then they’re gone like a small wind that passed and stoic people
Brace themselves and reform their appreciation of their truths
And the swirling march of the giant coloured flowers resumes.
And in the distance is heard bright laughter
Of young people yet to be constrained by anything so fixed
That could be called by mere bells.
And the rain still fell slowly.
Ignoring it all.
And the pigeon resumed its call.
There was a time that I remember well.
When we used to carry small children laughing
Loud in the shimmering sun
Over soft sand that yielded and made our only challenge.
And then as we grew old things changed
And children’s laughter became
Something more rare.
As those who controlled our lives began to complain.
We weren’t paying our way.
Apparently, whatever that means.
And my last child cried as he said goodbye to me
Not knowing how his passing
Sentiment meant so much to me.
Because we all knew that our life
Was over now and new a way was to reign.
Small entertainment that was all the same
On everyone’s machine.
So why should a mere donkey seem
Worth the while.
But I know my life was worthwhile.
As children laughed and thrilled their small glee
Riding me down Blackpool beach.
And I made many memories
That console unhappy people
In their contrived lives.
As they remember something more real.
To be a donkey it seems
Carries so much more appeal
Than being some poor human
In some relentless wheel of commercial
Whenever I consider alternative perspectives to the status quo, for example those espoused by E.F.Shumacher (whom I read when I was 16), I can’t help but visualise the sentiments expressed being sold to the majority of the world’s population, which of course is what’s required. Be those prospective recipients of ‘the message’ residents on a tower block estate in Liverpool, or a slum in the scrambling chaos of India, or rednecks in endlessly consumerist America, or aspiring young executives in Nairobi. Or even disease ridden children in Sudanese refugee camps. And then I wonder just how one would apply such ideals. Youfs in Liverpool just want lager and football, and money to pay for them. Slum dwellers in India want a house, and land and status in a country that just doesn’t have enough room. American Republicans have enormous power and also have an ideal that they too cling to tenaciously, however simplistic and naive it may be. And people all across the world, from Sudan to Bolivia via the South Pacific islands need electricity, and medicine, and a framework that allows them rights of tenure and the means to acquire the goods to build themselves a house and pay for everything from education to windows. This is the way the world is. The experiment that was the twentieth century and the resulting economic and social paradigms that grew from it has, unfortunately in its entirety rather than selectively, been accepted as the way to do things. And another unfortunate truth is that, as things stand, the kind of large scale commercial operations that now exist may represent the only sufficiently large scale approach that can provide sufficient economies of scale to provide all these things.
It seems to me that there are a few key variables in the human context that have primary influence over our ability to manage things.
One is population growth. If, theoretically, the population of the world was suddenly frozen where it is, then we’d have time to rearrange things to bring those that don’t have enough, and those that have too much, more into align with each other and with available resources. But as things are, each unit of progress is swallowed up by another unit of population growth, and the physical constraints of resource availability ever more stressed, are ignored.
Secondly, there’s the question of wealth creation and distribution, and what we consider to be wealth. The twentieth century experiment has produced a system where the entities that are supposed to allow us to organise to generate wealth have a twisted idea of what wealth is, and at the same time, they are designed to function in a system that requires them to only generate that form of wealth, and then only for a select few, namely their shareholders. The scale issue mentioned two paragraphs above suggests that we need large organisations. That’s not the problem. It’s who owns them, how they’re run and for what purpose that needs to be considered. There are many forms of wealth and cash is only one of them. Whilst cash works if treated as a means to achieve contentment for all, it doesn’t work if its seen merely as an end in itself and ‘success’ is deemed to be the acquisition of more money than one needs. It’s possible to be a lonely and depressed millionaire in New York as it is a depressed homeless person on the streets of Mumbai.
Finally, there’s the problem of establishing a sustainable common view of what humanity should aspire to. If we assume (and I’m really not sure) that democracy is an ideal, or is anyway the least undesirable of all of the alternatives, then this is a fundamental requirement for moving forwards in the right direction. But in countries where democracy does indeed exist, the majority of the populations are largely ignorant of what the true issues are. Be it climate change (clueless about the science) to economics (dunno… just want to get this mortgage off my back, or worse, get a bigger one to outshine the neighbours). What is the practical way then to initiate a kind of massive paradigm shift (apologies for the cliche) in people’s perspectives such that they shift their priorities? How do you do it? How? Unless the majority of people, in democracies or not, from the Liverpool footie hooligan to the Mumbai slumb dweller via the New York corporate CEO, change their understanding and their aspirations, and the focus of their concerns, requisite change that might make a real difference and divert us from what appears at the moment to be a disastrous route, is surely unattainable. And just how do you persuade religious fundamentalists that they need to change? Be they nutcases in the US, or even greater nutcases in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
I actually have a more positive perspective than this rant may suggest, although I fight shy of trying to explain to myself why. A key tenet of the book I’m supposed to be writing (if I ever finish it) is the concept of temework. Not a spelling mistake but an acronym that stands for technology, education, moderation and equity, brought together into a strategic, societal framework that emphasises policies designed to encourage each of these aspects. We need technology. We need really clever technology that’s designed to suit our real requirements. An example of a real requirement is clean energy. 3D television is not a real requirement. A solution to providing clean energy lies with some really clever, bleeding edge stuff that costs a hell of a lot of money to research and develop… so we need institutions that have the cash and are incentivised to spend it in this way – think about that. Certainly for me, as a cynic of corporate organisations, it’s food for thought.
For example, it’s possible to burn coal, which is by far and away the most plentiful resource (ok.. what about wind and waves etc.. but think realistically about scale and cost and implementation) in such a way that hydrogen is generated, which can power fuel cells, the only by products from which are water and CO2, which can now, thanks to some phenomenal and very expensive scientific work, be combined with silica to make house bricks. Wow. Clean energy and cheap building materials, from the worlds most easily accessible energy resource. The kind of intermediate solution on the road to ubiquitous renewables that might actually be useful in a world of 9 billion people, most of whom are homeless and energy starved, in a world threatened by CO2 emissions. And remember that this coal resource is being used anyway. Now. That’s the reality. The Chinese are building masses of power stations based on this fuel. And neither you, nor me, nor anyone else is going to stop them. We haven’t got time to discuss niceties. Climate change is happening. We have to work with the realities. And technical innovations like this CO2/fuel cell stuff might allow that. But it wouldn’t be happening if as a society, we just turned away from the institutions that we have instead of working with them and modifying them. And they need modifying. Both corporates and Governments, to reflect different and more pressing realities. Why on earth are our oil companies subsidised with tax payer’s money? Because our Governmental priorities are all wrong. Why is the development of clean energy technology driven only by the corporate profit motive and not as a desirable thing to happen in society? Because in that simplistic, 20th century model, money is the only way we have of reflecting value or defining aspiration.
So that’s technology. There’s also GM crops, and alternatives to antibiotics (would we be objecting to those if they wee just being invented?), and nuclear power, and the meat debate, and the vulnerability of mega cities, and desalinisation, and a whole load of technologies that could have the kind of short term beneficial impacts that we need. But that would take too long to talk about. All take loads of wonga though, and very complicated organisations to make them happen.
What about education? Again, the problem seems to be one of trying to shift established paradigms. We in the west, and elsewhere now, raise our children to aspire to make money. In a sense we have no choice, because by virtue of the fact that we ourselves (in the main) are spending most of our lives focused on that objective, our children of course acquire the same habit. And its all exacerbated by the trash media that promotes such aspirations as being proper. There’s actually nothing wrong with seeking to be comfortable, but no one is ever taught about the costs. No one is ever taught about the context that enables us to be acquisitive, and what it actually means. How many American children realise that whilst the US comprises some 5% of the world’s population, it uses some 25% of its energy and creates about 26% of its waste? All that energy is sucked in from other parts of the world, where people can’t afford it. And the ignorance of those American children who, were they to know the facts would probably act to create a better world, is down to an educational system that just doesn’t tell them. The whole system rattles on as though it were still 1895 and the internal combustion engine was emerging as a catalyst of a whole new dawn of humanity, that led to that great 20th century experiment. It’s daft. The world has changed, as have priorities. But just how the hell do you change a global school education system? It’s hard enough faffing about with primary school syllabi in the UK. And then there’s religious fundamentalism, and celebrity culture, and home influences related in turn to poverty and ignorance etc etc. And don’t get me started on stubborn adult ignorance.
Then there’s moderation. Oh dear. Big one this. Has fingers in every pie. Everything from the education system to social hierarchies, to workplace ‘success’, to pension systems all point towards more and more acquisition and stuff. The whole idea is so entrenched in just about every aspect of every society on earth. And who’s to tell those in developing countries that they shouldn’t aspire to more than a mud hut and one meal a day if they’re lucky? But as such realisation manifests, the great machine kicks into gear and all of a sudden, a level of wealth that approximates to a global average kicks in as the minimal desirable objective. Of course, we all know that that average is hugely distorted by unequal distribution of resource use, but (back to education) how do you convince millions and millions of people that that’s the case? And that the rich should become less materially well off so the poor can become materially better off? And then there’s meat eating, and water use, and power use, and land use etc etc.
Finally there’s equity. Touched on already (all these issues are interlinked and interdependent). The debate about inequity isn’t based upon the idea of equitable distribution. It’s based upon the idea of everyone having the same degree of material wealth as the wealthiest. That’s what economic growth is about. That’s what ‘developing ‘ countries are developing for. To be the same as the US or Europe. But it’s not possible. Or rather it is, but only if some really smart tech is embraced really quickly, and then there’ll be a different sort of price to pay from the environmental decimation that we’re witnessing now. Rather a sort of environmental modification. Where wild spaces are no more but exist only due to benevolence, and most are utilised Be that with bloody great wave or wind farms, or factory farmed GM agriculture, or organic farmholding forced on people who’d rather not have their material aspirations capped by government. Consider the practical ideal of Contraction and Convergence, as espoused by Aubrey Meyer. Yeah, yeah. Well done Aubrey. Completely agree with you. Now go and tell the Chinese and the Yanks.
Which ever way it plays out, a crowded planet, with too few resources, lots of ignorance, too much religious bigotry and prejudice and an economic system that’s not only too inflexible but is based upon the wrong objectives, is not a context where higher ideals can be applied. One might believe in them, but there’s a danger that doing so is only to satisfy some selfish need to feel good about oneself. OK, OK. Better than doing nothing.
We have no choice but to hope that a greater wisdom will come to prevail. But the truth is that it isn’t going to happen quickly enough, and the sheer scale of the global change that’s required is too big. Unless we all stop arguing, look at what we have, become far more realistic about what’s required and what’s possible, and very rapidly implement global changes that must include the adoption of technologies like nuclear power, and hydrogen power, and solar and the rest, and GM crops in the right (non commercial) way, and land redistribution, and the changing of the whole prerogative and raison d’etre of all out of our economic, religious (fat chance) and commercial institutions, implemented according to national and local circumstances and needs, to reflect the actual global priorities that we now face. Not to mention changing the personal aspirations and value sets of millions of people. That requires a complete reassessment of what is meant by democracy – less big govt and more devolution. National institutions that exist to serve a national need, such as health, pharmaceutical research, energy research, education. Economies that are structured to reflect real, local needs, including changing the way people belong to organisations. People are not ‘human resources’ . People ARE the organisation. The organisation exists to serve our needs. Not the other way round. Look at the Mondgragon Corporation for an example of a different and better way of organising corporates, with broader and more realistic objectives and priorities. Local organisation to allow differentiation and freedom from enslavement to an outdated economic dogma, and the profit driven corporate institutions that represent it.
I doubt it’s going to happen. But I live in hope. Only just though. And I switch between stressed out ‘aware person’ and ‘oh fuck it’ resigned person.
Oh arching song that grabs my heart
And drags it weeping through some
Rainbow of myriad colours.
She’s dead now is Amy
And her songs said
How she felt.
But the celebrity world was too stupid
To see. Professing understanding
By way of smart arsed critics
As all failed to see
The broken heart of a young woman
Who couldn’t find a place to be.
Actually it’s true.
It is possible to reach
That suicide may as well
Be the way as not.
I didn’t used to believe it.
But now I’m there,
I see that all those things
That seem so important
But simply are not.
Suddenly there appears
A way of seeing
People and the world around
That seems distinct.
A view of the world that’s
Dispassionate and apart.
And then in seeing such,
One has to compare one’s life
With those others around
That seem so sound.
How could my life have become
As such a small token
But it’s true. We’re none of us
True in any real sense.
We’re mere passing things
In a general sweep of effect.
Tiny by comparison
To the wider view.
I always knew I was different.
And living in the world we’ve made
Means accepting certain norms
And behaving accordingly.
Whatever culture dominates.
I can’t do that.
I thought I wanted that, but I didn’t.. And so whole new worlds opened up. Worlds of questions. What then did I want? It wasn’t what Jill wanted. I don’t think.
Where does the line between short term desires and long term objectives occur? When do those short term desires, those real feelings that have to be categorised, acquire such prescience as to overwhelm longer term perspectives that one has chosen to adopt?
What is desire? How do we reconcile our lust, that drive that ensures genetic continuity, with our emotional needs?
What we call love is clearly a combination of biological drives and emotional needs. OK. But is the latter a component of the former? Are we really, perhaps, just driven by some chemical prerogative?
Just how valuable was that love I thought I once knew?
Tonight I’m listening to the music of Rachel Lauren. Not only is the music beautiful, she is too. Her dark eyes, her smooth skin and soft hair and her figure. And her voice is warm honey. Even when I can’t understand it.
She leads me to wonder about how well suited the two sexes are to considering the gentler, more subtle aspects of life. Perhaps Rachel Lauren is better equipped to see and to explain these things than a man would be. Given that she seems to be part of them already. How much does this define her femininity? How far is Rachel’s warm, passionate, liquid soothe from the cool, crystalline and perfectly patterned logic that is supposed to represent masculinity? And how can such things be equally well represented by two such different expressive forms?
What defines masculinity? When is a similarly gentle and tactile comprehension as Rachel’s masculine? Where is the divide that renders such sensitivity feminine or masculine? Is it possible for both to see the same perspective, and yet still melt into each other as snow into warm water, by virtue of their difference? And can each still retain their identity?
Are our views on gender too limited? Can a man be as responsive to, and expressive of, sweet beauty, of thing or of feeling, as a woman? And is the difference between them simply that one appears as warm, fluid blue ocean, and the other as well defined and rigid snow and ice, even as each are made of water? And the melding of their respective comprehension creates a pleasantly temperate context that is capable of nurturing both.
Or are only women sufficiently equipped to respond to subtle beauty given that they create so much of it? And men should only look on and do their best to understand? Or is it that men, being outside, are best placed to see and to recognise gentle beauty for what it is? Is cold snow, fixed and watching, better placed to recognise the complex fluid motion of the warm blue water that’s lapping at it’s edge?
I had a home once. With warm fires and warm people and friends and hot food. And a cat, and children. And problems with neighbours.
Village pub characters knew me, and I was always torn between their welcome, and the given one at home.
But it was all false. Built on sand. Built on an acquired attitude, acquired because it was required in order to be able to compete. Make money, forget about earning it. Quiet periods in some other pub, on the way home from work, when I could be me between being one person at work and another one entirely at home.
Will my wife be an angel or a devil when I get there? Synthetic when the former, insufferable when the latter.
But my children loved their home.
One winter, it began to snow. And that peculiar silence fell across the village. A sense of expectancy. Or was it more like a balm on sunburned skin? Or Christmas eve perhaps. As though all those competitive spirits had suspended the game for a few hours, to watch and consider each other for once.
The cat flap flapped, and in walked Sam. He paused, shook one paw daintily before proceeding to his righteous place in front of the blazing fire. One child read quietly in the corner, whilst the younger, three years junior at six, played with his cars, lining them up across the carpet in a precise grid, only to smash the resulting matrix to pieces by hurling his rubber dinosaur at them. Sam took his place by the fire, and I sat on the floor watching them all.
My wife appeared. Both children stopped what they were doing. The cat stopped purring. She stopped, and stood still in the doorway, and sighed. In that moment, in that warm room in that warm home, something of the frozen chill outside invaded and touched us all. Something of the future invaded the present, and in hindsight, made it worthless.
‘I want a divorce.’
Dancing orange firelight played amongst the fractal mirrors of frost on the windowpane, and the world felt colder still. My younger son threw one more dinosaur.
Pink dawn light fluoresced though steam rising ever so slowly from the frozen surface of the canal. A solitary bird uttered a note and fell silent again. Smoke oozed from the stack on a nearby narrowboat. A heap of sacks in front of me stirred and Angie’s face, red and blotchy, appeared from one end. I moved to speak but my beard was frozen to the bench and I had to busy myself freeing it.
A low and watery winter sun appeared, only to emphasise the sagging bellies of low grey cloud hanging over us. By eight o’clock, it was snowing. Big, wet lazy flakes drifting down of their own accord through the quiet air, not driven by any cause or need. I lay there and watched them, and the yellow windows of the narrowboat. Other boats sat further down the canal, each fainter than the other, becoming more grey as mist rising gently from the water obscured the view. In the background, dark hills sat squat and watching.
Angie produced a bottle of whisky from underneath her sacks and offered me some. She was a good old girl. Heart of gold.
The smell of bacon drifted over from the narrowboat. The whisky felt good, slipping down warm and softening the world. A noise came from the boat, and a cat appeared. It paused, and then jumped ashore, tail pointing contemptuously upwards at the glowering sky. Its paws left perfect prints in the snow as it walked by.
Why do you do what you do? I mean really. Honestly. From inside you. Whether you be an accountant, or a painter, or a mechanic, or a florist. Why do you actually do that thing?
To pay the bills? If that’s the only reason, get another job. Because you enjoy it? Perhaps. But do look at that… why do you enjoy it? Some ego satisfying thing? Some way of covering something over? No? Oh…so it’s because you believe in it? That’s good. But why? Do you really understand the nature of the problems you see? Do you really know that buying Fair Trade Ethiopian tea is changing the world for the better? Or is there a bigger scheme afoot? And perhaps it won’t make any difference how much nearer the Ethiopian tea workers move towards the Western consumption model, the world will have moved on in a multitude of ways, most not so good.
Why do you do it? How near one hundred and eighty degrees away from what you intuit you should be doing is it? The nearer the number is to one hundred and eighty, the greater the reason you have to be unhappy. Change it now. It’s ‘later than you think’ as they say. And if it’s as bad as working to live, why are you living?
Are you doing anything to justify your existence?
As matter is energy that coalesces
To form the universe we know,
So is thought that sees the same
And yet by virtue
Of some power called choice
We’re pulled together and forced apart
By opposing thought and instinct,
Like a centrifugal force, opposing unity.
And as we seek a common goal,
A flat green field where all can play,
So more the world just tips away.
There’s some division
Between a man’s ideal
And a man’s ideal
That’s a sure consequence
Of trying to level opposites.
The bigger one side of the coin,
The bigger the other.
And circles within circles at every scale
Manifest the same tension,
The more complex we make our fine machine,
The more complex becomes the resistance.
The resistant inertia that draws us back
To make a more natural state.
And like a centrifuge the parts
Spin out and find their own place.
Like oil and water,
They’ll make their own space.
So it is that as we see
The world more as one,
So each of us tries to run and hide
And find the place that’s theirs.
The proxy spirit that is man
Must love itself and won’t give sway.
As each ourselves will always know
To stand up proud and say
That our own path is the only true way.
There’s joy in each new day
That greets us new and laughs with
Bright abandoned gaiety and shouts loud
Of all those new things that it’s brought us.
Just for us these gifts.
But then we turn away
And cry into our pillows.
That we should be so honoured
By warm sun or roiling raincloud
And should still turn and say
That this is not enough for us.
As warm light spills across our poor dreams,
We still can’t see how lucky we are
To taste things so rich
Beyond our wildest dreams,
Those we imagine to be our fantasy.
In some traffic
A man sits
And squeezes his steering wheel.
In sole train focus
he sees the world
So fraught and tense.
He aches with angst
And longs to be
And slowly, clouds roll by.
He sees himself
Somewhere to be
And not here now in traffic.
And no speed sufficient
To quench the furious fire
Of need to move his car.
And still those clouds roll by.
People pass in quiet moves
As he moves
In his world past them.
And they in theirs.
In quiet preoccupation
With cage frame mysteries.
And still those damn clouds drift.
Mechanical chorus as
Things change and move
As slow drift nonchalant the clouds move.
And no one sees but him.
How he seethes with goal
Yet still no effort by clouds.
How we try to make
Yet they have somewhere to go
These things we become attached to.
Like our children’s gifts and imagined futures
That are our own desires,
Like the scent and smoothness of a woman,
Or the hard sensuality of a man,
That are our own desires
And only maybe theirs.
So what is a desire?
Like waking in the morning
And looking out at dripping grey
And therefore wanting?
Or rather knowing some hardcore
Need that can’t be cleanly declared?
We spend so much time wanting,
The wet warmth of a woman,
Or the firm guidance of a man,
The better thing that is theirs,
But so we miss the gentle happening all around us
That by its neglect declares the true nature
Of our real desires
As it all tries quietly to satisfy in a taken for granted way.
This area is supposed to be personal.
Yet it isn’t.
We all know this as we share
The same warts and wants
And shames and doubts,
And cry quietly into our pillows at night.
Desire reigns in three kingdoms,
That of the flesh
And that of the heart
And that of the mind.
Pulled three ways thus we’re bound
Always to be trying to find
Some utopian compromise that
By cold mathematical law
Is unlikely to come our way.
Like some small slippery thing wending through
An always changing liquid sea world
That shifts and carries us whatever way.
Some small times we cross a coincidence
Of circumstance that makes our heart leap
And our minds to find some rhythm
In the otherwise inscrutable chaos
That we swim through.
Good luck my friend
And I hope to see your light
Shimmering through my dark,
As I wend my way and maybe
We’ll find some coincident desire
That blends our paths.
How do people do mad and busy lives?
I can’t do anything anymore
Save at a plodding and pleasant pace
That lets things unfold their own way.
That lets life have its say.
What’s their sense of purpose?
These mad and busy people.
Such furious dedication to their cause.
Dogs chasing their tails,
Striving to succeed in sales.
Under clear blue skies or drifting clouds,
In caring rain and careless wind.
By indifferent sea, on birthing land,
By stoic trees and delighted daffodils,
Their lives flow past like rivers of sand
This is all bollocks isn’t it?
All crap and bullshit.
I mean, you’re not telling me you take it seriously?
The mortgage and the bank balance,
The terribly so dinner parties,
The right sort of suit.
The right badge of car.
This is your life?
Or are you perhaps more earthy?
Your domain is nuts and bolts and things that work,
For other people.
Earn a wage,
Don’t make money.
More honour in that perhaps.
As those sparkling stars turn slowly overhead,
And small birds sing their small part
On quiet, still misty mornings,
And all creatures wake and do their thing
Is your contrived vision really worth their beauty?
What are you doing? And why?
I don’t think you know,
And if you did, you’d surely cry
If you had any awareness of the place of your soul
In the many dimensional universe
That you think you know.