Finally getting the point

I am currently reading Naomi Klein’s No is not enough, and, thanks to her brilliant exposition, I’ve finally understood why some apparently intelligent, powerful people persist, at least in public, in denying what we/they are doing to the planet and carry on acting in ways that exacerbate the crisis. I now realise that it isn’t that they are too blinkered or isolated to see what is happening or that they believe their wealth will protect them from the unfortunate (but unavoidable because the neoliberal show must go on) effects of disrupting ecosystems and society. It’s that they welcome the coming crises because they are set to profit from them. Wars and catastrophes are just business opportunities if you are in the right line of work. And social disruption just frees up the 1% from the irritating hindrances of democracy, regulation and all that.

I’m hoping the last part of the book will give me more reason for optimism.

Here’s a snippet.

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A lament of privilege

The world is out of kilter.

Where now the compliant maids who,
gently and with grace,
tended our many needs,
wisely, and knowing what they owed
their fathers and their lords,
in gratitude for that paternal protection
from greedy hands and mouths that would
their virtue or their happiness remove?
Where now the dutiful wives
and daughters,
obedient, demure and kind?

They are gone.

And in their place are witches, harridans,
who refuse and demand,
and speak a constant tale of ‘no’, or
‘we will stand alone’, ‘we need you not’,
‘we are your equals, not your servants.’
Ingrates all!

The world is out of kilter.

Where now the honest labourers,
who worked our fields and nurtured our rich estates,
who knew their place
and gladly served our wiser will,
who ploughed and sowed and reaped the lands
our fathers gained,
discovered and enclosed by them,
and duly passed from son to son,
improved and cleared, to yield
such bounty?

They are gone.

And in their place, sullen and slavish,
loiter the scroungers
and delinquent youths,
who think themselves owed
some treasure of past generations.
They do not see the justice of our righteous claim
to grow our hard-held wealth
untaxed, unconstrained,
a fair inheritance of our fathers’ gracious state.
Villains all!

The world is out of kilter.

Where now the vast and brimming garden of the Earth,
endlessly opening its virgin vistas to our industry?
Where now the wide dominions
laid out for our conquering,
the wild beasts apt for our domestication,
the oceans, forests, steppes,
pristine and ever generous?
Where the boundless empires we claimed and plundered?

They are gone.

And the infinite world is turned tight upon itself,
a small, hard kernel, an involuted globe,
where evermore we walk old paths again
and trace our own innumerable footprints on the sullied ground –
the bleaching seas and treeless wastes
a common tragedy.

The world is out of kilter.

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Earth Hour 2018

Yesterday evening some of us turned off the lights to mark Earth Hour. To briefly, symbolically, pay attention to the harm we are doing every day by the way we live on the planet. A feeble gesture no doubt. Can a drip, drip of small individual acts eventually add up to a system change? Probably not. But system change is what is needed and sooner than eventually…

Drawn during Earth Hour by candlelight.

Birdsong

The songs of some birds belong to their species, inherited, shared. The wood pigeons sing the same five-note phrase today as their long-gone cousins did when I was on my way to school. The yellowhammer still tweets its nursery rhyme: ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’. The buzzards still shed their thin calls from thermal heights, like dropped needles. We know them by their calls as much as by their flight or feathers, more perhaps, like the small birds in the hedge which are heard and not seen.

How strange … What mechanisms lead them to utter only those shared songs? What constrains their muscles and their breath to such specific performances? A shape of the larynx or a pattern in the brain?

We, on the other hand, proud individuals, each produce our own assemblages of sound, in different tongues and tones. What would it be like if every time you opened your mouth to speak the same thing came out? And even more strange, if the same thing came out of every other human mouth too. Every utterance as unmodulated as the noises off emitted by our guts, as unvarying as the chime of a bell. Would we find ways to express our separate selves – by timing perhaps, a Morse code of calls?

But maybe the apparent sameness of some birds’ calls is only a symptom of our unsubtle hearing. Maybe every pigeon’s coo is as finely crafted and as variable to their ears as are our infinitely productive tongues.

Or perhaps, to those single-tongued creatures, our constantly inconstant speech sounds like a Babel, a cacophony, the chaotic clamour of a flock of lost souls, flailing and flapping with a thesaurus, who have forgotten, or never found, their ur-syllable, their logos, their essential, final, perfect word.

Apophasis

They are cutting down trees again, not here, but in another village on the way home from town. I saw the tractor with its trailer-load of amputated trunks; it was waiting to join the traffic on the main road at that junction where you always have to wait a very long time.

Someone must have thought that scruffy scrap of woodland would be better bare and treeless; that tangle of trees, mirrored in an obscure pool, would be better ‘developed’ into housing to meet the need for more rungs on the property ladder.

Will the houses they build stand around that pool too, looking into its dark stillness? Or will it be filled up with who knows what? It’s deep, they say. How much debris will it hold? And where will all that black water go instead? Not to mention all the previous residents of wood and pool. (That’s apophasis, by the way – a rhetorical term I learnt today, for talking about something by saying you won’t talk about it, or a theological one for speaking of what can’t be spoken of.)

But the market gets what the market wants, and never mind those costs that can’t be written in a ledger or summed up in a spreadsheet.

The ineffable can eff off, as long as there’s profit to be made.

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