Back in a Londres again. I was greeted back to my room by an advert on a well-known social media/surveillance platform from the anti-terrorist police. Its purpose seemed to be to incite me to be constantly suspicious of my fellow humans, to walk the streets ceaselessly alert for a threat less likely to kill me than a slippery bath. What’s great about this is that they never learn. The advert by the Metropolitan Total Suppression Brigade a few years ago is still a by-word for idiocy. It implied that someone having more than one phone would be a reason to suspect them of terroristic leanings and report them. Since about a quarter of the population have two phones for one reason or another, it simply made people ask how paranoid it was possible to be. I still hear it referred to jokingly: “Oh, I see you have two phones. You know what that means?”
Mockery is a good response to such nonsense, but the presence of this police-sponsored ad on my social media wall reminded me that, whatever the company tries to convince me of, it isn’t my wall, it’s theirs. Still, it’s useful for communication, is a very realistic way to communicate, sometimes more so than email. I finally heard back from Dynamo Sparkle the other day, who said she had missed my message among all her junk mail.
The Committee for the Future met today, covering their activities by meeting on a train and adding their voices to the hubbub of an ordinary journey. The committee decided to do away with being realistic. Instead we will create localised Committees for Housing, Care and Industry, with each leg of that platform supporting the other two. Every district will have a committee, and all will be linked by regional committees. Members of the committee will be randomly selected and will sit for a year. It will only seem strange to those who don’t believe in the future.
A bike ride this weekend with Dr Guerrilla, perhaps along the river. Hopefully ending in a pub, where most of the best bike rides end, and many good things begin.
I”m out of London again, this time in the Bog Mountains. As I walked with my brother along Climber’s Edge we discussed whether rich people would be made happier by a more equal society. He was convinced they would be, I was less convinced, or perhaps felt that their increase in happiness would be less than the increase in happiness of the poor, should they win a more equal society. Either way, the rich will not be convinced, or not by words.
Now I am sat at the foot of Boggy Plateau in what was once the house of a local squire and is now accommodation for the walkers who won their right to be here by rebellion. The clouds are descending over the Plateau and the gloom of evening is creeping in from the sides.
On the road to here, near Bamford, I stopped for a pint in honour of Samuel Bamford, born and raised in the vicinity. He witnessed the decline in quality of life brought by the factories, even as they made more goods available. One of the worst things about the factories, he pointed out, was that the workers were no longer allowed to drink beer while working. In the fields and at home looms beer had been considered a necessary lubricant for work, particularly of the physical variety. Factory owners objected on the grounds that workers needed to take breaks to drink beer, and that was just not on.
A cloud-like cypress in the garden of the house, incongruous in this landscape of birch, sycamore and alder, reminds me of Londres. If one wants to assert one’s ownership of land in Londres, planting a tree is a good way to do it, and for a long time in the suburbs the fashion was for cypresses. Here ownership is usually asserted by keeping down the trees using sheep and fire. Even that wasn’t enough to keep the plebs out.
The Public Tree Service sent me on a training day to Wood Abbey on the edge of Londres, where a government official made it clear that they have no intention of preventing multiple waves of plant diseases from sweeping across the country. Much more could be done, but it would involve more border checks. Free trade is sacred, and only humans must be detained at the border.
But it was difficult to feel gloomy because the sun, in a surprise move, came out and stayed out most of the day. I sat outside at lunchtime sipping on tea and surveying the ruined abbey, once a great landholder in the area. No doubt Henry the Wifekiller stole the land for his friends, and if anything made things worse for those who lived off it. Rentiership, I often think, is the true basis of capitalism, not entrepreneurship or any of that bullshit its propagandists claim. It is a system built by and for rentiers.
Even our culture, I suspect, is a rentier culture. If you pay for your culture and do not participate in the creation of it, you are renting it. You aren’t even buying. It’s not your culture, it’s theirs. The rentiers create it, and it is for their benefit, not ours. This could sound on the surface like miserable hair-shirtism. I am not saying we should not pay for things that we enjoy, only that we should understand what is and is not our culture. Television is their culture, the culture of rentierism. So are newspapers and films, and even social media sites are mixed. Our culture is the culture we make and participate in ourselves.
Today I left Londres with the Maltese Coder for a trip to see the rising waters in the Eastern mudflats. We saw a tree half submerged, only half of its crown poking out. All the buds were dead. In another place we saw the soil being washed away, exposing the network of roots beneath. Trees were falling over the low cliff onto the seaweed-strewn beach. Despite all this our mood was high. The day was gloriously sunny, so much so that I now have a pink face.
We went through Woodham Ferrers, the latter name having come over with the Norman conquest. This could be regarded as quaint, if I didn’t know the legacy of land ownership arising from that invasion. The subsequent enclosures added injury to injury. When people say that the Isle is a violent colonial power and we should be ashamed of that history, I feel compelled to point out the first victims of violent landgrabs were here, on this Isle. Colonialism always has a class dimension that is worth considering: some benefit more than others. Just ask the Duke of Belgravia.
Time to start planning for the spring equinox. Perhaps we should invent a ritual to repel Normans. Or perhaps it should be a ritual to repel violent rulers. That one is timeless.
Yesterday I did various practical things with visible results. It left me feeling good. I pruned the tree in front of my house on Commune Walk to reduce shading. The exercise was the most invigorating thing I’d done for a while. I also did some DIY too boring to record, but with satisfying results. Making things or doing things is good for mental wellbeing. I forget this.
I woke this morning having dreamed of a rag-tag rebel army in a civil war. H, friend of the Maltese Coder, was living in the rebel army camp and they had run out of money. I had to plot a difficult route across Londres on my velocipede, getting hopelessly and dangerously lost around the Lee Channel, in order to take my old mobile phones to him. He planned to sell them for the scrap value, in order to raise money for food.
The dream may have arisen from reading about Hampden, the civil war martyr who gave his name to Hampden clubs. Coming between the Corresponding Societies and Chartism, Hampden clubs also mostly met in taverns and promoted the highly controversial idea that people had the right to determine their own fate, as far as was reasonably possible in an indifferent universe. The movement eventually lead to democracy as we know it now, which for a time felt like a major triumph.
Parliamentarianism has long since stripped that victory of its sweetness. You might think that once people realised a vote every four years did not give them control over their own lives, they might once more have returned to meetings in taverns to determine the next steps in granting themselves the right to make decisions about their own lives. Rather than leaving the decisions to a bunch of arses. But no such meetings have happened recently, or so few that history books will not record them. Which is not to say that nothing happens.
I turned on the calculating machine this morning to see that a resistance group (unarmed) had scrawled ‘Police and UKBA not welcome in Savage Cross’ along the frontage of the doomed local Post Office.
Spent the evening in the Bree Tavern in central Londres. Memories of the fight for free education, which we lost. I had to remind myself that no battle is lost forever, just as the end of the world is not entirely final.
I had the chance to discuss Old Latin America with someone who knows even more than me about it. It was a stimulating discussion, and good to hear a more positive tone from someone who speaks from knowledge rather than wishful thinking. A world of action is happening there, imperfect, often problematic, but with real potential to change things. The trick seems to be that people still know how to work together.
On that topic, I see today that the Vermin Party have made one of their cruellest cuts yet: cutting money to help young people who need to escape home. Their assumption is that young people can, and possibly should, always live with their parents. If the people who made this decision are ever at my mercy, I don’t know if I could show any. It’s so easy for a rich society to provide homes for all. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.
There is a path out of here, to a Londres where people can be supported through difficult times. But we have to believe it is the right thing to do, we have to claim it for ourselves, and above all there has to be a ‘we’. I was chatting to Power Fist today about the absence of collective action in fighting for a caring society. She didn’t have many words of comfort, but it’s good to have someone to complain to about these things. If in the end I find enough people to complain to, that would be the beginnings of the ‘we’ we need. Then perhaps we could get some power behind our rituals.