@ExtinctionRebellion (Activist Diary #2)

The talk will be of national rebellion tomorrow at the third Exeter Rising Up! meeting in the community centre on Sidwell Street. I’m proud to have started the Exeter Rising Up! branch, and keen to get on with organising for Extinction Rebellion.

It seems to me that it is almost pointless, by now, to try to convince the general public about the more-than-likely coming climate catastrophe, by using science and careful, reasoned debate. It seems to me that the evidence is obvious to anyone who has the psychological and emotional resilience and readiness to act on it. So this is what I call on you to do -to act. The reason that so many of us have not acted before now is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of potentially threatening government institutions -the worst being that the government threatens to do relatively nothing about climate breakdown.

I would call it a reasonable supposition rather than a conspiracy theory that the most attractive strategy of the ruling elites over the coming decades may be to let us, ‘the masses’ die off in our millions, nay billions, so that they alone may inherit the Earth. Do they imagine that they will be protected by bubbles of advanced technology from the worst of climate breakdown? Well, perhaps they would be protected. Do we allow that gross solution, that wilful holocaust of 90% of the human race, to happen? Of course we don’t.

I used to think that activism, including non-violent direct action, was useless in achieving change. I used to smugly watch on television, activists being bundled into police vans or barricaded. However, since getting involved in the #VoteNoHeathrow campaign with Rising Up! this summer, I realised that disparate activist groups can work simultaneously on the same issue, alongside others using conventional channels such as Parliament, to achieve real change. Although the third Heathrow runway was voted through Parliament on the heels of our campaign, in reality the strength of support for #VoteNoHeathrow shows that the runway is unlikely to be built. Especially considering Extinction Rebellion.

Extinction Rebellion is an escalation of Rising Up’s general stance against the government’s inaction on slowing and ceasing carbon emissions. #VoteNoHeathrow continued where #StopKillingLondoners left off, and @ExtinctionRebellion is the next logical step. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an escalating campaign culminating in significant infrastructure blocks, including road blocks, this November in London and potentially other cities. At least 100 of us now have signed up for arrest. By calculated non-violent direct action (we are well-trained) we will deliberately put ourselves in positions of illegality to draw attention to the immorality of the government and the international community of elites, on climate breakdown. We will be arrested and some of us may be locked up for a time. If this is what it takes, we reason, to put climate breakdown at the centre of the government’s agenda, then so be it. And if XR 2018 is not enough to do it, XR 2019 and 2020 will be.

How I Got Here: An Ecopreneur’s Story; Permaculture, Business and Mental Health Integrated Process #1

Hello! Let’s introduce some music into this blog -or it will dry up completely! Here is an old gothic song by Type O Negative, paying homage to my origins amongst the wilds of Scotland. I am the perennial Green Man.  Permaculture must always begin with wilderness! The wild non-human society of the whole of Earth is the mother of human society; and that umbilical chord is meant never to be broken.

This is a post all about my lifepath (the short version!) and how this bears on my current perception of myself as a practising ‘activist ecopreneur’ in the realms of mental health, business and Permaculture. I want to INSPIRE other folk who at heart want to try a similar path, folk who have a lot of drive if only they would uncover it and stop listening to the voices in society that would have them follow a conventional career path, to serve conventional masters. That is, those entrenched institutions of corporate capitalism, patriarchy and kyriarchy that would appear to reward coercion and greed. We must rebel against those! Resistance is everything!

This post may seem like a very self-absorbed exercise, but I feel that to properly know oneself, including one’s whole history in its socio-cultural (including political) context, is necessary for the wisdom required by the aspiring positive changemaker (that’s me). Permaculture -at least according to Graham Bell– requires that we individually and collectively track our impact on the Earth’s resources as far as possible. Coming to terms with my history will enable this. I will explore this further in future posts. I also want to build up trust with my readers; I want you to know me pretty well; and if you want, to learn from my victories and ‘mistakes’ i.e. learning experiences.

My first community breakdown, the first of many, (but of course, I am a modern person) happened when I was three years’ old and I was torn away from my early playgroup friends (Craig, Caroline, Kirsten) for the sake of my father’s career. From Scotland to the southwest of England. It was not his fault. Market forces prevailed. It was and still is, a rich man’s world, of course. It’s all about the money.

dark side of moon

My father left the family home when I was six, not to return (although I would see him fairly regularly.) This remains the central wound of my life. However it is a wound that has taught me a great deal about the makeup of society; about gender roles, capitalism and marriage; about patriarchy and class. Moreover, this initial wound has spurred me on to a deep interest in the creation of a sustainable human society. There was a delay of a few decades before the wound was really focused into this positive drive for global harmony. Meanwhile, and not necessarily through any fault of my father’s, I missed out on being fathered. It was perhaps an ideal and elevated version of ‘the father’ when I would think, ‘Wish You Were Here’.

I didn’t know anything about mental health, business or Permaculture for the first 20 years of my life; well, not very consciously or coherently. However, I did learn how to write. Off and on since primary school age I have loved to write. I have also found an affinity with musical expression since aged three, mainly using the family piano.. Add to that an enjoyment of drama from aged 11 onwards; so I’ve always been highly creative and expressive. I’ve only begun to properly focus my creativity and expression recently; now in my late thirties. The Epic Tomorrows blog is partly a manifestation of all those years of creativity, re-focused. I have every faith that this could be a stairway to heaven.

I went to university mainly because everyone said I should. I had a pretty difficult time although I made a good friend, since lost to me. After two years I suffered a ‘mental breakdown’ and left without a degree. For want of more explanatory words, I was ‘anxious’, ‘depressed’ and ‘paranoid’. This was the drug-induced breakdown of my spurious ‘self’. Looking back, it was something that needed to happen. The violence and suddenness of it was unnecessary (blame the criminalised drug trade) but I certainly needed psychic ‘rearrangement’ in order to grow as a human being relative to a complex modern society; relative to the context of my upbringing. The violence and suddenness of a lot of the music I listened to was also unnecessary, but I still hold a place for the energy and righteous anger of heavy metal! It’s in my roots.

roots

After my breakdown I was soon taking anti-depressants and anti-psychotics at the suggestion of the medical establishment. I was on these for a few years. Psychiatric medication is a very subtle issue on which I don’t want to be misunderstood. Let me put it like this: I strongly believe, from the research I have done, that although the medication superficially allowed me to move forward in life, on a deeper level it not only left the causes of my dis-ease unaddressed, but allowed underlying causes to be compounded and worsened by neglect. Nowadays, neuroscientists and psychiatrists at the top of their professions will admit that there is no known neurochemical cause of mental illness. This is despite public belief to the contrary, influenced by years of marketing by pharmaceutical companies. For an excellent and very well-researched expose of all psychiatric medications, please read this book Anatomy of an Epidemic. In short, the drugs don’t work, but I’m still very much alive.

-Which is more than I can say for some of the residents I worked with in a 12-bedded unit for adults living with ‘mental health issues’; knocked out by medication and the negative affirmations of psychiatrists-

-After I returned to Somerset from university, it took me a couple of years to get on my feet again. But something very beautiful happened. My deep suffering led to my feeling great empathy for other human beings for the first time; I wanted to help anyone and everyone who had ever suffered from mental ill-health. My own heart and mind were also helped enormously by taking up meditation in my mid-20’s. This helped me wean myself off psychiatric medication. My heart became a little firework. The problem was, in the mainstream mental health services, I was working in a system that on an institutional level didn’t care enough for the true causes and cures of mental dis-ease. After a few years, I left my mental health work, disillusioned.

To cut a longer story shorter, for the purposes of this post, I then started to volunteer on land-based projects; conservation projects, woodlands and smallholdings; gaining an understanding of land-based living and ecological sustainability issues. My attraction to these projects was partly their beneficial effect on my mental health, and I soon came to see, although I have only been able to fully express this recently, that mental health and the ecological sustainability of human culture as a whole, are fundamentally linked. I started to learn,  mercy, mercy me! about the ethics and principles of Permaculture (permanent culture) and how these could be applied to society in general; not just to sustainable food growing systems, which are the origin and specialisation of Permaculture.

During a few years where I lived on a low impact woodland project, mostly without electricity, in my own very individual way I developed a theoretical framework of ‘Permaculture’ (very loosely formed) with which I found it was useful to address all the ills of the world -including mental ill-health- in a coherent, sustainability-focused way. I developed strong political views during this time also, seeing the ‘neoliberal’ patriarchal corporate capitalist paradigm as the conglomerate evil monster of unsustainability that must be killed at all costs.

monster

 

All you good good people! It is only in the last three years or so that I have realised that capitalism, at least for the few decades to come, can be part of the solution, as well as the problem. In order to redistribute wealth for social and environmental justice (not to mention mental health!), change political and economic systems and weaken the power of the over-powerful institution of the nation state, there is a strong case for the rise of ethical, political, independent entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs whose aim it is with their businesses to re-embed human beings in their landscapes and create a globally sustainable human culture, necessarily involving challenges to those in government, local or central, as well as challenges to large corporations. Who said you can’t be an activist and an entrepreneur at the same time? I have now come to the view that more than ever we need those individuals who are critical of corporate capitalism in theory, to stop their hypocrisy of working for corporate giants and be more creative in how they make a living. This is the path I have chosen to follow, although in my case I was never working for a corporation (except perhaps the NHS).

In my own case, a fair degree of desperation and frustration have gone into my drive and aspiration to be an entrepreneur. I almost don’t know what else to do; but the ethics explained above and the integrity of my lifepath leading naturally into this new direction, still hold true. Nowadays, my mental health is a subtle subject (as any human being’s should be). I still suffer from certain extremes at times, addiction and instability. I still get kind of blue and I still need time out.

In modern times, mental health and well-being can best be expressed in terms of social and environmental sustainability; in other words, we need to ask ourselves, how are our emotional and mind states socially and environmentally defined, and how do they contribute to the larger narratives of our lives in the contexts of sustainable and unsustainable elements of modern global society?

Essentially, I am a writer first and an entrepreneur if I’m lucky. If one doesn’t follow from the other, at least I hope you get something from my writing. As for what’s to come, ah um...just…get ready!

christmas tree

 

Taw Samhain

I’m sat on a rock in the river Taw. Never have I seen it so high. I’m here to wash away the distractions of life that I may focus on the highest stream within me; the stream of servant-leadership. There is no point in leading except to serve whom you lead, or you are only serving yourself. There is no point in serving except to lead whom you serve. In other words, don’t let your leaders become complacent. Let them know how life is for you and if they don’t listen, replace them.

We are two days away from the Gaelic festival of Samhain that has Celtic pagan origins. I love these old Celtic seasonal observances, even though I don’t usually celebrate them outwardly. Samhain is roughly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice -a neat orientation point; something that raises my awareness of the passing seasons and their different characters. Samhain is a festival of spirits and the dead. Apparently it is a time when the boundaries between this world and the ‘Otherworld’ are more easily crossed. Personally I am reminded of my ancestry, especially the recent ancestry of my grandparents. I am lucky to come from rich and diverse stock. ‘Taking stock’ of food supplies and cattle returned from their summer pastures, was another traditional Samhain theme. Personally, I am reminded to take stock of where I am, how I got here and what I have to offer.

In this first blog post for Epic Tomorrows, I offer you a ‘working hypothesis’. It is nothing radically new but I intend that in the coming weeks and months I will show how this hypothesis can be consistently applied in many different contexts. That may be a little radical to some. I hope it’s useful. Please tell me if it isn’t, or help me improve on it.

The hypothesis is simply that a lack of narrative integration in modern society is responsible for a great deal of unnecessary suffering and death. This suffering and death is implicit in globally poor standards of individual mental health and well-being; group, institution and business efficiency and well-being; and the well-being and sustainability of global culture as a whole. The root lack of narrative integration that is to blame, centres on the disconnection of humanity from the rest of Nature. This divorce began at the dawn of civilisation (the agricultural revolution) at the latest.

To demystify what I have just written, us human beings make sense of the world, and of human culture, by the stories and myths that we tell ourselves, as well as, more crucially, the underpinning unconscious narratives that guide our thinking and behaviour. Our individual autobiographies and our collective stories and narratives have become confused, hypocritical and fragmented in modern society, reflecting social and ecological injustice. Lack of integration is the defining pathology of this situation.

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There’s plenty of great stuff going on in the world. I’m looking forward to using this blog to connect up with it more. I also intend to help positive change-makers of all kinds connect up in useful new ways. For me, integration is the key word. I am aware that all this may sound very abstract so far. I will give you a solid oak example by way of my personal history or ‘how I got here’. First, let me quickly explain that I do not blame anyone, including myself, for any lack in my past or present life, but I do take responsibility for change:

My own life narrative of mental health is something that I’m working on. A few years ago it looked pretty shaky. However, the more I detach myself from conventional understandings of mental health -particularly the biomedical model of mental illness-  the more I appreciate my unique journey and the gifts it has bestowed on me, as well as the unique challenges which could be headed under ‘mental dis-ease’. It has taken me over a decade and a half of trial and error to arrive at this understanding. Sometimes I struggle not to feel injured, to feel beaten black and blue actually, by the fragmented society that allowed me to be defined as medically sick and that still sometimes seeks to define me as such. Ironically, conventional attitudes to mental health are actually a contributory cause of mental ill-ness. I will write at great length on this in later posts. I don’t blame individuals or even ‘society’. I am just sharing feelings and observations.

Reconnecting with Nature was key to my recovery from the worst of the dis-ease, and continues to be. Earth Nature as a whole is also key to my new, positive life narrative of mental health i.e. my new understanding of my journey. It is a journey of integration with non-human Nature, integration with the people around me and integration with parts of myself I may have previously struggled to admit into consciousness. I am convinced that ‘integration’ in these ways is key to others’ mental health too. I want Epic Tomorrows to be a place of discussion about this, amongst other things.

I also have a strong intention to develop Epic Tomorrows into a blog-based business. I intend to inspire an Earth-integrated Tribe of co-creators to help me develop products of information, integration and emotional connection that have genuine transformative value in the lives of individuals, groups, institutions, businesses and communities. This will take some time. A few years at least. I have some rough ideas of services I may provide. Things are coalescing in my mind, and it’s exciting. The catchword of ‘integration’ speaks of energy efficiency and mental resilience. Meanwhile, it is my joy to share my ideas with no thought of financial profit. The blog will always be free.

I am immensely grateful to the marketing guru Seth Godin for helping get me to this point, as well as the online business community ‘Fizzle’. Fizzle are an example, for me, of how the internet can be an incredible integrative tool. I am learning from writers, bloggers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. It took me a few years of searching through slimy online business gurus before hitting on these fresh folk. (Good-hearted and environmentally minded entrepreneurs need more help in finding the right resources, and in integrating them -a subject for another post!) I have been set in good stead to remind myself continually that Epic Tomorrows is always work in progress and can always be improved.

It is a day before Halloween, or ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, the beginning of the Christian observance of Allhallowtide: three days of remembrance of the dead. The modern Halloween is a mixture or perhaps integration of Samhain and All Hallows practices. As we remember all the positive change-makers that came before us, what positive tricks and treats of integration -for mental health, for business health, for sustainable culture- can we share with one another?

The sky is clear today and the harvest sun is warm on the wildness of the Samhain Taw.

Please share your thoughts with me! Please comment below.