The red flower fell at my feet…

The red flower fell at my feet, as I walked past the high hanging basket in Exeter High Street. This was divine providence; synchronicity. On the bus journey to Exeter this morning I had been studying The Roots of Civilisation by Abdullah Ocalan. I am near to the end of this momentous literary and historiographical achievement, written by Ocalan from the prison cells where he has been incarcerated for the past twenty years.

I am at an exciting stage in the book, where Ocalan is describing the crisis of contemporary global capitalism and the corresponding crisis in democracy. His incredibly pragmatic and yet optimistic view of the progression of history is that contemporary capitalist civilisation, inseperable from contemporary democratic civilisation, is the most advanced form of human society that we have yet seen upon Earth -advanced towards our highest good. This is despite the obvious gross abuses within the system, which are in fact integral to the system.

Ocalan does not whine for some communist utopia like some other leftists. Instead, he is a truly radical and progressive leftist. He sees that within the limited democratic institutions and societies that already exist, alongside the disruptive technologies of the 21st century which show great potential for widespread distribution in a democratic and commonly owned way, there are seeds for a truly scientific socialism, as the next natural stage of advancement for human civilisation -in fact a necessary and urgently required stage in the face of the capitalist-ecological global crisis.

Ocalan gives a compelling and damning critique of what he calls ‘real socialism’ -the historical (actually ignorantly a-historical) attempts at socialism which have claimed to be scientific, but which have failed due to their gross materialism (divorced from the creativity and diversity of Nature), their adoption of oppressive centralised state structures in order to maintain their ‘liberated’ systems, their failure to address the oppression of women and finally the technological and scientific immaturity of the historical contexts which could not facilitate the true transcendence of class -not for very long anyway. This overall failure of ‘real socialism’, shows Ocalan, was down to an incomplete understanding of history.

In ‘The Roots…’ it is shown that level of technological advancement and class are intertwined within a society, and it is actually only now within the first quarter of the 21st century that we have the beginnings of the scientific and technological conditions that, in tandem with a grassroots democratic culture, can allow the development of forms of scientific socialism. My own view is that this scientific socialism, although it has not yet been defined to my satisfaction, could be arrived at via hybrid entrepreneurial-socialist localised economic and political systems which compete peacefully against wider capitalist-democratic systems for local dominance and local, democratic economic stability. In other words, my current understanding of ‘scientific socialism’ is a localised economic and political system with vastly reduced disparity between the rich and poor, and increased participation of everyone in democratic life, enabled by ubiquitously shared, close to zero cost, technologies (such as democratic decision-making mobile phone apps). I will expand on this in future posts. Localised food and energy production is also implied, and civil disobedience is also implied, as at least some of the functions of the state are relocalised in grassroots decision-making bodies.

When the blood-red flower fell freshly at my feet, it was as if the fresh scientific socialism advocated by Ocalan had entered the immediate physical world around me in a symbol of Nature-borne presence -but soon to decay if not acted upon.

I then sat in a cafe -a fine capitalist institution that sold me a hazlenut and chocolate croissant and a soya milk latte, an institution that despite its ethical credentials cannot claim to be seperated from the gross oppressions of capitalism- and wrote the bulk of this post.

After I left the cafe I hurried to the Quay and met for the first time an ‘indie online content creator’s group’ (advertised on Meetup.com.) I can’t tell you how enriching this experience was, in terms of how much I learnt about presenting my online writing in a more accessible and commercial way (since I intend to make money from my writing) and meeting other friendly people sharing the struggles of creating and marketing content and some of the solutions. Even the free version of the platform of WordPress that I use to blog, is an incredible system of magic (to anyone except the most technologically minded, those who understand coding) which the democratic culture of modern civilisation has allowed to be propagated and used freely by anyone with a computer and an internet connection (anyone who can get to a public library).

I do not see it as problematic at all that I exist and work in the capitalist sphere in a very active way, as an entrepreneur, and also exist in an activist socialist political sphere, where I aspire to the redistribution of wealth for a more balanced and stable society. This hypocrisy is integral to contemporary capitalist-democratic civilisation and I can’t pretend to be outside of it. Can you? The question is, how do we utilise this hypocrisy constructively, towards greater moral ends. The hypocrisy is in fact necessary in the transition phase to something like ‘scientific socialism’ or a scientific, technology-enabled socialist-capitalist localised hybrid. The hypocrisy of capitalism (and the hypocrisy of all oppressive human civilisations throughout history i.e. in some aspects, every civilisation) continues but is potentially resolved in the current transition phase between the decline of global capitalism and the emergent democratic (including technological) forms which contradict global capitalist forms in many respects, but simultaneously are enabled by them. The so-called sharing economy could be the typical and dominant phenomenon of what I describe. Needless to say, this sharing economy is not available to all. Not yet anyway.

Perhaps another feature of the necessary progression through the current global crisis is the full automation of all menial jobs globally, (excluding sustainable farming which should be fairly shared, fulfilling work) if coupled with a reversal of the negative impacts on the ecological environment of contemporary capitalist civilisation. Anthropogenic climate change could be the worst of these impacts and the one needing addressing most urgently, but not in isolation from every related negative environmental impact of modern human society.

Abdullah Ocalan, freedom fighter, more deeply feminist than some of the feminist Western women I have met, nobody knows whether you are still alive or whether you have died at the hands of your Turkish oppressors. In your honour Ocalan, and for the sake of the positive evolution of the human species, I internalise the strategically evolved tear-like petals of the red flower-head that earlier today was on the coffee-shop table in front of me, that every petal may symbolise a flame of tactical advance towards a reconciled global society -reconciled with Nature and honestly reconciled with the bloody history, including the oppression of women, that the progression of civilisations throughout history has depended upon.

Let these delicate flames not tell of more bloodshed and misguided ‘revolution’ (I do not refer to the Rojava revolution as misguided). As you say, Ocalan, the seeds of the new world system are already with us, are already beginning to flower in some places. All our courage, all our peaceful civil disobedience, all our entrepreneurship, is called upon to optimise the fate of the contemporary capitalist crisis.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation

It is no exaggeration to say that, if you are between the ages of 18 and 25 or thereabouts, the language you use from day to day, in your speaking and in your writing, is a fulcrum on which the future of humanity may depend i.e. whether we survive or not as a species. The human species faces severe ecological crisis this century (see The Evidence) and the words we use and the way we arrange them, are crucial to our survival.  It is the youngest generation of adults that is best placed to lead the necessary revolution in human civilisation. This is because of their familiarisation with the sharing economy, their technological savvy, their ecological awareness, and their average physical health and fitness (i.e. resilience and capacity for a diversity of work).

For us to behave in the most effective and focused way, our linguistically expressed intent must be structured and focused, whether that intent is expressed out loud, on paper or screen, or only in our thoughts. It is true that motivation may be pictorial also (images in mind) but on closer examination these images have stories embedded in them which can only be understood in words.

It is also true that we can act on the spur of the moment, without thought but mindfully. However, there are dead and oppressive narratives, tied up in hypocritical knots of language, which must be combated or reshaped according to logical and linguistic capacities. Yes, we can act with one-pointedness and presence, free of cluttering thoughts, but until we set aside time to question and contemplate the speech forms and written forms we use, there will still be unconscious elements in even the most mindful self-expression. These elements are often malignant, preserving power imbalances in society of men over women, white over black, rich over poor and so on. The malignancy may be protected in hypocritical or obfuscating word play. For instance, take the phrase, ‘Hey you guys!’, an American greeting of groups of either or mixed genders. It may seem like quite an equitable phrase, treating everyone the same, in a ‘cool’ kind of way. Yet the apparent benignity of this phrase may conceal the obvious: the male takes precedence over the female; a ‘guy’ is a man. As if we all must identify as men to be recognised / greeted.

Spelling: In uncovering the unhelpful and unhealthy narratives and phrases which underlie decaying and toxic elements in human society and culture, and constructing therapeutic and holistic narratives, spelling plays at least two roles. These roles apply to all human linguistic expression, but when the transformation of global culture is at stake, the roles take on extra import.

Firstly, we spell in the conventional ‘correct’ manner so that our intentions are not misconstrued and interrupted (by bad spelling). Secondly, we may choose words which are spelt in a way which suits what we want to say, rather than words whose spelling may detract from or contradict our message. Additionally we may choose words whose spellings (and corresponding meanings) point towards a renewed human culture.

Grammar and Punctuation: The role of grammar and punctuation, including as in the transformation of culture, is to ensure the clear, accessible and coherent representation, division and emphasis of the words that we choose to communicate.

The unique challenge in modern conscious contexts of responsible spelling, grammar and punctuation is to be clear in our reshaping of culture, from moment to moment. Messy expression reflects in messy understanding from others and in the worst cases, misdirected behaviour, or at least delays between understanding and action which perhaps can’t be afforded.

It seems to me that there is an underlying narrative concerning spelling, grammar and punctuation which may be unique to contemporary times. The story goes like this: ‘it doesn’t matter so much to be good with spelling, punctuation and grammar these days: the important thing is getting your message out there’ This is subtle and slight, as spelling etc are universally still seen as important to a degree, but it seems to me that standards of English in general have been willingly dropped in recent decades. This is predominantly the influence of online culture -or influences within online culture- including the fact that the boundaries between publicly accessible casual communications / content, and ‘professionally published’ material have become blurred. This blurring can also be understood as a blurring of cultural boundaries in general. Although these boundaries are complex and the driving forces of increased ambiguity cannot simply be ‘capitalist’, nevertheless blurred edges are potentially, both the sign of a civilisation approaching its limits, and a fertile ground for the reshaping of cultural norms -the reshaping of civilisation.

Without wanting to sound like that old English teacher at school who you hated, if we are serious about transforming this world that we live in, I propose that we start off with improving our basic English skills, or the skills of whichever our native language happens to be. For the youngest adults amongst us, those beginning to appreciate the burden of the disintegrating civilisation that the rest of us have laid on their shoulders, and those who are most malleable and nimble on the internet and with the fastest rates of technological change, the imperative for clear communication is all the more urgent.

 

 

Why Write? #1

Answering the question Why Write? is not just an intellectual exercise: it is a matter of the life and death of individuals and of human culture as a whole.

Everything that has ever been written has political and cultural aspects to it. This is unavoidable. For writing which is not explicitly political, the political biases of the writer (we all have them) will still come through, however subtly that may be. Political bias can come through as much in what is omitted, as in what is included. From fairy-tales to magazine articles to copy-writing for businesses, political views inherent to the author will be inherent to the text. This is true regardless of whether or not the author is aware of their bias. In fact, when the author is unaware of their bias, it will likely come through all the stronger, untempered by self-awareness and self-reflection.

Every piece of literature that is written, whether an award-winning novel or the label for a convenience product, contributes to complex interdependent narratives of power in global society which dictate, amongst other things, who gets to live and who gets to die from unnatural causes. This may seem extreme, but I ask you to consider it for just a few moments. You will find that it is the truth.

In a deeper and more comprehensive way, all writing plays a strong cultural role, globally. The language of human beings, whether written or spoken, perpetuates, evolves or disintegrates the culture which it expresses and in which it is embedded, as well as any potential culture which is ‘alien’ to it, with which it comes into contact. In contemporary times, cultures are constantly synergising, co-evolving or battling with one another, particularly via the medium of the internet.

To answer the challenge of ‘Why Write? in a truly responsible and conscious way means to take control of the power of writing, especially online, to shape politics and culture, and consciously write in a way which strengthens healthy culture and challenges unhealthy culture, whatever our subjective definitions of these may be.

In the current phase of history, the declining days of the current form of global capitalist civilisation, the responsibility is further to make sure that in our writing, whatever form it takes, we smooth the evolution of this civilisation to the next one, whatever that may be, and in these turbulent times ensure as minimum an amount of human and non-human suffering as possible.

There is no form of writing that is exempt from this calling. Language shapes and expresses intent, which shapes behaviour and society.

In order to respond to this call we must look at the underlying narratives which guide human society and culture. These narratives are often unconscious and often unexpressed in language, so that all we can do is paraphrase and estimate them, (mainly by using language, of course -retrospectively.) Commonly discussed underlying social narratives of contemporary times are often strongly related to the globally dominant capitalist society that we live in, and the corresponding system of ‘liberal democracy’ which is touted by the most powerful as the most desirable method of governance for all countries.

For instance, ‘capitalism makes everyone richer’ is an underlying story that we cannot help but live by at least some of the time, in advanced capitalist countries, even if we are the most critical people in society of those narratives. This is because of their all-pervading nature, in advertising, in news articles, in the fairy-tales we read out children and in the products we buy from day to day -even the ‘ethical’ ones. A related narrative is ‘we are free to choose our leaders’ i.e. we believe that the common global Western / Northern style of liberal democracy really is ‘government by the people, for the people’, even when plenty of daily evidence demonstrates quite the opposite. The story is often stronger than the reality, especially when powerful elites, and their language of domination, are perpetuated by the story and vice versa. The elites have the money to spread the story, day by day, to shore up their wealthy positions. Despite their very existence being a refutation of the story, they may yet believe the story themselves, and most likely will believe it. Their hypocrisy is the most extreme form of that which is common to all of us, discussed in my recent posts on hypocrisy, #1 and #2.

This is not to deny that there are healthy narratives of resistance, and even narratives of grounded and bioculturally diverse cultures and cultural elements that precede capitalism and continue to exist outside of capitalism. Also it would be simplistic to say that every narrative which has an investment in capitalism is ‘bad’. That cannot be claimed by any means. Nevertheless, in our modern interdependent society which in this digital age has developed faster than we can keep track of, fragmentation and conflict often feature in the underlying narratives that guide us, and hence in our language.

Ultimately, in order to co-create with one another the healthy cultural narratives that we need for a renewed and more sustainable global culture, and in order to become aware of all the underlying narratives that currently guide us, lest in our ignorance we let them shape us unconsciously, we need to write a comprehensive and ever-evolving catalogue of narratives. Such a project would utilise the best tools and insights from the disciplines of the social, political and economic sciences, as well as the study of history and historiograhy, as well as media studies and indeed wherever else ‘narrative wisdom’ presents itself. The evolving catalogue would reflect the evolution of culture from day to day, and it would be online, and reflexive, using intelligent software. At least, this is while we still have the capacity for digital technologies. If that capacity ends, then who knows?

Once we can properly take account of the whole of the narrative complex within society, only then can we truly responsibly decide how to contribute to that narrative complex and shape it, to some degree ‘from the outside’, if that is possible.

Meanwhile, using limited tools, all we can do is write as responsibly as we can, knowing what we know. This means knowing ourselves as thoroughly as we can first of all. Meditation and mindfulness practices are good at uncovering oneself to oneself. The more we practice these techniques, if with a good and courageous moral stance of getting to the truth of ourselves, even where that truth is dark and conflicted, then the more we can write, whether a simple political banner, an email to a friend, a book review or the most well-researched scientific essay (which are actually never objective in their nuances of expression. although they may claim to be), with sensitivity as to how our writing is shaping the politics and culture around us.

Indeed, we may discover and intuit underlying narratives in society precisely by working on ourselves and giving ourselves space to listen to the streams of data and cause and effect, from all quarters in society that flow through us, without our conscious control, largely, from day to day.

And then we may be called to decide, of course, precisely which narratives we strengthen, challenge, show care around, hold in a humourous light etc etc, and which narratives we choose to replace, or begin to replace by clever wording and marketing -for the most successful narratives are amalgamations and adaptions etc of what have come before. It is simply against the laws of physics to try to stop dead a narrative.

In other posts and on other pages I have stated the importance of the Relocal narrative for the decades ahead, but really it is up to every individual -every writer- to intuit the way forward for themselves.

 

Before you write something next, whether it be a shop receipt, a demonstration for eligibility for a government benefit, an off-hand text message or a very personal poem, I ask that you pause, just for ten seconds, and ask yourself, ‘What exactly am I about to write?’ and ‘Why exactly am I going to write that?’

Hypocrisy -a defining feature of the civilised psyche, #1 (part two of two)

In the first part of this post I described the typical hypocritical mindset of the modern ‘civilised’ person, which is reflected by the impossibility of ‘ethical consumption’ in our globalised consumerist culture. We are forced to continually ‘bracket off’ the uncomfortable truth about the human suffering and environmental destruction inherent in even the most ‘ethical’ of modern lifestyles.

I then put forward six criteria for truly ethical consumption, as benchmarks to work towards. I recommended that we treat our hypocritical failure to achieve these criteria, as ‘moral persons’, with gentleness, vigilance and humour. Also, let me here inform you that this post ends on a very positive / constructive note.

Now I want to look at the underlying narratives and stories that we tell ourselves as a society, which allow the continuation of our gross hypocrisy.  These narratives and stories are often pushed aggressively by the institutions, including corporations, of the financially richest people on Earth, in order to shore up their positions. This aggressive pushing is often not done consciously -it is a manifestation of unconscious (perhaps genetically driven) patterns of domination of certain quarters of society over other certain quarters, but amplified through technology and the powerful marketing machine of global corporate capitalism.

Thus, although these aggressive narratives are bringing humanity and whole ecosystems to the brink of extinction, characterised by their promotion of deeply unethical consumption (as opposed to the six criteria I have laid out), this is not something we can blame individuals for. Nevertheless, the behaviours of some individuals must be stopped.

My perspective on how unconscious narratives (as well as conscious stories) guide human behaviour from day to day is strongly influenced by my reading of Vivien Burr’s introduction to ‘social constructionism’.

According to social constructionism, a branch of social science that also serves as a critique of the social sciences, the whole of reality is socially constructed, meaning that so-called ‘facts’ are only facts by social agreement between human beings. Obvious examples are institutions like nations and money, which are only real insofar as we believe in them and act in their image. What is harder to understand is the contention that even the ‘facts’ of physics and biology are social constructs with no objective reality.

The ‘critical realist’ branch of social constructionism contends that there are ‘brute facts’ underneath our linguistic and socially constructed understanding of reality, but of course we can never see them objectively -only through our perspective of human language.

I am not a postmodernist, in the sense that I think that clearly, there is an objective truth of ‘brute facts’. The critical realist branch of social constructionism is useful in helping us understand knowledge in a fluid and social way. Once we realise that, regardless of brute facts, the way that knowledge is gathered, understood and expressed is by social agreement, and so is highly political, then we can begin to understand how better to understand and express reality in ways which promote environmental and political justice.

‘Narratives’, in social constructionism, are wholly unconscious drivers of human behaviour -threads of meaning which tie the social constructs of reality together.

Various hypocritical narratives (or stories that become hypocritical when they are internalised by so-called moral people, which most of us think we are) in modern global culture, prevent the six criteria of ethical consumption from being realised.

One such narrative is the one that says ‘capitalism makes everyone richer’. When we look at the living conditions of half of the population of the world, and the traditional community ties, including ties of efficient resource use, that have been broken by capitalism, we can easily see that this narrative is false. The narrative becomes hypocritical when internalised by folk who see themselves as moral, who unconsciously lean on the narrative to maintain their affluent lifestyles. I am not exempt from this.

This narrative and other related narratives have become deeply embedded in our culture and so in our psyches. You could say they are a means by which hypocrisy has become an essential feature of a functioning modern psyche. How could we live with ourselves without this integral hypocrisy? Because it is integral, it causes most of us minimal stress, except in moments of crisis and breakdown (which may become increasingly common as the current version of global civilisation reaches its natural resource limits and we are confronted with the truth). These hypocritically internalised narratives are not only abstract ideological bases for the continuation of a destructive global culture. They are stories that are continually lived and re-invented from day to day, in the culture that we consume and create, and in our social interactions and conventions of speech. These capitalist and related industrial lullabies (for an industrial communism of luxury is just as bad as industrial capitalism) are embedded in even the simplest of objects and phrases that we use from day to day.

For instance, vague and seemingly benign phrases like ‘hard work always pays off’ tend to be used in contexts which encourage us to equate hard work with personal profit to be spent at the expense of other people and the environment. ‘Organic and fair trade’ cotton clothes from halfway around the world persuade us that we are moral in how we clothe ourselves, but such goods could be worse overall for maintaining our hypocritical psyches than goods compared as ‘unsustainable’.

To reiterate and rephrase, as modern individuals we internalise and constantly refine and redefine a complex system of narratives, in unconscious agreement and compromise with one another. The narratives that dominate in contemporary civilisation are the ones that are pushed most ubiquitously and aggressively by the marketing forces of capitalism and the richest people on the planet. We internalise them despite ourselves. These marketing forces don’t just work in obvious channels of advertising, but in the very categorisation and expression of human knowledge and experience. In fact, the essential underlying driving narratives of capitalism are themselves forces of marketing. Forces of marketing which are internalised by aspiring moral human beings as hypocrisy.

The complex system of narratives that we draw upon daily includes ethical narratives which take us in the direction of planetary repair, community building and even the positive evolution and transformation of global civilisation as a whole. However, these constructive narratives yet have a relatively small purchase on our psyches, compared to the prevalent destructive ones. This truth, and our knowledge of this truth, compounds our general hypocrisy. This again brings home the importance of taking our integral hypocrisy as modern beings, lightly. Taking a harsher approach could easily be the recipe for mental breakdown. While on the positive side there is a human tendency to attempt a moral synthesis of all narratives within the self (largely on an unconscious level) there is also the tendency of narratives to fragment and interfere with each other. Thus, even the most noble of narratives become polluted and co-opted by the more dominant and oppressive narratives e.g. stories of capitalism and the related patriarchy.

Conflicting narratives within individuals, groups, nations and humanity as a whole can be rooted in differences in ideology, climate, race, historical culture, national identity and so on. While most of these differences are social constructs i.e. not objective or at least not ‘final and fixed’ differences, considering the ‘brute facts’ – or let me say ‘beautiful facts’- of Nature, we can use what we know of Nature and Natural events to provide a grounding for new synthesized global narratives which are regenerative of humanity and the planet, and which actually hold true. However, it is not enough to ‘create wonderful stories of how we want the world to be in the New Age’, although I admire the efforts of philosophers and others in this area, and they do have positive stories to contribute to the synthesized whole. Much more than this, it is vital for a more sustainable human civilisation i.e the next stage of human civilisation that will emerge after the coming turmoil, that the current dominant and oppressive narratives, especially the hypocritical stories of capitalism, are subverted and integrated into new forms. For the advance of humanity, to attempt to ignore or destroy the momentum and oppressive power of capitalist narratives would be naive, and cause the unnecessary mental breakdown of individuals -something which will increasingly happen too often anyway.

A truly regenerative, wholistic and therapeutic narrative is one that is not only ‘true’ as far as is possible in a socially constructed reality, (thus reducing hypocrisy) but one that magnetises, subverts or integrates less sustainable and more oppressive narratives / narrative aspects to or with it. Such narratives potentially are simplifying beacons and purifiers within the whole over-complicated global narrative complex that we carry around with us from day to day. In social constructionist terms, the most ‘true’ stories are the most sustainable ones. I personally think that narratives must be simple and dynamic in order to become unconscious driving forces in a wide diversity of human beings.

Let me give you an example. Related to the narrative of ‘capitalism makes everyone richer’ is the narrative of ‘anyone can make it as an entrepreneur. All you have to do is work hard and believe in yourself’. Clearly this is bullshit, and creates hypocrisy, although thousands of YouTube videos would have you believe otherwise. Ability to succeed at running your own business depends very much on which country you live in, what kind of education you have had, etc etc. This is not to deny the value of individual self-belief, hard work and passion to make change (and some ecopreneurs I think, do make relatively positive change, if they are working ultimately towards supporting the six criteria of ethical consumption).

But this narrative can be subverted and rephrased to support relocalised, sustainable human culture, in a way which minimises hypocrisy. This could also be called ‘ethical marketing’. Try, ‘anyone can make it as a productive local community member. All you have to do is work hard and believe in yourself’.  This is a thousand times more true than the equivalent entrepreneurial narrative. It may seem that I am making an obvious point. Perhaps I am, but it is also a profound one. If this alternative narrative were marketed in the right way, and to the right level, as part of a strategy of narrative re-telling and re-marketing in general across society, significant cultural shifts could be achieved, and many aspiring entrepreneurs could be subverted to support community and Nature. The point is, it is not enough to perpetuate this narrative in the same old ‘alternative’ circles. (Although it is fine to do that.) For a smooth Transition / Descent to a relocalised post-corporate-capitalist culture, there is a clear need for some of us to challenge dominant oppressive narratives more thoroughly by engaging with the whole contemporary marketing system and subverting it. This is about using a very powerful tool, while we still have it, to reach as many people as possible, to lessen the potentially increasing hardship inherent in our current civilisation reaching its natural limits.

This implies accumulating capital, in as ethical a way as possible, to fund the ubiquitous telling of these new integrative stories. However, perhaps so much capital may not be needed. With the rise of social media and near zero marginal cost of online content creation and sharing across the internet, narratives such as ‘anyone can make it as a productive local community member’ can be spread as never before, and indeed this is beginning to happen. To truly challenge and integrate dominant oppressive narratives however, and win over audiences, the new narratives must mimic (and perhaps gently mock) the old narratives, and the way that the old narratives have been told, as closely as possible. It is common business knowledge -and true- that it is notoriously difficult / unwise to try to change a potential customer’s behaviour. The key to gaining customers / audience members is ‘giving them more of what they want’ or in this context ‘giving them a more sustainable version of what they want’. This cannot be done by telling people that their current consumption habits or entrepreneurial aspirations are wrong. Not without giving them clear and attractive alternatives.

I would like to bring up my concept of ‘Deep Story Telling’ here. Deep Story Telling acknowledges that the underlying narrative complex in society is perpetuated across all social interactions and in the entire physical human-made environment, including the online and virtual environments. The re-telling of narratives and the telling of new ones, to support Transition, means story-telling on the level of the conscious reconstruction of language, including the phraseology of the everyday, the reconstruction of how we associate and understand ourselves as social human beings (including online), the reconstruction of economics, and the embedding of positive sustainable futures -epic tomorrows- in every building, and every object that we use.

This is an exciting opportunity for all of us to create literary, artistic, entrepreneurial and practical forms which obviously or subtly manifest a fresh and Nature-integrated narrative landscape. One that is permeated with truth i.e. deep sustainability. One that normalises a new kind of civilised human psyche which is not dependent on hypocrisy -such a moral psyche as has never before evolved. This moral narrative landscape must be shared online as much as possible, to subvert the dominant oppressive narratives. The hypocrisy of using an internet which may itself be unsustainable, can be acknowledged and integrated.

Finally, it is crucial that we live out the new story-complex as we create it. We cannot tell stories of relocalisation without at least beginning to relocalise ourselves. The great ecological advice for our times ‘think global, act local’ might be more helpfully redefined, for some of us doing this Deep work, as ‘think global, tell stories online, live them out locally’.

If, by telling these stories some of us are able to accumulate global capital, in order to redistribute it and further propagate sustainable Deep Story Telling, whilst at least living in a relocalised way some of the time ourselves, then I suggest that this could be a viable and noble path. We may have to sacrifice ourselves to hypocrisy more than we would like, in order to enable more of humanity to live sustainably and hypocrisy-free in the future.

 

 

 

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