Taking a LEAP: Alternatives to Money

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As I said yesterday, I’ve just finished reading ‘No is Not Enough’ (actually I have yet to read the end bit, which is the LEAP manifesto pictured above, an alternative manifesto with a number of broad-ranging suggestions to tackle climate change and deal with the excesses of global capitalism.  It refers to Canada but is applicable anywhere and everywhere.)

https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/

Klein hits the nail on the head, as always, by pointing out that attachment to money is at the root of this; and without coming over all biblical manages to say the same thing as the New Testament:

http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/6-10.htm

Money itself, as I have pointed out before, is neither real nor evil in itself.  It is morally neutral since money is a concept we have agreed to treat as if it were real for the purposes of exchanging goods and services.  So it strikes me that the way to destroy global capitalism (which god knows we need to do before it destroys us) is to undermine this attachment to money.  We can do this in any number of ways: by freecycling, by refusing to buy what we are sold, by helping each other out without asking for financial rewards and above all by refusing to regard money as the be-all and end-all of our existence.

For ten years now I have put my money where my mouth is by giving up paid employment in order to do what I love.  I have taken a leap off the cliff and tried to do the impossible – namely, to make money from writing – and I can’t claim to have succeeded yet.  But – and here’s the astonishing point – I have survived.  My health has not gone down the tubes; I haven’t starved, gone without adequate clothing, frozen to death or been homeless.  Whenever disaster has threatened to strike something has always come along: I’ve even managed some luxuries such as holidays, the odd bottle of wine and, in the last year, a car.  Much of this is due to the generosity of friends (and Friends) and family, but I hope those (F)friends and relatives would agree that there has been some kind of exchange here: in that I may not have money but I have time and energy to do things for others.

This is a phenomenon I’ve observed in other people who put their lives on the line to do what they love; that something always turns up.  I don’t even think you need to have some kind of religious faith for this to work; just the faith that comes from taking that leap off the cliff.  Every artist (unless they are born into money) has this same dilemma: how do I make a living and practise my art?  My view is that if you wait until you can afford it you’ll probably wait forever.  Take a leap of faith.

Living without money has taught me a lot.  In some ways it’s been a very hand-to-mouth existence but I think that central to survival is to think only of what you need today, here and now, and let tomorrow take care of itself. It has also brought a certain kind of freedom: an immunity to advertising.  There is no chance whatsoever of any advertising affecting me or tempting me to buy something I don’t need, because I don’t have the money.

At the same time I refuse to allow lack of money to limit my imagination.  I never tell myself ‘I can’t’ when an opportunity comes up, because maybe there’s a way that ‘I can.’  For example I can go to the Labour Party Conference in September because I’m going as a delegate and this will be paid for by the local party; and in the same way I’ve managed to go to lots of things for free because I’ve managed to access funding or because I’ve offered to do something in return.

It’s amazing what can happen when you look beyond the limitations of mere money and take a LEAP.

Kirk out

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A Negative is Insufficient, Captain

A while ago I told you I was reading Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ and promised a review; instead of which I’ve gone on to read ‘No Is Not Enough’, her response to Trumpism.  I shall attempt a sort of mopping-up of both books which I’m afraid will do neither of them justice – but if I don’t do it now some other ideas will come along and demand to be blogged about, because that’s what happens.

So: ‘This Changes Everything’ is a panoramic view of climate change; the science, the deniers, the evidence and most importantly the solutions.  The first section is hard to get through as it includes so many references to articles, speeches, scientific data etc that it’s like reading an academic paper.  This is presumably necessary, at least in the States where climate change deniers are out in force, though in Europe it’s generally accepted as fact, even if we haven’t quite taken it in yet: people are still going around saying how wonderful the weather is but nobody is saying how scary global warming is.

But once you get past that, the second and particularly the third sections are much more readable, and there’s an emphasis on ordinary people coming together to protect the environment; not only The Environment with a capital E but their own little neck of the woods: streams and rivers that are drying up or being polluted; land and houses that are flooded every year, bees and other insects that are dying (we wouldn’t last five minutes without the bees, and the idea that someone could build a tiny drone to do the same job is pure insanity.)  Capitalism is out of control and we need to bring it back.  The good news is – we can.

It’s kind of the same story with ‘No is Not Enough,’ although the book, being more quickly produced, lacks the dense research of the other (this for me was a plus.)  It follows a similar format: first the problem, then the solutions.  The problem is of course unfettered capitalism which means (and has always meant) unfettered greed.  Trump is a symptom rather than the cause of this, and to some extent is the puppet of those who have a much clearer idea of what they’re doing politically (though Trump is quite capable of being greedy and selfish on his own account: in fact there’s not much he isn’t capable of.  His recent visit to our shores filled me with disgust: apparently before he was refused a state visit he demanded a ride in the Queen’s gold carriage!)  The problem is quite simply that of prioritising money above all else: above human rights, above the planet, above the greater good – above everything.  There are people who actually believe they can pollute the planet and then swan off in a spaceship to start a colony somewhere else.  This, too, is pure insanity (I feel a short story coming on).  The solution, once again, lies in people coming together, and the third section of the book outlines the ‘yes’ or many possible ‘yeses’ which are a much more powerful response to greed and destruction.  She cites stories of people opening their doors to refugees, standing with Muslims, rehiring workers sacked for protesting – and many more such acts.  These movements exist both alongside and outside political parties, and although they may ultimately need government (or something like it) to implement policy, the impetus is coming from below.  We need more of this in the UK: we need more of it everywhere.

We’ve had enough of dystopia.  It’s time to try utopia.

Trump out!

Kirk out

Reseeding Hairline

I’m engaged in a battle.  Just like every man with male pattern baldness, I have my own problem, which I call lawn pattern baldness: for there are patches in my lawn where any sort of grass refuses to grow.  At first I thought it was easy to solve: I went into B&Q and bore home in triumph a pack of ‘lawn patch reseeder.’  What could be more perfect; more thoroughly do what it said on the tin?  I read the instructions carefully as the first instruction was to read the instructions carefully (this goes against the grain as my usual practice is to do so when all else fails) – and they said to churn up the surface with a fork and then spread seed to a depth of 2 mm.  What was not clear was whether the seeds should be 2 mm under the soil or should themselves cover a depth of 2 mm.  Uncertain, I opted for the second and tied some black cotton across should any birds feel the urge to help themselves.  I watered the patches religiously with a twice-daily shower, and waited.  The grass grew lush and tall all around the patches, but on them – nothing.  Not a hair.  ‘Well,’ I thought to myself, ‘maybe you are supposed to cover the seeds with 2 mm of earth.’  I duly got out the packet and buried another lot of seeds under 2 mm of earth.  Water as before; wait.  The grass around grew ever taller and greener but when I finally parted it and looked under – nothing.  The patches were stubbornly bare.

So now I’m searching for a cure for lawn pattern baldness.  Any ideas?

Kirk out

PS  I note that a couple of weeks ago I expressed a desire to read ‘No is Not Enough’ by Naomi Klein and just thought I’d let you know that I am now reading it.  I’ll post a review at some point when I come across this post and note that I’ve promised you a review…

 

Rasputin on Sousaphone, Gorbachev on Tea-Tray…

Sometimes this blog goes a bit whimsical and it seems that today is one of those days.  Pausing only to have an inconclusive conversation with OH about the correct spelling of Gorbachev (there isn’t one because it’s in Cyrillic) we head off into the wardrobe of my soul, in the section labelled ‘shirts’.  Yes, we are in the wonderful country of the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonzo_Dog_Doo-Dah_Band

In the original song Adolf Hitler played the sousaphone, but it is entirely in the anarchic spirit of the Bonzo Band to have Rasputin step onto the stage and be accompanied by Gorbachov (or ‘ev’) or anyone else you fancy.  Let’s have Marie Curie on drums, Mother Theresa on bagpipes, Billy Connolly on backing vocals (‘if it wasnae fur yur wellies’)  Let’s have the Vicar of Dibley on pipes and Pope Francis on the tin whistle; Martina Navratilova on keyboards, Boris Johnson on trombone, Jamie Oliver on piano-accordion, Clarissa Dixon-Wright on cymbals, Sue Barker on vocals and John Humhrys on doo-wops.  We can have whoever we want, because it’s our fantasy bonzo-dog doo-dah band.  We’ll have Harrison Ford on the wurlitzer, Theresa May on the mixing desk, Maggie Smith on the hosepipe, Michael Fish on thunderboard, and of course a special appearance by Donald Trump as the wind in the bagpipes.

It’s that sort of day…

Kirk out

 

Return to Didcot

Didcot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didcot) is one of those names that’s funny in itself, like Bognor, Cleethorpes, Chipping Sodbury and of course Cockfosters.  A Didcot (OH has just sneezed on me.  When I thanked him for that he said, ‘but we’re always exchanging mucus.’)  Anyway, a Didcot is a small circle of paper which springs out of a hole-puncher such as guards on trains used to have when they clipped your ticket.  According to where they punched it you could have a nice neat hole near the edge or else a semicircular bite taken raggedly from the edge as if a tiny and very hungry dinosaur had been at it (why a dinosaur?  Don’t ask me, I just write the stuff…)

http://tmoliff.blogspot.com/2012/02/didcot-n.html

But Didcot has a particular resonance for OH and me, because of a weekend away.  I don’t remember where we went but we were rowing (rowing in a boat, not having an argument).  At least, I was rowing and OH was trailing one hand languidly in the water, since I learned to row as a child and OH is absolutely hopeless: left in charge of the oars he would go round in circles before letting in water and slowly sinking.  Anyway, I quite enjoy rowing so there we were and it was lovely and languid and peaceful until… (cue sinister music) The Guides.

If you want to read the full grizzly story, it’s here:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/mighty-mighty-didcot/

I’m off now to paint the Forth Bridge… at least, that’s what it feels like

Kirk out

Who is James Tiptree Jr and Why is He Awarding Things?

So yesterday went by and towards the end of it OH casually lobbed into the conversation that he ‘might be in with a chance for the James Tiptree Jr award.’

https://tiptree.org/

‘When did you hear that?’ I asked, surprised that he mentioned it then because he wasn’t anywhere near a computer.

‘Oh, first thing this morning,’ he announced airily.

I mean, for god’s sake!  What does a spouse have to do to be kept in the loop these days?

The announcement isn’t till later in the year so I’ll keep you posted.  No more now because I’ve been busy with decorating.

Kirk out

Are We Diverse? And If Not, Why Not?

From time to time white, middle-class organisations (like Quakers) ask themselves why they are white and middle-class.  They bemoan the lack of BME and working-class members (though they are perhaps not so keen on attracting the aristocracy).  It seems to be the sole preserve of the middle-classes to deprecate themselves: I never went to a majority working-class event where people were wringing their hands and saying ‘we’re so working-class!’

But in the world of publishing it’s worse, because a row has blown up over Penguin Random House’s diversity statement which commits the organisation to ‘reflect the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.’  It all sounds highly laudable, particularly in an industry that is presumably dominated by white middle-class males.  But is it?  Should publishers try to ‘reflect’ society or should they just publish the best, regardless of where it comes from?

There’s an issue here, which is that of unconscious bias.  An editor may think they are unbiassed but research has shown that women get published more easily if they use either a male pseudonym or initials.  You are probably more likely to be published if you have a Western name rather than an African or Asian name: Hanif Kureishi (who as I never cease to remind you started me off with this blog) was told that ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ would have had no problem being produced if the characters had been white.  Surely it’s a laudable thing to try to address all these unconscious prejudices?

Well, yes.  But the danger is that you get involved in quotas and box-ticking, which as a short-term measure can perhaps have some value but only as a stepping-stone to genuine open-mindedness and lack of bias.  And this is a hard goal to achieve.  Much easier to get some quotas and issue a press release telling everyone how diverse you are.

Enter Lionel Shriver who, in an article for the Spectator lambasts this policy of Penguin/Random in several hundred sneering words.  Shriver may have a point – that excellence is found with an open mind, not with tick-boxes – but the tone of the piece is snide and sarcastic and the argument lost in rhetoric:

‘We can safely infer… that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling.’

Surely she can do better than this?  I would put it another way; that talent should be recognised and acknowledged no matter where it comes from; that we all have unconscious biases in terms of which groups we are likely to regard as talented, and that we all need to open our minds and keep them open.  I know it’s the Spectator but she could have done the job so much better.

Here’s the article anyway:

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/when-diversity-means-uniformity/

and here’s the Penguin statement:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/creative-responsibility/inclusion/

Kirk out