Developing Nations: An Occident Waiting to Happen

I wish I had a fascinating post for you on the subject of developing nations but alas, all I have is a pun which occurred to me this morning, that developing nations are an occident waiting to happen.  If I were so inclined I could deconstruct the whole notion of ‘development’ and the assumption that it is not only necessary and good but inevitable; that underdeveloped nations must be developed as soon as possible (which means their natural resources being seized for the benefit of others and their people being forced to work for the economy) and that ‘developing’ or ’emerging’ nations must be hurried along to join the top table.  Of course, we don’t want them to develop too fast otherwise they’ll be in competition with us: just enough so that we can exploit their resources and sell them lots of stuff.

But there’s a problem with this narrative; a problem which goes to the heart of the question ‘what is the right way to live?’  Very often I come across people on social media advocating a certain lifestyle which harks back to a golden age: the paleo diet, for example, from the pre-agricultural era, or the idea that we are ‘really’ designed to be hunter-gatherers.  So what is the right way to live?  The other day I came across a post about free houses in Wales.  The Welsh government will allow people to build their own houses without paying for the land.  Great.  Ah, but there’s a catch.  You have to be self-sufficient and carbon-neutral within five years.  The carbon-neutral thing might not be such a tall order; after all, there are carbon-neutral houses already in existence.  But self-sufficiency is altogether another order of tallness.  My sister and her husband are semi self-sufficient in Wales, and I’ve seen the amount of unremitting daily work which that involves.  To be fully self-sufficient is a heck of a tall order.  Think about what you eat in a typical day: protein (meat or otherwise: if otherwise you have to grow a ton of pulses) veg, milk, cheese (or their vegan equivalents, again usually made from soy) bread, margarine or butter, tea, coffee… I could go on and on.  The thought of total self-sufficiency totally does my head in.  But maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way: maybe you need to look at what you can produce and focus on living on that.  But I wouldn’t want to.  I can’t post the link at the moment but if you look up sustainable self-build in Wales you should find it.

The trouble with the search for a golden age is that every age has its problems.  There’s no point in history where everything was perfect until some horrible people came along to spoil it.  Negative things have certainly taken place (the enclosures, the first factories, slavery) but things were not perfect before (though I’m sure they were a damn sight better for the slaves).  The industrial revolution led to much misery for workers, but how much better off were they when they worked the land?  None of us is immune from harking back to some golden age: there’s also a feminist utopia (a sort of anti-Gilead) in the concept of a prehistorical matriarchy.  There’s even some evidence for the hypothesis, though it’s not very strong.  Here’s a rather long but excellent analysis:

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/e/eller-myth.html

Besides, helpful though it is to think beyond the current paradigm to other possible worlds, there do actually exist some matriarchal societies today.  They are small and tribal but still they survive and some do seem to practise a kind of equality:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/31274/6-modern-societies-where-women-literally-rule

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

image removed on request

So whether matriarchy was actually prevalent or not in prehistory, the idea helps us to imagine other possibilities, since oppression is usually founded in the dogma that ‘there is no alternative.’  This underpins austerity, and the general idea of economic growth.

Which brings us neatly back to where we started…

Kirk out

PS For some reason the Welsh link has posted below…

 

 

 

 

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I Think You Ought to Know

The character known as the paranoid android, aka Marvin in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was fond of saying ‘I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.’  Eeyore has similar conversational openers although he is more adept at emotional manipulation (‘we can’t all have houses’, ‘very natural, and it was only Eeyore’s tail.  But still I wondered.’)

But when I’m feeling depressed I have a dilemma – to talk about it or not to talk about it?  I’m only too aware from certain miserablist individuals of my acquaintance of the total downer it can be when you subject others to your own depression; I’m also aware of the potential value of thinking and acting positive.  But then again there’s the need to talk about it, not to be in denial.  So what to do?

It seems to me that there’s an optimum amount of expression required.  Naturally I tell my dear OH when I’m feeling down and OH is always concerned and wanting to help.  But whilst it’s a relief to get it off your chest I’m aware that feeling better is largely down to me.  Fortunately most of the time I can find something that works: watching a comedy, digging the garden, going for a walk, reading a book.  Equally important is avoiding things that bring me down: listening to the news, reading Facebook, thinking about the future.

Food and drink can also help: eating good, fresh food gives you energy but there’s nothing to beat chocolate.  I avoid alcohol as it’s a known depressant.  Sleeping properly also helps; unfortunately this is not under my complete control and sometimes everything I try fails – or at least only succeeds partially.  I can drink my chamomile and swig my herbal sleep mix and put on my sleep CD and still stay awake for ages.  It’s very annoying.  It’s as if there’s a part of my brain that resists all efforts to put it to sleep.  This part of my brain is like a recalcitrant toddler and insists on being awake no matter what I do.  

In my previous incarnation as a yoga teacher I used to teach groups of depressed people.  I would always focus on active postures; plenty of movement, no contemplation or meditation and some high-up music like this:

video removed on request

High notes seem to reach a part of the brain associated with euphoria; there are better tracks than this but I don’t know what they’re called so I can’t find them.

I’m off now to buy some salad stuff and chocolate biscuits…

Kirk out

What Comes After Sunday?

What comes after Sunday?  When you’ve had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and all the rest and come round to Sunday again – what comes next?  Another Monday?  Impossible.  These may be the feelings of one having to go to a loathed job for yet another week in order to pay a few bills (‘out of proportion,’ as Philip Larkin so sagely observed) – they are also the reactions of one having read the entire Frieda Klein series from ‘Blue Monday’ right through to ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ and wondering, what next?  Where can we possibly go now?

https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/frieda-klein-books-in-order/

‘Day of the Dead’ is the answer to this.  I said, having finished the ‘Sunday’ volume, that it was impossible for them to leave it that way, and so it was: ‘Day of the Dead’ was announced last month (at least to me it was; I expect insiders knew this was coming months ago) and I immediately put my name down for a library copy, knowing that I would otherwise have to wait for the paperback to come out as I’d ascertained from Waterstones that the hardback would cost upwards of £16.

I was already fifth on the list and so expected September to have largely passed before I got my hands on it, but lo! ‘Day of the Dead’ was waiting for me on Monday (I got the email on Sunday and spent an impatient 24 hours before the library opened) and as I’d predicted, within another 24 hours I’d read the damned thing.  Fortunately Nicci French’s books stand more than one reading, in fact I’ve read most of them several times; once breathlessly to reveal the plot and then to think about such things as character and description and to savour the world which the novelists evoke.  This world is I think the best thing about the books; all but one are set in London, and at the centre of this world is Frieda’s house, her haven.  But this haven is destroyed when the body of a murdered policeman is found under the floorboards and so the dance of death which began on Monday, continues.  As I wrote in my review of ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’:

(https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/sunday-morning-coming-down-review/)

Frieda is propelled into exile by these events; not only the policeman’s murder but by attacks on all her friends which are designed to distress her to the utmost, since Frieda is a fundamentally unselfish person.  Behind the attacks is the shadowy figure of Dean Reeve, a man whom police believe to be dead but who Frieda finally convinces them is alive, having murdered his twin brother and taken his identity.  At last the police are on the case – but can they or someone else solve it before Frieda herself is discovered and murdered?  The dance can only end in death – but whose death will it be?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.  I don’t do spoilers – at least, not till a book’s been out a while.

Kirk out

Whose Lion is it Anyway?

I always forget about Radio 4xtra (I think that’s how you spell it, though that looks as if it ought to be pronounced ‘fourkstra’) when I’m thinking about stuff to listen to.  I find myself longing for radio shows of yesterweek and forgetting that they are probably all there on Radio 4’s sister station.  Radio 4, for all its faults, is the best of speech radio and on long wave it has the best-loved programme of all, the shipping forecast (this makes it into one of my ‘Brexit Quartet’ of poems which I’ve written this week):

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qfvv

That’s a link to the shipping forecast, not to my poems – but I have to say, writing four poems in two days takes some beating.  Anyway, back to the title which came to me in the middle of the night.  I’ve learned from repeated experience that it’s important to write these things down when they come otherwise a) they will repeat in your mind for ages and b) you won’t remember them in the morning – which is the worst of both worlds.  So, whose lion is it anyway?

Of course I am in the same position as whoever-it-was who, when asked about a comment they’d written, said ‘when I wrote that only two people knew what it meant – God and me.  Now, only God knows.’ 

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7245194-when-i-wrote-this-only-god-and-i-understood-what

Well, perhaps god knows what the lion meant, because I sure as hell don’t: all I have are some associated thoughts.  Let’s see where they take us:

First, some bright yellow chevrons outside a primary school in Leicester with lots of signs saying ‘Don’t park on the yellow lions.’  I think this is a great idea and much more likely to succeed as seeming to come from the children rather than a remote and ineffectual authority.  A similar idea can be seen by the crossing outside Avenue School in a different part of the city where life-sized models of children are standing by the road, and it brings you up short – every time.  Because adults are guilty of forgetting what it’s like to be child-sized; and as Dumbledore said, ‘Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young.’  We have all been children, yet how easily we forget and park on the yellow lions!  So I think it’s clear – the lions belong to the children.

There!  That did take us somewhere.  I shall call it ‘taking a lion for a walk’:

Image result for paul klee taking a line for a walk ks2

Oh!  and, duh! the thing that started it all off was thinking about the show ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Whose_Line_Is_It_Anyway%3F_(radio_series)&_%28radio_series%29=

Kirk out

There Must Be Dialogue

Sunday viewing in our house is always catching up on ‘Casualty’ (unless we watched it the night before) plus the unmissable ‘Handmaid’s Tale’.  I shall hold off on a review until the end of the series; all I’ll say right now is that its reputation for tense, unpredictable and thrilling drama is by no means exaggerated.  It’s a tribute to the makers that they’ve managed not only to maintain the level of drama of the original story but to build on it and ramp up the tension to an almost unbearable degree.

Meanwhile, since it’s impossible in our house to watch programmes without talking, here’s a smattering of recent conversations.  Incidentally, in my view there’s an optimal level of talking while watching TV: not so much as to interrupt the drama but enough so as not to feel silenced (this level of course varies with the programme: the bar is set quite high with ‘Casualty’ but low with ‘Handmaid’s Tale.’)

So it was that during an outbreak of cystic fibrosis in Holby ED, OH happened to mention, ‘I always think of cystic fibrosis whenever I use our yeast extract.’

Pausing only to grab my phone and record the utterance on Facebook, I continued with the drama, but later saw this ‘explanation’:

‘It’s low-salt and not as spready as Marmite. Reminds me of the higher viscosity of mucus caused by the poor transport of chloride ions across membranes in cystic fibrosis because salt includes chloride ions too.’

Yeah, we’ve all had that thought… he followed it up with this little gem:

‘Why do you think they replaced voiced consonants with the glottal stop? I mean, how did that happen?’

Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up – unlike ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’; or so we hope, since a defining feature of the drama is that no-one is free to voice their thoughts.  Offred/June has to show her reactions rather than telling them (Elisabeth Moss does this brilliantly) and the wives can no more voice their feelings than the handmaids, being just as much victims in this gruesome drama.  Even the Commander is playing a role and has to indulge any deviant desires in secret: the architects of this hell are in it just as much as its victims.  And unlike ‘Casualty’ where as soon as you see a car you know it’s going to crash, you have absolutely no idea what will happen next.

Three more episodes.  Sunday nights will never be the same…

Oh, and since I haven’t mentioned this before I’ll mention now that I was mentioned in dispatches (ie the Loughborough Echo) along with Baroness Chakrabarti:

No automatic alt text available.

Kirk out

Taking a LEAP: Alternatives to Money

FB-share-whale

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

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