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

28 Degrees and Counting…

It’s Hot here in the UK: nearly 30 degrees in some places which counts as Hot with a capital H.  I’m finding myself adjusting to Spanish rhythm, by which I don’t mean a salsa or a rumba but a slower, more leisurely approach to the day.  No rushing, no running, no stress; plenty of rest and plenty of fluids.  I am only thankful on days like these that I don’t live in Hounslow any more: being four miles from Heathrow the noise and pollution were intolerable and now they are set to get worse as the Commons approves a third runway.  Not only is the village of Harmondsworth set to be demolished but the traffic, both terrestrial and airborne, will increase hugely.  All this when London traffic is already largely at a standstill and when we have regions crying out for development.  A bad, bad decision.

But far worse was the utterly despicable cowardice of Boris Johnson.  Following his triumph with the infamous £350 million bus:

Image result for £350 million a week bus

he followed this up by saying that if the third runway were approved he would ‘lie down in front of the bulldozers’ (a sight we were all looking forward to).  Instead, what did he do?  He avoided the vote by skipping out of the country – to Afghanistan, of all places! *

He is now facing calls to resign:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/heathrow-boris-johnson-third-runway-vote-aiport-parliament-afghanistan-kabul-foreign-secretary-a8416471.html

To be fair the first part of his statement was accurate: he would lie.  He would lie about his intentions, he would lie about his loyalties and he would lie about having a prior commitment.  It’s very clear where Boris Johnson’s loyalties – erm, lie – they lie with Boris Johnson.  The man is a weasel and he should resign.  The sooner the better.

Kirk out 

*not that I’m suggesting Afghanistan is a place unworthy of a visit under normal circumstances

The Devil is in the Retail

The title of this post came to me at 5 o’clock this morning, and I immediately started to construct a post in my mind, centred around this question: what is the biggest threat to Christmas?  It’s not Muslims: Jesus is a prophet in Islam and most Muslims are quite happy to go along with celebrating Christmas in a minor sort of way.  It’s not Sikhs or Hindus or Jews or those of any other religion.  It’s not even militant atheists like Richard Dawkins.  Nope, it’s our good ol’ friend commercialism, who, the minute a religious festival pops up rubs his hands together, sets up a stall and starts cashing in.

Of course this is nothing new: from the money-changers in the temple to medieval purveyors of religious relics, people have always tried to cash in on religion; but I am starting to feel a little like Jesus.  What with Black Friday and Christmas starting in October and all the relentless shopping, I’m itching to get in there and do whatever is the modern equivalent of overturning the tables.

Our Christmas has cost about £250 in all; including food, presents, cards and decorations.  Now I’m not saying ideally I wouldn’t have liked to spend a bit more, but I’m not convinced that if I had it would, to quote Jane Austen, have added considerably to my happiness – or anyone else’s.

Anyway, today is the solstice, which is a time for acknowledging the darkness while remembering the light; a time for lighting candles rather than cursing the dark; a time for reflection.  It is hard to recall now that Advent (which continues until Christmas Eve) is traditionally a time of fasting rather than manic shopping and endless parties.

So this Christmas as well as thinking of the homeless and empoverished, spare a thought for those who think Christmas comes from a store.  Because they are truly the poorest of the poor…

Kirk out

 

Is There Life Without Money?

Recently, as I may have mentioned, I’ve been reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; an account of his time living deliberately in a cabin in the woods.  I used to have a cabin in the woods and although I wasn’t legally permitted to live there, I did stay there quite deliberately.  My days in the woods were times of living slowly; of contemplating, thinking, writing and walking.  It taught me a lot about what I take for granted; about what I can and can’t do without.  Above all it taught me to value water: when all you have is a five-gallon container which needs to be filled from a tap a hundred yards away, you learn to treasure every drop of the stuff.

Thoreau includes meticulous accounts in Walden, of how much it cost him to raise his barn and plant his crops; how much it cost him to live there once he’d settled in.  It’s a little different in rural Leicestershire where my cabin was already ‘raised’ so I had to buy it as well as paying ground rent twice a year for services such as water and use of the toilet block.  There were no shops nearby, which also taught me to value what I had, especially during those times when I was up there without a car.

But the one thing I couldn’t live without was money.  And there’s the rub: plenty of people have tried, but those who succeeded the best were either able to survive at a very basic level, or those who started off with a great deal of land in the first place.  I did once know some rather hippyish people who maintained that money comes to those who believe; and that if you have faith you can simply reach out and pluck money from the air.

Hm.

I have to report that for a while one of these people ended up living in a horse box in a field…

Since deciding to write full-time I have had basically no income.  Fortunately I am married, so I share my partner’s income.  Unfortunately it isn’t very big.  Fortunately we have generous friends and relatives (some of them) who help us.  Unfortunately we can’t rely on that happening.  And there are times when you find yourself at the bottom of a very dry pit.

But I chose this life.  I could have stayed a teacher; I could have carried on running teacher training courses.  Sure, I’d be miserable – but I’d have an income.  The ones I feel sorry for are those who don’t have that choice: the homeless, the unemployed – or, these days, the slightly-employed: cleaners who have to get up at four to clean offices and get home before the children go to school.  The disregarded.  The despised.  Because my life has two huge compensations: one, I’m happy doing what I’m doing – and two, there’s every chance that it will get better.

So do one thing this Christmas to help.  Donate to a food bank.  Buy the Big Issue.  Offer a sandwich to a homeless person.  Help out at a shelter.  Or just smile at someone and wish them a happy Christmas.

Kirk out

Oh, So We’re All Americans Now? Not This Baby!

So today is Black Friday.  What?  What the hell is that?  I’ve heard of Good Friday and Friday the Thirteenth Parts One to Ten-and-a-half but I absolutely refuse to know anything What So Ever about Black Friday.  It has no meaning here.  It is a hollow import which some traders have latched onto to sell Even More Stuff because, let’s face it, Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night just ain’t enough to fill the gap between holidays and Christmas.  I’m daily expecting some marketing whizz to come up with a selling point for Michaelmas (29th September) so that once the stocks of school uniforms (pens, pads, textbooks) are exhausted we can all buy – well, whatever it is they might come up with.  I mean, why should September miss out when January has holidays, February Valentine’s, March and April Easter eggs, May and June gardening and July and August family holidays?  October has Hallowe’en and November Guy Fawkes, after (or during) which Christmas begins.  And what has September got?

It’s just not right.

But in spite of everyone in the world wanting to be American (according to my friend in Iowa anyway) many of us resist these imports.  It is not part of our culture; it has no relevance to our habits and my hope is that like a Bonfire Night sparkler, it will have but a short time to live before it withers and dies.

In my youth it was fashionable to look to America for a lead: it was still a young country (or we thought of it as such) and in the vanguard of popular culture.  But now many of us regard Uncle Sam as a bloated, overindulged, gas-guzzling, obese, intolerant figure – and don’t even get me started on Trump.  Sorry guys but I’d prefer Tierra del Fuego or the Isle of Lewis to most parts of the US.  I mean, you have no publicly funded health system (and what little Obama managed to scrape through is rapidly being dismantled) you have far too many guns and no BBC.  So thanks, but no thanks.

(On the other hand, you do have some stonking literature: see previous post –

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/i-went-to-the-library-because-i-wanted-to-read-deliberately/)

Kirk out

I Went to the Library Because I Wanted to Read Deliberately…

I have never read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, though of course I have heard of it – and now that I come to it I’m ashamed I took so long.  We Brits are scandalously behind when it comes to reading American literature: of course we read Henry James and have a stab at Hemingway and Pound (aren’t Pound and Eliot more British in spirit anyway?) but as for me, I am terribly behind on my US classics, only coming to Walt Whitman late and never having touched Faulkner.

All is not lost! for I am only sixty and it is probable that many years remain in which I can rectify these omissions.  In that spirit, I went to the library and happened upon Walden which, though I have only read fifty or so pages, has already blown my mind.

First, I never knew that there were so many quotations in it – for just as every line in Withnail and I is quotable, so every page of Thoreau has something in it that you didn’t know came from thence.  On the first page I read a line familiar to me from Dead Poets’ Society:

‘I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately.’ *

That idea of living  deliberately, thoughtfully, not just being swept along by the mainstream, is very appealing – though it does of course mean living a very stripped-down life.  Still it’s good to question which of the things you regard as necessary to life actually are.  Is a car necessary?  Is a job necessary?  And if so why?  You may come to the conclusion in the end that you do in fact need all these things; but at least you’ll have thought about it: and as we all know, the unexamined life is not worth living.  (That’s Socrates, not Thoreau, but still.)

A few pages later I came upon this:

‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the  music which he hears…’

Everyone knows that line, as well as this one:

‘most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’

I had no idea that Thoreau was the source of these; and now I do, I want to read more.  I’ll keep you updated as I go…

Kirk out

*I guess Thoreau didn’t go on holiday by mistake?