Last Night I Dreamed I Went to Gilead Again…

OH and I have been catching up with The Handmaid’s Tale (series 3), that dystopian Biblical Black Mirror where patriarchy reasserts itself viciously and mercilessly, forcing women to assume one of three roles: wife, servant (‘Martha’) or handmaid. The crisis which spawns this is a critical fall in fertility rates and the grotesque solution is to bring a ‘handmaid’ – a fertile woman – into each family to breed for them. The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of one such woman, June (known as Offred and then Ofjoseph as they take the names of their owners) forced to reproduce for Commander Waterford and his family. This is brutal slavery with a Biblical varnish and unsurprisingly the thoughts of many, if not most, women turn to escape. Canada is just across the border.

No matter how plausible, The Handmaid’s Tale is of course fiction. Or so I thought… but it turns out Gilead is alive and thriving in a tiny corner of the US. I kind of wish I hadn’t come across The Transformed Wife’s blog but I did, and its vision of ‘Biblical Womanhood’ is basically Gilead minus the rape and violence. St Paul looms large in this scenario (whenever I go to a church which emphasises St Paul I run for cover) and is little more than unreconstructed dogma. This woman is not only against abortion – which is to be expected – but also against contraception. God is in charge of your womb apparently; no matter that the planet can’t afford more people, nor that there aren’t the resources to go around, you must keep having as many children as you can conceive. But don’t worry about the planet – I expect God has all that in hand too.*

The concept that God equals the patriarchal vision set out in the Bible is one feminists (and Quakers) have spent generations countering but here it is again. It reminds me of bindweed; no matter how many times you root it out, back it comes again. Ah well.

I will say one thing for the Transformed Wife though – unlike many people on the internet, she knows how to debate respectfully.

Kirk out

*as it happens I agree; I just think the plan might involve the extinction of our race (if we don’t reform). People’s notions of God are much to anthropocentric in my view.

Advertisements

Fifty Shades of Earl Grey

Since OH makes the tea in the morning and not only doesn’t understand tea but has difficulty with half-measures, I never quite know what I’m going to get.  Sometimes my morning cuppa is in the Goldilocks zone but more often there’s either too much water or too little, resulting in a watery mud-colour or else tea the shade of oak stained by decades of nicotine.  I can usually tell just by lifting the pot whether it’s right or not, and thereafter approach the act of pouring either with glee or with a due sense of trepidation.

OH is tempted to wonder whether the British have evolved to detect a greater spectrum of brown in order to discern whether our tea is of the correct strength.  It’s an appealing idea but as we’ve only been drinking tea for a couple of hundred years (and taking it black in the beginning) I think we wouldn’t have had time.  But who knows?  Maybe even as we speak I am part of that very process of evolution?

It’s been quite cold here in the mornings but by midday it’s warmed up to an unfeasible extent, resulting in a temperature hike of about fifteen degrees centigrade.  I’ve been taking advantage of this to dig the garden, turning soil while the sun shines (and boy does it shine!  Twenty degrees on Monday; I’m torn between enjoying it and being terrified by climate change) and so enhancing my ability to appreciate different shades of brown.  Spike Milligan certainly could, drowning in mud in Italy:

There’ll be brown birds over

the brown cliffs of Dover…

So who knows?  Maybe by a combination of gardening and tea-drinking we will have evolved to see fifty shades of brown by the end of the century.  If we survive that long…

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

In Like a Lemon, Out Like a Lamp

It’s March now and you know what they say about March: in like a lion, out like a lamb.  It certainly arrived in leonine fashion; in fact it was more like a snow-leopard than anything, what with the Beast from the East (not Putin) coinciding with Storm Emma (not of The Archers).  The whole shebang reminded me of how blessed we are in general to have the Gulf Stream, and how horrid things would be without it: for, though we are subject to bouts of unpredictability and flurries of inconsistency, the climate of the British Isles (excepting the Highlands and Islands) is generally mild.  With climate change summers have got longer and winters shorter; and whilst I enjoy hot weather it does naturally worry me; a propos of which I have just started reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ – a thorough and very influential guide to climate change and its deniers.

https://thischangeseverything.org/book/

As far as climate change denial is concerned, it is now on the level of ‘the moon landings were faked’ and not far off believing that the earth is flat.  The evidence is there for all to see; the polar ice-caps are shrinking, sea levels are rising, the sea is warming, habitats are vanishing and places like the Maldives are going under.  It takes some degree of mental contortion to disbelieve all of these facts, particularly when you consider that 97% of the world’s scientists agree that man-made climate change is a fact of life.  What’s more worrying is that the process of climate change may be exponential: that like the Fibonacci series I wrote about the other day (of which more anon) levels may not increase at the same rate but reach a ‘tipping-point’ beyond which recovery is all but impossible.

Now, I’m an optimist.  I’m a firm believer in the power of humanity to solve the problems it has created.  But in order to do this we need to believe that there is a problem: and climate-change deniers, especially when they are powerful politicians or global capitalists, are holding up progress in an utterly unconscionable way.

Enough.  We can do this, but everyone has to get on board.

Speaking of Fibonacci, I have planned the novel around the number sequence and, whilst I’m quite excited about this, it does pose some problems; namely, that the first chapters are very short and the last ones very long: it will also be a very long novel if I stick to the plan.  So I’m just going to go with it and see where I end up.  It’s exciting!

Kirk out

The Anti-Narnia

Far too much has been written about the over-commercialisation of Christmas.  People have been banging on about this ever since I can remember, but without success, for the phenomenon has now reached ridiculous lengths.  From the beginning of October I went through my Facebook news feed resolutely deleting everything that had a reference to Christmas and keeping it up until the actual beginning of Advent which this year fell on 30th November.  (Incidentally this reminds me of Nigel, the over-zealous curate in ‘Rev’ – can’t find the clip – who flounces into the office and announces ‘If I have to tell one more person it isn’t Christmas yet, it’s Advent, I shall go completely doo-lally!’)  I can’t remember exactly when the season of Christmas begins but I think it’s on Christmas Eve – and then it lasts, as the song says, twelve days after that.

But nowadays Christmas begins as soon as the summer holidays are over.  Barely is the harvest in; hardly have the children got their feet under a larger set of school desks, than the adverts begin.  You hear with dread the faint jingle of bells that announces the onset of yet another festive season; parents and teachers groan at the knowledge that they must deal with the children’s mounting excitement for another two and a half months before it can be discharged – and then the shopping begins.

Well – it seems to me that, with global warming, what we have here is the anti-Narnia.  The climate has changed so much; winters are now so much warmer than they were and Christmas so much longer, that we seem to be in a country that has fallen under the spell of some wicked wizard; a country where it’s Always Christmas and Never Winter.

I guess one advantage of not having money is that you can just ignore all the ads; the only offer I’ve been remotely tempted by is a subscription to Granta and sadly it’s too late to ask for that now.  Keep it simple is my philosophy: straightforward presents, not too many cards, and an easy Christmas meal without too many extras.  Enough food and wine to enjoy, presents under the tree and a few Xmas crackers – and I am content.

Would it were so easy to sort out global warming.  Then again, maybe it is: maybe if we apply the same criteria – cut out the extras, live more simply, have enough to enjoy and be content – we could find the answer.

Oh, and get me a subscription to Granta…

KO

Oh, No! It’s More Serious Than We Thought!

Yes, folks – the weather is so serious that it has necessitated a Topical Insert on the Archers!  You can’t get more serious than that… seriously, though, I am trying to spare thoughts for those who are flooded out.  I can’t begin to imagine how miserable that is, especially with little hope of improvement in the immediate future.  It has also brought out some vitriol on social media about the pros and cons of climate change.  Yes, there are still some deniers out there, although most people now accept that man-made climate change is a reality – or at the very least, a strong and serious probability.  My own view is this: though we may never be able to be 100% certain as to the causes, while we are continuing to do things that could contribute to it – and logically ought to contribute to it, such as deforestation, burning fossil fuels etc – we ought to take it seriously and stop doing those things as far as possible.  That’s a fairly moderate view, I’d have thought, but you wouldn’t believe the vitriol some people are capable of when ‘discussing’ the issue.  So I’ve reached a decision.  Lent’s coming up – and since I don’t overindulge in many things, I’ve decided to leave the chocolates and alcohol to take care of themselves; and for this year, I’m giving up Bad News.

Yep, that’s right: bad news.  There’s far too much of it out there.  It’s not only Facebook, it’s the mainstream media as well who focus on the negative whilst giving any positive news short shrift.  I don’t know why this should be, but it gives us a very skewed version of the world.  Every Third-World country is overrun by corruption and famine; every housing estate is sunk in crime and unemployment; every marriage is on the verge of break-up; every film-star is dysfunctional – and so on.

Not true!

So for the duration of Lent, which starts on March 5th, I will be swearing off mainstream news, de-activating my Facebook account and using the radio only for music.

You have been warned!

Oh, and I almost forgot – yesterday my review of the short story collection ‘Ideas Above our Station’ was published by Thresholds;

http://blogs.chi.ac.uk/shortstoryforum/ideas-above-our-station/

Now back to the weather…

Kirk out

The Warm War

I hope you are reading this at the right time.  I am writing it in GMT which is of course the Proper Time of Day from now until whenever it is that the clocks spring forward again.  Yes, BST is at an end; and we have all acted accordingly – but the weather doesn’t seem to have realised.  There’s no sign of winter yet, and autumn seems like a duller, damper and less leafier version of summer.  The more days we have without frost, the more anxious I feel about global warming.  I have nightmares, as I walk the streets in t-shirt and cagoul, about ice-caps melting, polar-bears dying, flood-plains flooding, and all the horrid plagues of disease and overcrowding and rats that will precede our eventual demise.

And yet… and yet – there is still hope.  Thirty years ago I was having similar nightmares about nuclear winter and the extinction of vast swathes of the planet – and that didn’t happen.  Does this mean we can just assume that worst-case scenarios in general are paranoid fantasies?  Can we carry on and laugh at the gloom-mongers?

Absolutely not.  There were various reasons why all-out nuclear war didn’t happen, and the main one, I contend, was the realisation that whatever the differences between communism and capitalism, it didn’t – and doesn’t – make sense to address them in this way.  Yes, there was the breakdown of communism and all that as well, I know.  But the fact that we drew back from the brink gives me hope.  Perhaps before long people will realise that everyone having a car is not sustainable; not only because it’s bad for the environment but because if everyone has a car and every car is on the road, no-one actually gets to go anywhere.  Perhaps before long people will realise that having the central heating and a gazillion kitchen gadgets is not a Good Idea.  Perhaps before long people will start to see reusing and recycling as positive options, not just necessary ones.

Things are starting to happen.  They’ve been starting to happen for a long time; we just need to carry on with them.  That way we can – at the risk of sounding like a hippy – live in harmony with the planet rather than being at war with it.  Because the warm war, like the cold war, has no winners at all.

Kirk out