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Julius Kondratyev
Julius Kondratyev

Manifesto The Internal Revolution How To Get What You Want Without Trying Barefoot Doctor BETTER

Despite arguments to the contrary, the Transition movement, the foragers, the industrial scavengers, the adapters and those who are planting gardens are the ones I want near to me. I mean, if we are really done. I have no intention of trying to eat my AK-47. I want the people close by who can figure out how to saddle a horse, make shoes for marching out of old tires, forage for new uses for old cars, whatever.

Manifesto The Internal Revolution How to Get What You Want without Trying Barefoot Doctor

Discouraging the small-scale individual actions, because this is really what the message of the article is doing, despite the disclaimers, is a bizarre message if one is trying to effect societal change. Action must begin somewhere, and ultimately it will end up where it starts: locally. Something like 40% of fruits and vegetables consumed by the public during WWII were grown in backyard gardens. That is a very significant fact, and those gardens were nurtured by individuals who asserted their power over their own lives and grew at least a portion of their own food. If they had believed the kind of argument presented in the article they never would have started. Also, they did it because they believed (correctly, I would say) that they were doing so as an act of supporting a societal goal, not because it was something they wanted to do as some kind of solipsistic self-gratification.

I find the article and the comments enlightening. I think Jensen brings very valid arguments about this issue. What I find intriguing though is how everyone posting seem to consider the US situation in isolation without taking into account the other players in this ecological disaster game: the rest of the world. Yes, you can blame the industrial economy but what are the alternatives to the industrial economy? That is the question that I keep asking myself and which makes me go from website to blogs to forums without finding an answer. What about the emerging economies trying to model themselves after the industrialized countries? What about China?

Meanwhile the war against Franco continues, but, except for thepoor devils in the front-line trenches, nobody in Government Spainthinks of it as the real war. The real struggle is betweenrevolution and counter-revolution; between the workers who arevainly trying to hold on to a little of what they won in 1936, andthe Liberal-Communist bloc who are so successfully taking it awayfrom them. It is unfortunate that so few people in England have yetcaught up with the fact that Communism is now acounter-revolutionary force; that Communists everywhere are inalliance with bourgeois reformism and using the whole of theirpowerful machinery to crush or discredit any party that shows signsof revolutionary tendencies. Hence the grotesque spectacle ofCommunists assailed as wicked 'Reds' by right-wing intellectualswho are in essential agreement with them. Mr Wyndham Lewis, forinstance, ought to love the Communists, at least temporarily. InSpain the Communist-Liberal alliance has been almost completelyvictorious. Of all that the Spanish workers won for themselves in1936 nothing solid remains, except for a few collective farms and acertain amount of land seized by the peasants last year; andpresumably even the peasants will be sacrificed later, when thereis no longer any need to placate them. To see how the presentsituation arose, one has got to look back to the origins of thecivil war.

The truth is that Dickens's criticism of society is almostexclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructivesuggestion anywhere in his work. He attacks the law, parliamentarygovernment, the educational system and so forth, without everclearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course itis not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, tomake constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens'sattitude is at bottom not even destructive. There is no clear signthat he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that hebelieves it would make very much difference if it wereoverthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as'human nature'. It would be difficult to point anywhere in hisbooks to a passage suggesting that the economic system is wrongas a system. Nowhere, for instance, does he make any attackon private enterprise or private property. Even in a book likeOur Mutual Friend, which turns on the power of corpses tointerfere with living people by means of idiotic wills, it does notoccur to him to suggest that individuals ought not to have thisirresponsible power. Of course one can draw this inference foroneself, and one can draw it again from the remarks aboutBounderby's will at the end of Hard Times, and indeed fromthe whole of Dickens's work one can infer the evil oflaissez-faire capitalism; but Dickens makes no suchinference himself. It is said that Macaulay refused to reviewHard Times because he disapproved of its 'sullen Socialism'.Obviously Macaulay is here using the word 'Socialism' in the samesense in which, twenty years ago, a vegetarian meal or a Cubistpicture used to be referred to as 'Bolshevism'. There is not a linein the book that can properly be called Socialistic; indeed, itstendency if anything is pro-capitalist, because its whole moral isthat capitalists ought to be kind, not that workers ought to berebellious. Bounder by is a bullying windbag and Gradgrind has beenmorally blinded, but if they were better men, the system would workwell enough that, all through, is the implication. And so far associal criticism goes, one can never extract much more from Dickensthan this, unless one deliberately reads meanings into him. Hiswhole 'message' is one that at first glance looks like an enormousplatitude: If men would behave decently the world would bedecent.

However, there is more than one kind of irresponsibility. As arule, writers who do not wish to identify themselves with thehistorical process at the moment either ignore it or fight againstif. If they can ignore it, they are probably fools. If they canunderstand it well enough to want to fight against it, theyprobably have enough vision to realize that they cannot win. Look,for instance, at a poem like 'The Scholar Gipsy', with its railingagainst the 'strange disease of modern life' and its magnificentdefeatist simile is the final stanza. It expresses one of thenormal literary attitudes, perhaps actually the prevailing attitudeduring the last hundred years. And on the other hand there are the'progressives', the yea-sayers, the Shaw-Wells type, always leapingforward to embrace the ego-projections which they mistake for thefuture. On the whole the writers of the twenties took the firstline and the writers of the thirties the second. And at any givenmoment, of course, there is a huge tribe of Barries and Deepingsand Dells who simply don't notice what is happening. Where Miller'swork is symptomatically important is in its avoidance of any ofthese attitudes. He is neither pushing the world-process forwardnor trying to drag it back, but on the other hand he is by no meansignoring it. I should say that he believes in the impending ruin ofWestern Civilization much more firmly than the majority of'revolutionary' writers; only he does not feel called upon to doanything about it. He is fiddling While Rome is burning, and,unlike the enormous majority of people who do this, fiddling withhis face towards the flames.

But though in varying forms he is one of the stock figures ofliterature, in real life, especially in the way society is ordered,his point of view never gets a fair hearing. There is a constantworld-wide conspiracy to pretend that he is not there, or at leastthat he doesn't matter. Codes of law and morals, or religioussystems, never have much room in them for a humorous view of life.Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custardpie, and the reason why so large a proportion of jokes centre roundobscenity is simply that all societies, as the price of survival,have to insist on a fairly high standard of sexual morality. Adirty joke is not, of course, a serious attack upon morality, butit is a sort of mental rebellion, a momentary wish that things wereotherwise. So also with all other jokes, which always centre roundcowardice, laziness, dishonesty or some other quality which societycannot afford to encourage. Society has always to demand a littlemore from human beings than it will get in practice. It has todemand faultless discipline and self-sacrifice, it must expect itssubjects to work hard, pay their taxes, and be faithful to theirwives, it must assume that men think it glorious to die on thebattlefield and women want wear themselves out with child-bearing.The whole of what one may call official literature is founded onsuch assumptions. I never read the proclamations of generals beforebattle, the speeches of Führers and prime ministers, thesolidarity songs of public schools and left-wing political parties,national anthems, Temperance tracts, papal encyclicals and sermonsagainst gambling and contraception, without seeming to hear in thebackground a chorus of raspberries from all the millions of commonmen to whom these high sentiments make no appeal. Nevertheless thehigh sentiments always win in the end, leaders who offer blood,toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers thanthose who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch,human beings are heroic. Women face childbed and the scrubbingbrush, revolutionaries keep their mouths shut in the torturechamber, battleships go down with their guns still firing whentheir decks are awash. It is only that the other element in man,the lazy, cowardly, debt-bilking adulterer who is inside all of us,can never be suppressed altogether and needs a hearingoccasionally.

England is the most class-ridden country under the sun. It is aland of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly.But in any calculation about it one has got to take into accountits emotional unity, the tendency of nearly all its inhabitants tofeel alike and act together in moments of supreme crisis. It is theonly great country in Europe that is not obliged to drive hundredsof thousands of its nationals into exile or the concentration camp.At this moment, after a year of war, newspapers and pamphletsabusing the Government, praising the enemy and clamouring forsurrender are being sold on the streets, almost withoutinterference. And this is less from a respect for freedom of speechthan from a simple perception that these things don't matter. It issafe to let a paper like Peace News be sold, because it iscertain that ninety-five per cent of the population will never wantto read it. The nation is bound together by an invisible chain. Atany normal time the ruling class will rob, mismanage, sabotage,lead us into the muck; but let popular opinion really make itselfheard, let them get a tug from below that they cannot avoidfeeling, and it is difficult for them not to respond. The left-wingwriters who denounce the whole of the ruling class as 'pro-Fascist'are grossly over-simplifying. Even among the inner clique ofpoliticians who brought us to our present pass, it is doubtfulwhether there were any conscious traitors. The corruptionthat happens in England is seldom of that kind. Nearly always it ismore in the nature of self-deception, of the right hand not knowingwhat the left hand doeth. And being unconscious, it is limited. Onesees this at its most obvious in the English press. Is the Englishpress honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest.All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and theadvertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. Yet I do notsuppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardlybribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all buta very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over thecounter like so many pounds of cheese. Public life in England hasnever been openly scandalous. It has not reached the pitchof disintegration at which humbug can be dropped.


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