Sometimes, and rather too often of late, I become convinced that desperation is now the state of modern mankind. It's easy enough to believe that hopelessness is all there is. If you engage with current politics you'll know what I mean. The alternative seems to be to succumb to a life where culture has become commodified and is parcelled out to us in the sort of packages that makes the phrase 'bread and circuses' all too frighteningly real.
The hierarchical pyramid under which we serve (unless of course you are at the top of it, in which case I doubt you'll be reading my rantings) dominates every aspect of our lives. And how do we break free?
Inevitably as my thoughts turn to revolution, I look back to history and seek solace there - but a successful revolution seems as much a fantasy as everything else we are being 'sold'. And of course revolution is not in and of itself and end-game, its a state of being in the eternal flux of life.
I am well aware that I can do nothing to influence the wider world around me. But this does not mean all is lost. The political is in the personal, right?
I'm here to tell you that however dark the days may seem, if you keep alert, you can find something good. Even from the very bowels of the cesspit that is social media, a light arises.
This month, I was struggling for editorial. I didn't have any more to say about the state of the nation - either ours or America. I was feeling somewhere between numb, despondent and unattractively angry. The depths of moral depravity seem infinite. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, George W.Bush, Donald Trump anyone? The mantra of doom for honesty and a world of kind peacefulness. And then I met Pat.
In the course of a two hour conversation I remembered all that is good about being a human. We 'had a news' and if we didn't put the world to rights, at least I came away feeling that I was not alone. There are what Orwell (and others) used to call 'Fellow Travellers' I am pretty sure there's a lot of us out there. It's finding them that's hard. But once you meet one, you get a bit braver about reaching out in the hope there may be others. And reading is a great way to start on the journey.
I ‘found’ Pat Hutchison through social media. McStorytellers via Facebook to be precise. Now I’m very wary of Facebook in particular and Social Media in general. Whenever I give up on it as a site for hope, Brendan Gisby (Mr McStoryteller) says to me that at least in one respect, for those of us at the bottom of the Pyramid, ‘the internet is all we have’ and this reminds me that we cannot turn our back on it if we want to change our world. It is part of our landscape and we have to try and work with it to build the future we want rather than the one we are having forced upon us. it is, after all, a tool. We need to construct it as well as consume it.
I can heartily recommend Pat's story 'The Steens that Turned' (even if you struggle with 'the Doric'). It will take you out of yourself for a while, to a different time and place. And it's been known to make grown men cry. If you read it and weep, you'll have started on a journey towards a world which is better than the one being foisted on you by the profit-mongers.
I am minded of James Leatham, working tirelessly to improve the working hours (and so the freedom) of the print workers – and how they were even more resistant than the owners to his suggestions that they work fewer hours (for the same pay). They were suspicious of what they would lose. They couldn’t see that they had nothing to shake off but their mind-chains. That the most vital commodity any of us have is time. Leatham's review of the ILP 'Capitalist Press' pamphlet is interesting for so many reasons - not least because it's so hard to get hold of that original pamphlet. Even if you can't read it, you can think about that!
One of the reasons we keep plugging on at Gateway - now nearly a year into its new incarnation - is precisely to stand up (in a quiet way) against being 'sold' a version of the world that is constructed by others who do not have anyone but their own best interests at heart. We are not just consumers. We are also creators. And we can build worlds the way we want them to be.
It's a new twist on the 'possible worlds' theory. In fact I think we should start to admit there are many parallel worlds all around us, (mostly vying for our time and money) - and we have some responsibility for making the choice which one we join. For myself at least, I choose to turn my back on the Pyramid of Aspiration in favour of a type of Altruism that places personal responsibility at its core. I'm not trying to sell it to you - but it exists. Inspired by men (and women) I've met through reading my goal is to 'add my light to the sum of light'. I understand that 'words that do not match deeds are unimportant.' I don't mean to be 'in your face' or confrontational. But I'm not going away any time soon. And I'm always on the lookout for 'fellow travellers.'
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