Monday, 22 February 2021

The Ascent of Man?

All land was once free; it belonged to nobody except in so far as it had been marked out by various animal species defining their territories. But those animals never had a deed of ownership. We invented that and thereafter land came to be a commodity and have a recognisable and exchangeable value depending on a whole bunch of factors including utility, resources, and simple possessive instinct. Oh, and a nice view always helps.

Whose land is it? Well, once you have settled it, improved it, farmed it, worked it and raised generations on it, it’s yours until you sell, or are moved on by circumstance. But generally, the longer you are there, the deeper your roots the less likely it ought to be that you will suddenly up-sticks and leave because somebody claims it is not your land, but theirs. Once upon a time this was only accomplished by warfare. Now, however, your displacement from your ancestral home is facilitated by governments you thought you had elected to represent your interests.

It takes time and effort to develop a society and a culture. It requires a shared endeavour and involves the manufacture of the artefacts of your culture. The output of artisans once defined who you were; farmers, builders, jewellers, bakers, weavers, smiths, coopers and all manner of ‘wrights’ even gave their names to identify you. You knew where you were, you recognised your home, and you recognised the people who belonged there. Can you say that today?

Symbolically, the Amish come together to raise a barn, but equally symbolically the modern world now turns to global finance to raise money to pay a corporate giant to dump a barn on your land and claim it as theirs. The village shops gave way to supermarkets and Amazon, the trades were outcompeted by the Samsungs and Huaweis and now nobody knows how to do anything for themselves anymore.

Are we fighting back? Are we hell. The essence of the consumer economy is to come up with something for people to consume, then aggressively market it until people feel they need it. But in place of local industry, we are opening more coffee shops, chicken shops, betting shops… places where you go to throw money at things you could easily do for yourself. This is an economy which makes little that society could not live without it. Nobody with an ounce of worth in their lives could sanely mourn Costa and Starbucks for more than a second.

But not only have we given away our industry, our ingenuity, our pride in creation; we have also abandoned our character and somehow persuaded ourselves that ancestral artisanry is worthless. If our history has no value and our pride is nothing but bigotry, is it any wonder that generations are being raised who do not recognise whose country this is? Ownership and stewardship of our lands are being abandoned in favour of corporatism and short-term gain, but in return for what?

In return, it seems, for abandoning the fight. We allow ourselves to be berated for our own history and then stand helplessly by as that history is rewritten in front of our eyes. After centuries of progress to become a nation we are now rapidly regressing to tribal divisions; and those divisions are seemingly breeding ever finer divisions. It takes a village to raise an idiot, it has been said. It takes the global village to make idiots of all of us.

1 comment:

  1. If you haven't already you should read the E.M.Forster short story "The Machine Stops". It's where we are going, rushing upon or doom like Gadarene swine.
    And it ws written in 1909. Talk about "numbered amongst the prophets".