Monthly Archives: April 2019
I wrote a blog post – a poem, really – about watching the planet from a distance. We sometimes think that what we have around us is of utmost importance, but it’s probably not, it’s just a jot in time.
Well, as I read the book, Against the Grain, and I see that civilisations fall almost as often as they spring up from the sweat of their subjects. I am feeling less attached to this one we are currently living in.
The history of our planet is basically people doing bad things to other people and species to keep themselves in the lap of luxury if at all possible.
The last century is an anomaly in giving any power (superficial though of course it is) to the common man (or woman, if she’s really lucky.)
If we see all the stuff written about past civilisations, all dug up from the ruins, often when those now living in those places have no idea about them, no memory, no stories, just some stones they might have found and used as foundations for their own houses, we see how fragile, how faint is the mark of these societies, really. They disappeared most of the time.
So what if we disappear too?
In the past, the people subjugated by these states didn’t all die – many or most escaped back to a former type of life, and were probably happier for it, definitely better off in terms of diet and health. So why lament the demise of the rulers?
I live in this world, of course. I am dependent upon it. If it were all to disappear tomorrow – as I said back on New Years Eve 1999, when we wondered if the Year 2000 bug would stop the world – then I’d be dead in a matter of months. I can’t just walk away from the status quo, go and grow beans and catch animals. I am attached to the technology for life, and though I teach my children about wildlife which might help them when the cities are destroyed, my daughter is equally diabetic and unless I learn how to distil insulin from dead deer and rabbits, we’ll be as dead as anyone else when the disaster hits.
But people will survive.
Some will walk away, south or north where the weather is better. Humanity will continue, just as it did after the collapse of other societies. Some people will remember how to live outside the shelter of our cities and society. Apart from the plastic everywhere, this small snapshot of history will become as forgotten as the rest.
Our descendants, if we have them, will build their cities on top of ours, like we have on others, so our buildings will be discovered accidentally some day like we find the remains of the Roman walls and medieval castles when we dig out subterranean car parks.
The beech trees will survive, shifting north and south, possibly all the way to Antarctica, where they once grew before during a time when the world had a similar atmospheric CO2level to today. Most of the other plants will probably struggle on, too, though much of the fauna will die out, to be replaced eventually in time by other species.
It’s a real fucking pity, a goddam waste, that we allow this to happen. It’s stupid, stupid, stupid, to quote some fuckwit from the annals of insurance fraud. The age of stupid, like the documentary.
We could keep the world looking the way we want it if we move our asses.
To allow it to change from how it suits us is like letting the house burn down because you’re too lazy to pick up a fire extinguisher.
I remember visiting Niagara Falls years ago, and being told that the quantity of water allowed to flow is much reduced not just to produce electricity, but to ensure that erosion doesn’t move the falls upstream – which would mean having to move the viewing platforms from where they are now. And that would be silly.
If that kind of sense was applied to our current problems, we would see a lot more action on the climate change front.
Our society might have a sea-change in our economic activities, but it will be unnoticeable on a grand scale, just like the difference between agriculture in England growing turnips in the 18thcentury is indistinguishable from growing grain in Egypt two thousand years ago.
But moving London, Alexandria, Miami and all those other seaside towns kilometres inland will be a major change that will be seen clearly in the archaeological record of our planet.
And because we won’t be around to explain it, they’ll be confused as fuck as to how stupid we were. Stupider than Easter Islanders.
It’s Time; for Parenting on a Grander Scale
“Money, it’s a gas,” said Pink Floyd a long time ago. They sang about Time, too, and Time is Money, so they say.
They’re all granddads, now, Pink Floyd, those of the band who are still alive.
I’ve been thinking of Time, Money and Grandparents recently.
This blog post is about all three, and directed at the latter.
My own parents are grandparents of course; my daughter recently had her eight birthday. My parents sent her money to buy LOL dolls – in my opinion the perfect example of our modern consumerism addiction; have a look at one being opened on YouTube to see how we are manipulated by marketing departments. Her grandparents who live here, with whom she spends every Wednesday afternoon, also gave her money to buy these dolls, of which she has a dozen already.
It’s this consumerism I am trying to avoid, for my kids, and for the kids of the world. And the key, kinda, is exactly in their grandparents.
My mother says she buys these toys nowadays because when my siblings and I were young she didn’t have the money to afford them for us.
But nowadays I can afford all these silly bits of plastic myself, if I chose to give them to my children.
And what can my parents (and in-laws) give my kids that I can’t so much, that parents of our generation with our two-salary mortgages have in short supply?
What my parents had, at least my mother, to give us when we were small was time.
And it’s the time we all remember.
I remember being picked up by one granddad, getting porridge when he took me to their house to wait for my mother. I remember watching him gardening, going into his aviary, and he died when I was about 8. I remember going shopping and having tea and biscuits (custard crèmes, of course) in my granny’s house all through to my teens. I had motorbike rides up and down the cul-de-sac with my other granddad while he was still allowed to have one. I do remember getting some pocket money from them, but I can’t recall a single thing I did with that money.
My grandparents were all old by the time I came along. Everyone was older back then.
Nowadays, grandparents have an ever more special place in their grandkids lives. Many are looking after them full-time while the parents work. They’re often basically second set’s of parents.
That might sound harsh for the working parents.
In fact, this is an amazing opportunity.
We all know that we had better childhoods than our kids do nowadays. We were outdoors from dawn to dusk, getting up to our ears in mud and all that.
Well, instead of having them stuck on the sofa all afternoon, grandparents can show the kids the things that we did when we were kicked out of the house – that they themselves, their parents and grandparents and all the generations before them did before kids suddenly stopped going outside in the last couple of decades.
Get dirty, climb trees, mess around in the muck.
You don’t have to wash the clothes!
What are your kids going to do? Get mad at you because they have to put on a washing machine? Who doesn’t wash their kids clothes after every use anyway?
Are they going to find another child-minder? Yeah. Exactly.
It might seem a challenge to take the screens away from some kids – that’s the parent’s job, and you don’t want to fight with your grandkids. You want them to be happy to see you. True. Talk to your kids. Make them leave the screens at home, or locked up while at work.
After a few weeks without being glued to their tablet or telephone, the children will thank you for the great fun they had in the park, at the beach, in the forests. Bring them to a golf course if they’re old enough. Anything to get them out of the house.
When it’s your grandchildren’s birthday, take them on a field trip, a weekend away, a boat ride, a train journey, an adventure park. Gift them money towards a plane ticket if you really want to – not to Disneyland, but to a campsite in the south of France, or the Alps, a hiking holiday in the Pyrenees, fishing in Connemara. Anywhere they’ll have an experience that will serve them in the future when they are adults, that will make them stronger, calmer, more patient, more thoughtful. Experiences they can look back on and draw on.
You know they shouldn’t be inside.
You know they would be better people, happier, more resilient, more understanding of suffering and its relative importance if they climbed a few trees, fell off a few walls.
And please, please, don’t say, “They’re not my children.”
They are. They’re everybody’s children. They’re our future.
They’ll remember the events, not the trinkets.
How is everyone managing after the change to “summer time?” I’m suffering from the early mornings myself, since it happened in Europe last weekend. Of course, I’m not against daylight savings time, as long as if and when it’s stopped we stick with the correct time we should have according to our longitude.
In fact, I’d go further, as I wrote in my poem on the subject, which I posted a few years back,
In the poem I hypothesise about a future where businessmen don’t have to wear suits in summer to cut down on air conditioning use – much worse than a few extra light bulbs if we didn’t have daylight savings time.
And that brings me to an article I read the other day about the end of the man’s suit.
Coincidentally, I wrote a blogpost a few years back about the man’s suit, how it’s not going to disappear anytime soon, given that it hasn’t changed in centuries.
But perhaps I was wrong.
The article says that “Goldman Sachs became the latest of many firms to issue new guidelines on work dress codes, allowing more flexibility – male employees can ditch the suit for chinos and loosen their ties.”
A welcome change.
Of course, I’d be happier if what replaces it is not some new fashion, but the same jeans most of the humans in the western world have been wearing for a century when they weren’t wearing suits.
I have a basic distaste for fashion, in its continually changing design and colour of clothes which many people conform to necessitating updating their wardrobe and consequently disposing of clothes that are perfectly serviceable and wasting resources and money on new clothes that will see the same fate.
I hate buying new clothes. I hate shopping, better said. I like buying new stuff, but I also love getting the most out of what I have. I patch, I darn (well, I do something akin to closing a hole in a sock) and I glue.
I’ve a current problem with jeans seemingly been made to wear out within six months. It’s like Calvin Klein has been taking a leaf out of Apple’s book and embedding ? programmed obsolescence in cloth. I have not bought a pair of jeans that haven’t ripped in the arse in five years. I never remember that problem before, and I’ve been riding bikes my whole life.
Do clothes designers really need my money so much that they make me buy what I’d disinclined to buy because I am immune to their adverts?
Thus is our world destroyed.
I am also reminded of the lines from that fashion movie, The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda goes on a tirade about the blue jumper her minion is wearing, how it’s been made because she decided blue was in last season blah blah.
What the movies doesn’t go on to say is that the intern would not go and buy a new cheap jumper in TJ Max the next winter. She’d wear the same cheap jumper and she’d keep wearing it till it got so old that it had to be replaced by whatever the prima donnas of the fashion world had deemed was in three seasons before. And that would take a long time. I have jumpers I still wear that I am wearing in photos taken fifteen years ago, nearly twenty in some cases. I don’t say that because I am proud of wearing worn out old shit that makes me look like a vagabond, but because they still look the same as when I bought them, and if I looked okay in them then, then there’s no reason to think I don’t look good in them now if they’re still in good repair. Clothes either look good on you or they don’t. If they are only going to look good on you for a season, then perhaps we shouldn’t buy them. That’s why the suit has taken so long to disappear – it simply looks good all the time. Jeans look good all the time, tee-shirts and jumpers too. That’s why Doc Martens are back in. Everyone has a pair they never threw out. Some kept wearing them. Of course, an industry would die a little if we were all to stop treating clothes like plastic water bottles. But what does this industry do that’s so good? What does it do that’s quite terrible? The list for the latter question is longer.
Growing cotton is a destructive activity, for the soil, for the insects, for the atmosphere. We all want to reduce waste, to lower our carbon emissions. Eating less meat, using public transport, flying less. And buying fewer clothes.
Feel proud to walk out of a store without a shopping bag.
It’s a feeling you’ll grow to love.