The not very rebellious rebellion…yet.

There’s a couple of things I’d like to discuss today about rebellion….what it is, what it isn’t and what it probably should be.

First off though let me just say that I’ve just finished reading Mark Boyle’s “Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi” and would definitely recommend it to everyone as essential reading. It will push and pull at your sense of what’s right and wrong in the world and how we should react to rectify matters. Boyle pulls no punches in standing up for nature, suffering from the onslaught of human greed in the form of the industrial/political machine. He says that if we really want to effect change, by rebelling against the status quo, we need to be prepared to use every tool in our tool box. He has to choose his words carefully so as not to be placed on some form of government watch list…..he’s probably on one anyway….and so stops just short of inciting violent protest, but clearly indicates that violent protest is the only effective protest.

These thoughts were mirrored recently during the struggle between the people of Hong Kong and the dictatorial Chinese government. “I feel totally hopeless – I don’t want to resort to violence, but peaceful protest doesn’t change a thing. I feel there is no future ahead of us,” said a masked medical student on condition of anonymity. Link to the article is here… https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/hong-kong-in-chaos-as-protesters-gather-at-universities-with-bows-and-arrows/ar-BBWGOH1?ocid=spartandhp

Conversely, we have Extinction Rebellion (a catchy name and a trendy logo), led by Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook in the UK, which has quickly spread around the world as the “alternative” environmental movement. XR, as they are known, say that they are an environmental movement who use nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss and risk of social and ecological collapse. By stipulating that they use only nonviolent civil disobedience, they limit what tools they can draw from their toolbox to fight against injustice.

I have been a protester/activist/political commentator from my mid teens to present day. In my 60 years on this earth I have been a founding member of a peace group, joined this peaceful campaign and that, taken part in peaceful marches, sit ins, rallies, gone door to door with petitions for everything from saving the forests, banning the bomb, assorted attempts for world peace, marched against Monsanto’s GMO’s, marched against fluoride in the drinking water etc etc. So I do understand where XR are coming from in declaring themselves a nonviolent movement. I’ve seen it all, been there done that and for the most part sadly, these tactics (petitions and peaceful protest) have been totally ineffective in changing the way that government or industry do things. There’s a famous quote that says Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet still we pull out the same tools from our toolbox that have failed us before and expect, or at least hope, that this time they will actually work.

If you look up the word Rebellion in the dictionary it will say: noun – an act of armed resistance to an established government or leader……the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention. Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. Rebellion generally seeks to evade and/or gain concessions from an oppressive power, a revolt seeks to overthrow and destroy that power as well as its accompanying laws. Elsewhere I find Rebellion = Resistance, Revolt = Revolution. And Rebellion: is a violent uprising of the masses against their leadership.

So, a couple of these definitions specify violence or armed resistance. Something that XR rule out. One has to ask how rebellious the civil disobedience of Extinction Rebellion actually is, when they report to the police and councils to give prior notice of actions being taken, in order to get permission to protest. Not very rebellious I’d say. In footballing terms it’s a bit like Manchester United giving Liverpool notes on their tactics for their upcoming game. The authorities then give them permission to protest – march, block bridges, picket buildings etc., under police supervision and on condition it doesn’t lead to excessive public unrest. The fact is that they are only ever going to be as rebellious as their masters (the government, councils or police) allow them to be.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that XR’s heart is in the right place. They are well intentioned and have had a few minor results go their way, but are playing within the rules enforced by the oppressors that they profess to be fighting against. This is neither a rebellion, nor are they likely to win the war using these tactics, even though they will win the occasional battle or gain the odd concession here and there. Civil disobedience, according to Mr Boyle’s book, is about NOT reporting to the authorities about forthcoming rebellious action, causing as much disruption to the status quo as possible, and is about keeping ALL options open.

In Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi, Boyle tells us the only thing that both the government and big business fear is damage to their profit margins. Peaceful demonstrations, blocking some roads or bridges while leaving alternative routes open, orderly marches and endless petitioning are not going to stop the progress of big business or prevent their wanton destruction of the natural world. We need to change the entire corporate/government/military/consumer driven economic system. We need to escape the shackles of the debt riddled society in which we live and simplify our lives, return to living within the boundaries of nature and to stop dominating and plundering nature or as big business and government refer to it “natural resources”. Can’t nature just be left as nature, and valued for it’s beauty and wildness, without being given a monetary value and classed as a resource?

Some years ago a small group of activists by the name of ELF (Earth Liberation Front) used violent action (arson) against corporate property with the intention of damaging financially the businesses that are wreaking havoc on nature and the environment, without violence to people – so no injury or death to anyone. They burned down several properties of companies that they saw as threats to the environment or as being directly destructive to nature. This included a timber mill that was illegally logging trees, and a slaughter plant that was killing so many wild horses that the blood released into the waterways was such that the water department could not cope and nearby towns water supply was polluted. In many cases, as a result of ELF’s “Ecotage”, the business either folded completely, or moved elsewhere. It was generally acknowledged therefore that ELF were successful in their actions. Just a note for the authorities here…I am not condoning Arson, nor am I inciting it. I am merely stating that it was affective in achieving ELF’s goals. Although many of their actions took place in the 1990’s it wasn’t until post 9/11 that arrests were made under new terrorism laws. Although ELF never threatened the lives of anyone, nor injured, or took a life by any of their actions, they were deemed to be bigger “Terrorist threats” than, for example, white supremacy groups who had killed and were continuing to kill/threatening to kill. Why is this you ask? Boyle says it’s because although white supremacists threaten lives, usually of people who are not white, they do not threaten businesses profit margins. When a multi million dollar or multi billion dollar company tells their government officials that they demand action against what they term “Eco-Terrorists” otherwise they will withdraw their financial support…they get listened to. Money makes the rules. Big business tells government what to do. The tail wags the dog. For the people, by the people….don’t make me laugh! To view an excellent 2011 video documentary “If a tree falls” – about ELF’s actions and their eventual capture by the authorities, link to YouTube doco is below. It is an insight into the methods of direct action and the thinking behind movements such as ELF.

Meantime the public keep on signing petitions, or take their plastic to recycling stations and think that they are doing their bit in saving the planet.

Boyle, in the closing pages of his book says that “The landscape of activism today is, like the forests of England and Ireland, dominated by the deer who quickly nibble at any shoots of resistance….however our monocultural political terrain is in need of a ferocious predator. We need the wolf to bring balance to the wild forests. We need the Wild Revolutionary to stand up to the threat in the wild, but the authorities would prefer the political landscape to be inhabited only by reformists, pacifists and the like….like domesticated animals to browse within the fence line“.

He also says that violent direct action should certainly not be the first route to take. It should be the very last tool taken out of the tool box, but it should not be ruled out from the very start. “If the day comes when we accept that both fierceness and gentleness have their appropriate time and place within our struggles in defence of Life, we may again earn the chance to experience the only real peace there has ever been: the peace of The Wild“.

So what Boyle is saying is don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but when a wall needs knocking down a nutcracker won’t do the job. Also in the book he says that sometimes the very idea of having to use that sledgehammer paralyses us and we opt for reformist half measures even though we know they are doomed to fail against the military/industrial/political machine.

Money from industry, buys political support, dictates political policy and indirectly funds the armed wings of government – its police, its army, along with its guns, drones, nuclear weapons, courtrooms and prisons, all ready and willing to serve their master. These are co-funded by us, the citizens, by our paying of taxes. We fund our own oppressors. How crazy is that? It’s scary to stand up for nature and for ourselves against such a “machine”. They have CCTV cameras on every street corner and, as Edward Snowden made perfectly clear, they can use our own smart phones, smart TV’s and computers to listen our private conversations within the sanctity of our own homes, even turn on smart appliance cameras remotely, along with systems that monitor our emails, check our internet use and phone conversations. To stand up against this phenomenal opponent would appear to be suicidal. They are everywhere, have infiltrated every nook and cranny of our lives. Big Brother, as Orwell wrote in the book 1984, IS watching you.

This is one of the reasons that Boyle first spent 3 years living without money and then widened this by also living without modern technology. He is off grid completely. The more people that follow Boyles example and escape the digital ties that bind us to the machine, the harder it is for “them” to influence and dominate our lives.

The system of government works against the very people that it is meant to represent. The industrial/military/political machine gets to make all the rules and enact laws, that they claim are for our protection, but actually serve only to restrict our movement and make us easier to control. The laws also make it easier for them to justify pillaging nature….or as they call it “making use of natural resources”. In his book, Boyle states – If you consider that the natural world, nature equals Life, then the “machine” is the enemy of Life, and for us to play by the rules that the enemy of Life enacts is laughable.

Our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including in many cases human life. Look at the displaced tribes of the Amazon who’s land is systematically levelled to enable yet another beef ranch, soya or palm oil plantation. Look at communities who have no drinking water because it has been sold to water bottling plants for export, or has been so badly polluted by industry that it is no longer safe to drink. Look at small family run businesses who are driven out of business because of international or multinational corporations. Globalization rather than benefiting everyone, as promised, with it’s so called trickle down economy, has only increased the wealth of those at the top of the food chain while driving millions into poverty, and destroying national identities, centuries old customs, and borders.

There is a hell of a lot of information and misinformation out there in the media, in books and on line about climate change or climate crisis. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to sort out fact from fiction, particularly when often fact is so much stranger than fiction. As things currently stand, I see activist groups like XR and other “peaceful” protesters as being patsies for the establishment and “one world/one government” political policies. In their blocking of streets and bridges, while still obeying the rules of engagement, XR are getting TV news time because it serves the political policy makers. It proves to the world that the government allows its citizens the right to protest (albeit under strict rules and conditions), proves they are a democratic and “free” society. Try not paying your taxes and find out how free you really are! The general public are being made aware of “the threat of climate change” but are also getting pissed off at being constantly delayed in going about their business. When XR blocked London’s bridges, they even blocked the cycle lanes. Surely those cyclists were already walking the walk, as it were, while XR are still at the stage of talking the talk. The cyclists are not contributing to the global warming problem as they are not using transportation powered by fossil fuels. The very thing that XR are pushing. It was a stupid mistake in their policy to block cycle lanes as well as general road traffic. In the end XR will not affect business as usual in London or elsewhere. The consumerist driven growth economy is not going to shut down because of their actions, and shareholders profit margins are not going to be affected in any long term way.

On a personal note…It’s my prediction, and I realise that many people will think of me as a conspiracy theorist (and I probably am to a certain extent, but as I stated earlier, a lot of so called conspiracy theory is actual fact – as strange as some of it may seem), that eventually the government(s) will turn to the public and say “OK we have seen how serious the public are about the climate problem, because of the protests on the street” (which they have been happy to allow because it suits their agenda). “We know that we only have a short time frame to turn things around so we have to make radical changes…bring in some new rules and regulations… to save the world….are you with us?” The public agree, desperate to survive, get sucked in, and the UN’s agenda 21, or the updated agenda 2030, gets quickly rolled out giving governments extra emergency powers under the guise of rapidly reducing our carbon footprint, controlled by a unified One World Governing Body – the UN. And we – the public – who have been fed a steady diet of misinformation, will vote for it and give our blessing, so that THEY will be able to control not only the movement of people, but what we eat, the jobs we do, where we live, how we live, the redistribution of wealth, total control of our bank accounts by getting rid of physical cash money (something that the Reserve Bank is already talking about), confiscation of land, birth control/population control (including “voluntary” sterilization). Back in the 1960’s the UN were brainstorming to think of ways to get the general public to fall in behind support for a one world government – controlled by them, the UN, to push their own policies. They have stated that 375 million is the ideal population for the earth and they have been looking for ways to achieve this, but needed a banner to unite the world behind. Climate change/Global warming is that banner. We are up near 8 billion, so that will mean a reduction of about 95% of the current population…..how are they going to achieve that figure? War? A pandemic perhaps? (I see that there has been a reported outbreak of Pneumonic Plague – a more dangerous cousin of Bubonic Plague – in China – link to article – https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/plague-is-diagnosed-in-china-prompting-fears-of-an-outbreak/ar-BBWHMaz?ocid=spartandhp). Biological weapons released by “Terrorists” maybe? Do they just shut down the power grids (hacked by foreign powers?) and watch us rip one another limb from limb once the food supply runs out? How do you qualify to be in that surviving 5%? And will that 5% then continue with business as usual?

I realize that for many people this idea of a one world government deliberately looking to control citizens and force a reduction in population sounds fanciful, the thing of Science Fiction. So I will share with you with a few quotes below, and ask that you please read Boyle’s book, do your own research into climate change, the UN and population control, oh yes…and the Club of Rome (see the quotes later on). And examine what is happening in the world with eyes wide open….don’t just accept the version presented by the state run media. We certainly need to embrace the natural world again and not pillage it. I can’t see a world government actually doing that despite the spin they attempt to put on things.

Quotes follow from some of the most powerful political figures, or influencers of political policy in the world. I find it quite terrifying that these corrupt people have been allowed to dictate policy by which we are expected to live.

Image result for kissinger

Henry Kissinger, American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor (and winner of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest) said – Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there were an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government.

Thomas Ferguson an American political scientist who wrote about the Logic of Money-driven Political Systems – There is a single theme behind all our work – we must reduce population levels. Either governments do it our way, through nice clean methods, or they will get the kinds of mess that we have in El Salvador, or in Iran or in Beirut. Population is a political problem. Once population is out of control, it requires authoritarian government, even fascism, to reduce it.

David R Brower, environmentalist and the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club is also on board saying – Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.

Timothy Endicott Wirth, a former United States Senator from Colorado. He served both as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Education for part of the Nixon Administration and later for the Clinton Administration as the first Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs for the U.S. State Department. – We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.

Aurelio Peccei, industrialist and philanthropist, best known as co-founder with Alexander King and first president of the Club of Rome, an organisation which attracted considerable public attention in 1972 with its report, The Limits to Growth. – The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. …The real enemy then is humanity itself.

And finally a couple of quotes from David Rockefeller. Rockefeller from one of the wealthiest families around, was assistant regional director of the United States Office of Defense, Health and Welfare Services before teaming up with the rest of the family at the Chase National Bank where he became President. The bank was closely associated with and has financed the oil industry, having longstanding connections with its board of directors to the successor companies of Standard Oil, especially Exxon Mobil. It’s now known as JPMorgan Chase bank. – We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost 40 years……It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries. – Which goes to confirm that the media are under the control of big business and government and complicit in the plot to take away the public’s right of self determination.

and finally, Rockefeller again – We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis. Of course the crisis selected was Global Warming.

So folks, as you can see from these quotes….we are not paranoid….they ARE out to get us and have been plotting against the citizens of the world for decades! It’s not simply crackpot conspiracy theory. AND I do realize that it’s so hard to know what to believe after that quote from Aurelio Peccei. As you will see from earlier posts, I was initially ready to believe the UN IPCC panel and was blown away by the emotional Greta Thunberg…until her last speech at the UN, which was a rehash, virtually word for word, of an earlier UN speech but delivered with the venom of a consummate actor….”How dare you…” It just didn’t seem authentic anymore. And why would an organisation as powerful as the UN allow a teenage girl the opportunity to berate them time and time again – with full TV and press coverage – for their inaction on Climate Change, if it did not serve their purpose? Do we blindly follow the UN? We hear UN climate scientists presenting dooming facts about climate change – although incidentally they do not allow for the phases of the sun, solar maximum and solar minimum in their calculations. Long-term secular change in sunspot number is thought, by many scientists, to be correlated with long-term change in solar irradiance, which, in turn, might influence Earth’s long-term climate. The sun being the main regulator of temperature here on earth I find its exclusion from climate change calculations quite worrying – and ex Presidential hopeful Al Gore (a member of the establishment who, incidentally, is making bucket loads of money from the whole climate change situation) is leading the charge. Having now seen the quotes above, by the political movers and shakers, about ways of gaining control of the citizens by causing widespread panic using Climate Change as a unifying factor, via the formation of a One World Government under the control of, to quote Rockefeller, “an intellectual elite and world bankers”….what do we do? Indeed, what can we do?

Image result for  rebellion

Boyle says that although the “Machine” appears to be powerful and omnipotent, it is its omnipotence that makes it so weak. It is so thinly stretched that, if the citizens were to rise up against it simultaneously, it would be overthrown simply by weight of numbers. An interesting theory.

In the meantime the rich and their Globalist Corporations continue to get away with tax avoidance while the working classes are squeezed for every taxable penny – with threat of imprisonment should they refuse. Whether climate change is totally due to the actions of man, or just a phase of the suns warming, or a combination of both – has still to be proven 100%. Yes a panel of UN Climate Scientists have declared their findings to be accurate, but the UN is the same organization vying for total domination of us, under their one world government, so their “undeniable” findings should be considered dubious or, at the very least, warrant further investigation. There is no denying however that the forests are being cleared, the waterways and the oceans are being polluted, as is the air that we breathe, and a genuine extinction of species is happening, as their habitat (nature) is destroyed by globalist corporates and needs immediate action to reverse this insane destruction. Should we protest? If we want to live, if we truly want to protect nature – what’s left of it to protect – surely we must take some sort of action. Do we take peacefully to the streets with our placards and/or sign petitions yet again, hoping insanely for a different result, or this time do we use ALL the tools in our toolbox and say “Enough!”? This, I think, is the conclusion that Mr Boyle in his book Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi is hoping that the citizens of the world will come to.

Please note – I am not inciting the masses to commit violent acts. I am, for the most part, reporting on or reviewing a book. BUT, it would be wonderful if you would read the book Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi, watch the video If a Tree Falls – do your own research into the problems that we are facing today and come to your own conclusions. Is nature worth saving? I hope you’ll agree that it is. As usual thank you for reading. Any shares, likes or comments are most appreciated.

Variety is the spice of life.

That phrase “Variety is the spice of life“, is something that I’ve heard many times during my lifetime, but I’ve never really thought about what it means. Recently I came across Mark Boyle’s book – Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi and he pretty much explained it in a simple paragraph….but since I don’t want to get stung for copyright infringement I’ll try to paraphrase him.

He was talking about how the industrial age, or as he calls it The Machine, has taken us over, making specialists of us, pigeon-holing us into strictly limited roles, making us no more than a cog in the machine. There’s no diversity. Meantime we play our part, as a part of the system, by consuming products and services. He reminds us that it didn’t used to be that way. We used to fully participate in life, in community – rather than distancing ourselves from it. We foraged, grew, produced and cooked our own food. Made our own entertainment, played music, made up songs, poems and stories to share around a communal fire. We made the things we needed, be it a wooden spoon or a woven fabric. Made our own wines, beers, mead, cheeses, butter, jam and preserves to share with our family and neighbours, as part of a living, breathing village. Our lives were rich with diversity with the freedom to express ourselves in a variety of ways. We could be a hunter one day, a farmer the next, a furniture maker, artist, poet. Life was interesting and fluid. Variety was the spice of life. These days for the sake of “maximum efficiency” we are reduced to rigid conformity, a cog in the wheel of industry, doing the same repetitive thing over and over again.

Don’t you think it’s time to take back our lives? To make them varied and interesting again?

We have come to rely too much on the system, on the Machine and what it delivers. Sooner or later, (I fear it will be sooner rather than later, the way that the world is heading) the system will break down and our specialist pigeon-holed existence will be our downfall. We won’t have the individual skills to survive, because we’ve lost that variety in our lives. We tend to know how to do one thing, a narrow field of view. We’ve become an expert, skilled in one thing and lost the ability to perform a hundred other tasks. We will not be prepared….thanks in the most part to what we have viewed as “progress”.

For anyone interested in Mark’s book, I’ve pasted the link to the goodread’s page for the book Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi below. I will probably be making further posts about the contents of this and others of Boyles books later on. I’m less than half way through the book and have learned so much already. As usual many thanks for reading and your comments etc are most appreciated.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25330343-drinking-molotov-cocktails-with-gandhi

3 Essayists – review (continued)

This is the second part of my (former) post of reviews of what was to be 5 books of essays….3 by writers now dead (already covered in an earlier post) and this is a review of the remaining 2 books by writers still very much alive – plus another live writer thrown in for good measure.

The books selected of 3 living essayists.

OK, so now I have managed to confuse you….the books being covered are TEJU COLE – Known and Strange Things, PAUL KINGSNORTH – Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and other essays, and REBECCA SOLNIT – The Faraway Nearby. I’ll work my way from left to right on the photo.

Teju Cole’s book Known and Strange Things….To be perfectly honest with you, despite the endorsement on the cover of this book, by fellow essayist Rebecca Solnit, I struggled initially to connect with Teju Cole’s writing. That was until I found the essay titled Shadows in Sao Paulo, which is about the writers attempt to locate the exact spot that Magnum photographer Rene Burri took his famous photo of “Men on a Rooftop”.

See the source image

It’s a black and white photo of 4 men on a rooftop of one of the many skyscrapers in Sao Paulo, casting long shadows as they walk toward the camera. To the left of them and far down below the street scene unfolds….the cars and trams also throwing long shadows down the street. The tram lines adding to the series of straight lines provided by the street, the walls of the buildings, the lines created by the many windows, and the edges of the rooftop. The photo taken in 1960 is from a higher vantage point and it’s this building that Teju Cole tries to locate. Being as I am, a huge fan of most, if not all, of the photographers who have worked for the Magnum Photo Agency – this essay is the one in which Cole and I hit on common ground, a common interest. From here on in I was able to enjoy his writing more (strange as it may seem).

The essays in this book were originally published mainly in the New Yorker, and elsewhere and, once I got connected with Cole via the Rene Burri essay I quite enjoyed the majority of his essays. However the “white saviour industrial complex” essay left a kind of nasty taste in my mouth….if that’s possible from reading something? It just seemed to be much of a rant rather than a serious piece of writing. I guess reading essays, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder…..what suits me may not suit you, your reaction may not be the same as mine.

Petina Gappah of the Guardian newspaper – obviously a fan of Cole’s – writes… He ranges over his interests with voracious keenness, laser-sharp prose, an open heart and a clear eye. His subjects are diverse and disparate. Readers are certain to find a personal favourite: I loved Always Returning, an affecting meditation on the death of WG Sebald in which Cole wanders through the cemetery of St Andrew’s in Framingham Earl, Norfolk, looking for Sebald’s grave and trying, at the same time, to have a coherent conversation about his pilgrimage with Jason, the taxi driver who got him there. The interplay between the externals of conversations with Jason and the deep interiority of Cole’s response to seeing Sebald’s grave is masterfully written, with Cole straining to act as a mediator between the worlds inhabited by these two very different men.

By contrast I found Paul Kingsnorth’s Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist to be a very easy, entertaining and interesting read. Kingsnorth was one of those crazy environmentalists (and I use crazy by way of admiration rather than criticism), who used to chain himself to bulldozers and other machinery to try to stop developers from levelling another of natures hilly places – to put a motorway through….or wiping out old growth forest, so that Ikea and similar businesses can make more kitset furniture. I say WAS because now he’s taken a step back physically, if not spiritually from the “war against environmental destruction”. He sees the entire environmental movement as having been hijacked and watered down by factions of the Green movement, who in a bid to communicate natures value to society have now put a dollar value on it. Of course the problem with that, as Kingsnorth points out, is that once nature is given a dollar value, a businessman will justify buying and destroying it based on that valuation.

The essays in this book first appeared in various newspapers and on the website co-founded by Kingsnorth, called The Dark Mountain Project. Each one will provide an insight to the problems the world faces daily as our natural world shrinks past crisis point and consumerist growth economies grow and grow to unsustainable size, until their inevitable collapse and chaos that are surely just around the corner.

Although Kingsnorth has pulled back from being a placard waving demonstrator, his passion for nature and his attempts to convince us, the readers, that nature is worth fighting for…..even if we may be already too late to save it….is as strong as ever. He and his family have retreated to a smallholding in the west of Ireland where they practice what they preach and are as gentle with nature as possible in an attempt to become part of nature again…as mankind used to be….and to help the natural world regenerate. It’s a book that I believe should be mandatory reading in all schools AND for all politicians.

In the book Kingsnorth rejoices in the small wins that the family achieve in their bid to help nature fight back….and in helping his children to understand the magical natural world….how everything is inter-dependent, so that he knows that the next generation will be there on natures side.

In the essay A Short History of Loss, Kingsnorth looks at the problem that beekeepers are having with colony collapse and how a Harvard study linked the death of bees to certain insecticides used on farms – then continues to say that another Harvard group of scientists are working on designing robotic bees. A typical science response – rather than stop using insecticide and saving the lives of real bees, we’ll just make artificial bees and try to program them to act like real bees. It’s like the idea of colonising Mars because we’re destroying the environment here on Earth. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to stop the destruction here?

Kingsnorth then goes on to say that mankind…(or is it more PC these days to call it Humankind?) has experienced a Fall – just like the Bible story of Adam and Eve’s experience of a fall in their eviction from the Garden of Eden. He then tries to identify where the Fall happened….where and when… giving several possible examples. It makes interesting and thought provoking reading.

Another very down to earth and slightly stinky essay about composting human manure in Learning What to Make of It – is a more hands on approach to conserving the environment. It’s a fact that we, as humans, produce waste….so what’s the best way of dealing with it? We can’t continue to pour raw sewage into the rivers, lakes and oceans. So what’s the answer? Read this essay to find out.

Another essay The Barcode Moment – touches on conspiracy theory and the possible future of the monetary system. That at some point we may end up wearing a barcode on the skin, (or possibly a chip under the skin…in my own opinion), to use when making purchases, rather than a bank card or actual money. Thought provoking again.

In other essays he tells us about writers who’s works have formed him as a writer, revolutionaries and the ethics involved in fighting for what we believe in.

I’ll finish with a couple of quotes from the back cover of the book, and to urge you all to please read this book and try to understand where we are in the race against time.

Paul Kingsnorth reads carefully from the book of nature, and also from the great literature of the natural world; they give him, and the reader, one path out of the despair that comes from knowing a bit too much about our condition. – Bill McKibben

as the environmental movement began to focus on “sustainability” rather than the defence of wild places for their own sake, and as global conditions worsened, he grew disenchanted with the movement that he once embraced. He gave up what he saw as false hope that the residents of the first world would ever make the kind of sacrifices that might avert the severe consequences of climate change…..Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist gathers the wave-making essays that have charted the change in Kingsnorth’s thinking. In them he articulates a new vision, one that stands firmly in opposition to the belief that technology can save us, and he argues for a renewed balance between the human and the non-human worlds.

And so to the final of the three books – Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby – published in 2013.

I’ll jump straight to the back cover blurb to begin with….Gifts come in many guises. One summer Rebecca Solnit was given a box of ripening apricots, fruit from a neglected tree that her mother, gradually succumbing to memory loss, could no longer tend to. From this unexpected inheritance Solnit weaves together memoir, fairytales and the lives of others into a meditation of the art of storytelling. Encompassing explorers and monsters, the Marquis de Sade and Mary Shelley, a library of water in Iceland and the depths of the Grand Canyon, the result is a literary treasure trove from a writer of limitless talent and imagination.

Wow….some build up. Lets hope the book lives up to it. Back soon….

I may end up writing this piecemeal – as I find essays that I connect with, that resonate with me. The first of which is the first essay in the book…essay 1 titled Apricots. In this essay Solnit becomes the owner of a huge box of apricots….from her mothers tree, after her mother who is suffering from dementia, can’t cope with them. She writes about the trials and tribulations, sadness and confusion of having a parent who is losing their faculties. It’s a heartfelt piece and something that I am more than familiar with having lost my own mother to Alzheimer’s over 4 years ago and my dad 6 months earlier who had another dementia related illness. She writes very well about the various stages of confusion and frustration that her mother went through as she slowly but surely lost her mind and her identity. In reading Apricots, it opened up some old wounds that I thought were forgotten. Which I guess shows what a good writer Solnit is. I’m now wondering if writing my own essay as another blog post about my experience with my own parents would help to heal those freshly opened wounds? I’ll think on it. If I do, I’ll call it “An evil Bastard called Al” (as in AL-zheimers), as it is an evil and vicious illness. Meantime, back to the next essay from the book.

In my younger years I used to love watching the old black and white “Hammer House of Horror” movies on TV. The classic stories were the best….the ones about the Wolf-man, or Dracula…or Frankenstein. So Solnit’s 3rd essay in the book, entitled simply Ice is my next port of call. This essay is for the most part about Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, the writing of the book, and her life and marriage to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley….Solnit also touches on the life of Mary Shelley’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft, who died giving birth to her daughter. As one would expect of Solnit’s writing, it’s a well researched and well crafted piece. Quite fascinating to read. I don’t want to say anymore…please read it yourself.

The 5th Essay titled Breath begins briefly about the Marquis de Sade, but is about life and death, degeneration and regeneration and how everything is in a constant state of change. It brings together The Marquis de Sade, Zen Buddhism, the god Apollo and even the joys of cooking. Art as life, life as art, artists and philosophers, travel and cancer detection…and of course life as a journey from birth to death and everything in between.. are all woven into an intricate, almost spellbinding essay.

I could summarise every essay, as they are all well worth reading, but we’d be here all day so I’ll slide along to the end of the book instead. The final, and 13th essay of the book is titled Apricots (as was essay number 1) and we come full circle as Solnit compares the apricots and the things she made from them, thus preserving them, to life and a number of incidents either in her life or the lives of others. She includes many stories – one particular story about a young girl who fell into and became trapped down a well, deep underground, and had to be rescued by drilling a parallel tunnel and lowering a man, face down, down the tunnel to free the girl. It was a long and dangerous mission. Happily she lived and the publicity her rescue generated brought in donations of over a million dollars to give her and her parents an easier life than they would have otherwise had. Her rescuer became famous. BUT there are two sides to every coin and where a story brings good news, it can also bring bad. The man who rescued her, was so traumatised by the experience that he later took his own life. In effect trading his life for hers. The Grim Reaper’s way of balancing the books perhaps? Thus emphasizing how both fame and life are transitory. Life is an adventure and an unpredictable adventure at that. It tosses you a ball to hit out of the park one day and throws you a curve ball, that hit’s you right on the bridge of the nose, the next. One of Solnit’s mantras is “Never turn down an adventure without a really good reason”. If you have to have a mantra I reckon that’s a pretty good one to have.

I have said in an earlier post that I am an admirer of Solnit’s work, having bought one of her books on a visit to San Francisco earlier this year. This book of essays goes a long way in confirming my earlier opinion.

And that brings to an end my round up of books by three living essayists to counter balance my earlier post about the three dead ones. Again, thank you for reading and I am always grateful for any likes, shares, comments, or recommendations of other essayists worth reading.

The dead and the living – Five books of essays – a review.

My latest selection of books from our local library. All essay collections.

I guess the main question to be asked is why choose to read 5 books of essays? The answer…my answer at any rate is….to learn. The way I write my blog, and how many other bloggers write, is in essay form. So, what is an essay?

Literary Devices.Net defines it as – Essay is derived from the French word essayer, which means “to attempt,” or “to try.” An essay is a short form of literary composition based on a single subject matter, and often gives the personal opinion of the author. A famous English essayist, Aldous Huxley defines essays as, “a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.” The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “a short piece of writing on a particular subject.”

The all knowing Wikipedia says – An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Formal essays are characterized by “serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length,” whereas the informal essay is characterized by “the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme,” etc. Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author.

So there we have it. Looking at the writers of these 5 books, they are hailed as some of the best essayists around so hopefully I can learn from them, as well as enjoy reading them.

Just updating this post. Rather than make this one lengthy or over lengthy post I may possibly split it into two parts. The First part….this part….covering the 3 Essayists who are now deceased (the top line in the photo – of 3 books) and a second post about the two remaining live essayists will follow at a later date. OK, on with the post…..

First book out of the starting blocks, just because I liked the title, is Consider the Lobster…and other essays – by David Foster Wallace. He is obviously well respected as a writer if the blurb on the back of the book is to be believed. Comments such as the following praise him to the sky.

Long renowned as one of the smartest writers on the loose, in Consider the Lobster David Foster Wallace also reveals himself to be one of the funniest……Wallace delights and confirms that he is a ‘writer of virtuosic talents’ (New York Times)

‘…a superb comedian of culture….his exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight’ James Woods, Guardian

‘He induces the kind of laughter which, when read in bed with a sleeping partner, wakes said sleeping partner up……He’s damn good’ Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

There are a collection of 10 rather lengthy essays in this book, and I know from the comments about the book that I should be swept away by Mr Wallace’s brilliance, but….(pause while I attempt to think of something tactful to say)….to paraphrase Obi wan Kenobi – ‘This is not the essayist you are looking for’. I have struggled to maintain consciousness through the first four essays and haven’t yet arrived at the start of the actual Consider the Lobster essay. The first essay titled Big Red Son – about the porn industry awards night – appeared to have been written by an adolescent schoolboy with a fetish for large breasts, who is obsessed by the size of the male porn stars er…package and makes constant comments about the amount and regularity of their ejaculations. I have to ask myself, do I want to invest more of my time in trying to understand why so many people rate Mr Wallace so highly? I find myself agreeing with the host of TV’s The Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi when offered instant coffee to drink instead of her usual espresso, her response of…’I’d rather drink my own urine’….mirrors my reluctance to read any more of Wallace’s drivel. Needless to say that I, for one, was not swept away by his impish delight…..more a case of being dragged away kicking and screaming!

In a bid to not judge Mr Wallace too harshly (oops…too late for that), as I hate to speak ill of the dead, I decided to sleep on it, give the Lobster due consideration and give it another try. I don’t suppose David Foster Wallace would lose any sleep over my less than flattering review anyway, and since he is dead, that is of course, neither here nor there. So, 24 hours or so later, I have read the feature article about the Maine Lobster Festival and it was actually quite good. It informed and educated me about lobsters in general and about the MLF. He didn’t however entertain me with his writing. I have yet to discover the humour in his writing that some critics bang on about, and the article tended to be repetitive in parts….he could have cut it by a couple of pages or more and actually improved it (IMHO). As you may or may not be aware Wallace took his own life at the age of 46 and had been consumed by depression for over 20 years. Having now read 5 of his essays I can see why. You may think that my last sentence was uncalled for. All I can say is please read some of Mr Wallace’s work and draw your own conclusions…but first hide all the kitchen knives. Best to keep temptation at arms length.

Of the remaining 4 books of essays two more are also by writers who have passed on to that great typewriter in the sky and thankfully the final two are still very much alive and kicking. I’ll carry on now with two times Pulitzer Prize winner Norman Mailer’s book Mind of an Outlaw, and pray that it’s an improvement on Consider the Lobster.

Even before I open Mailer’s book I am hopeful. He was married 6 times, which would indicate that he had a sense of humour. However he stabbed one wife with a penknife almost killing her…so maybe a sick sense of humour should be expected. Woody Allen once quipped that when Mailer dies, his ego would be donated to Harvard Medical School for research.

Mailer died in 2007, aged 84, (I have no idea what happened to his Ego…) and this collection of essays was published posthumously in 2013, said to contain many of his best works, (scoring 5 out of 5 on Amazon and 4 out of 5 on Goodreads) I remain hopeful as I scan the list of essays.

Unlike Wallace’s essays that run on almost endlessly, page after page, mile after ponderous mile… and bored me silly, Mailer’s run for just a few pages each and so we have around 50 to cherry pick from six decades of writing. Having read the first seven essays, so far, I believe without a doubt that he is, as mentioned by Woody Allen, egotistical. He is one of those writers who is very good at his craft – and knows it – and likes to tell everyone exactly how good he is…..or rather how lucky the reader is that he’s allowing us into his world. This being said, he is (or I should say was) a gifted writer and I am enjoying his somewhat self indulgent essays.

In one essay written in the 1950’s and titled The Homosexual Villain, he writes about what it is to be a writer, how important it is to nurture and grow that inner writer, and why we must not let our uninformed prejudices stunt our growth. I think he absolutely nails it….A writer has his talent, and for all one knows, he is born with it, but whether his talent develops is to some degree responsive to his use of it. He can grow as a person or he can shrink, and by this I don’t intend any facile parallels between moral and artistic growth. The writer can become a bigger hoodlum if need be, but his alertness, his curiosity, his reaction to life must not diminish. The fatal thing is to shrink, to be interested in less, sympathetic to less, desiccating to the point where life itself loses its flavor, and one’s passion for human understanding changes to weariness and distaste.

My plan was to select a couple of essays from each decade to read, but I am enjoying them so much that I’m probably going to read the entire 50. This review could therefore take somewhat longer than I had anticipated.

His essay in 1956 endorsing Ernest Hemingway for political office, although written slightly tongue in cheek, makes a good argument for why the American public would choose Hemingway over Eisenhower. Of course since Hemingway had no political aspirations it becomes a moot point. An interesting piece all the same. Just as a matter of interest, Mailer wrote that in his opinion, the two writers to have had the most influence on the American public were Hemingway and Faulkner – which is quite an interesting choice when Mailer himself admits that he is not overall a fan of Hemingway’s writing. In fact in a later essay in the book he actually says that he got to the point early on in his writing career that he was sick and tired of hearing about both Hemingway and Faulkner.

Modern writers fare no better. Jonathan Franzen’s book – The Corrections was lauded by his contemporaries as an outstanding piece of literature and attracted high praise all around. Mailer’s opinion was that The Corrections is “the book of a generation that wants to wipe the slate clean and offer a new literary movement”, and that “todays writers are sick of Roth, Bellow, Updike and myself.” He then goes on to say that the book is “very good indeed, and yet most unpleasant now that it sits in memory, as if one has been wearing the same clothes for too many days.” He then goes on talking about Franzen’s intelligence. “He may have the highest IQ of any American novelist writing today, but unhappily, he rewards us with more work than exhilaration, since rare is any page in The Corrections that could not be five to ten lines shorter.” Mailer obviously hates to give any other writer any credit at all.

As far as his contemporaries are concerned, Mailer tells us in no uncertain terms that there are barely any of his fellow writers who he feels are as good as, if not better than himself. The one exception being James Jones, who won the 1952 National Book Award for his first published novel, From Here to Eternity. This of course was made into a movie and later into a TV series. Mailer says in his essay Quick Evaluations on the Talent in the Room that James Jones had more talent than he did, and waxes lyrical about him for the best part of a paragraph, before pulling him apart and accusing him of selling out over the years since the publication of his first book. He then goes on to run his sword through a number of other distinguished writers including William Styron, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac and Saul Bellow, dismissing them all as inferior to him.

I suspected that it was too good to be true that Mailer actually felt inferior to another writer. He has such a huge ego that he needed two houses to live in – one of standard size for his physical being and a hundred room mansion for his ego. I’m not sure if Mailer owned a car or not, but if he did, I have no doubt that his number plate/licence plate would be FIGJAM – as in Fuck I‘m Great Just Ask Me.

Although he was undoubtedly a huge narcissist, an egotistic megalomaniac, there is no escaping the fact that he was a brilliant writer and I can’t help but admire his work. He could look at both sides of an argument and make compelling points in support of one side, only to then give equal merit to the opposing side. I must admit to being totally flummoxed in trying to follow his take on existentialism though.

I’ll finish with a quote from the Amazon books website about the book…. Incendiary, erudite, and unrepentantly outrageous, Norman Mailer was a dominating force on the battlefield of ideas. Featuring an incisive Introduction by Jonathan Lethem, Mind of an Outlaw forms a fascinating portrait of Mailer’s intellectual development across the span of his career as well as the preoccupations of a nation in the last half of the American century.

And we move on to our 3rd deceased Essayist – Christopher Hitchens. Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English-American author, columnist, essayist, orator, journalist, and social critic. Hitchens was the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of over 30 books, including five collections of essays on culture, politics, and literature. Hitchens, who died of cancer aged 62, in 2011, was a huge critic of organized religion and I have seen videos of him, on many occasions, having a good old rant against the many religions including, and in particular, Christianity. He enjoyed a smoke and a fine malt whisky, and fully admits that this contributed to his cancer diagnosis. He could be caustic and sarcastic but also witty and humorous and always put forward a good, intelligent argument. A public intellectual and a controversial public figure – and I looked forward to reading his collection of essays titled …And Yet.

And yet….before I start his book I must, just quickly, bring to your attention one of Hitchens’ typical quotes that I wish I had said myself.

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can’t prove it, but you can’t disprove it either.”

OK…that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the review.

And Yet….and other essays was published in 2015 – 4 years after Hitchens death, but is like a breath of fresh air – a last blast from this devout non-conformist – and lifelong atheist. Indeed he takes a swipe at the very idea of Christmas in his essay Bah Humbug which features an account of being physically barred from a ‘Bible Belt’ talk show, even though he’d been invited on it, for observing that “Christmas trees, Yule logs, and the rest were symbols of the winter solstice holidays before any birth had been registered in the greater Bethlehem area.” Therefore pagan rather than Christian iconic items. His host took exception to this.

Born and raised in Britain and later becoming an American citizen gave Hitchens two political systems to pull apart with equal ferocity. It’s a pity that he died before Donald Trump entered the political arena – I would have loved to have heard his opinion of The Don. In this series of essays he takes several swipes at Hillary Clinton. In one essay he characterises her as being “indifferent to truth, willing to use police state tactics and vulgar libels against inconvenient witnesses, hopeless on healthcare and flippant and fast and loose with national security.”

Her ex president husband Bill fares no better. In his essay titled The Case Against Hillary Clinton, Hitchens not only accuses both Hillary and him of being self serving liars…several times over, but also makes strong suggestions that Bill was also a rapist. Many women accused Bill of improper sexual behaviour including Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick…..and who can forget the infamous incident with Monica Lewinsky – I did not have sexual relations with that woman – yeah right! Indeed in an earlier book, No One Left To Lie To, Hitchens penned an essay by the title of Is there a Rapist in the Oval Office?

But it’s not only American politicians who come under fire. No politician anywhere in the world who lies or goes back on promises were safe from Hitchens’ barbed tongue. He even had a go, and quite rightly so, at the Dutch government – who have long enjoyed the reputation for peaceful and democratic consensus – on two counts. The first being in July 1995 when Dutch forces in Bosnia abandoned the population of the UN-protected “safe haven” at Srebrenica enabling the worst massacre of civilians on European soil since WW2. He says Dutch officers were photographed hoisting champagne glasses with the sadistic goons of Ratko Mladic’s militia before leaving the helpless Muslim population to a fate that anyone could have predicted.

The second issue was when the Dutch withdrew their protection of former member of the Dutch Parliament – Ayaan Hirsi Ali – a refugee from genital mutilation, forced marriage, and civil war in her native Somalia, who collaborated with Theo van Gogh on the film Submission that highlighted the maltreatment of Muslim immigrant women living in Holland. Van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street in 2004 with a note pinned to his body promising that the next victim would be Hirsi Ali. Initially the Dutch vowed to give security protection to her, but after a while decided it was costing them too much so they announced in the press that after a certain date had been reached, Hirsi Ali would be unprotected, in effect tipping off the Islamist death squads responsible for the death of van Gogh earlier.

Hitchens was without doubt an exceptional writer with a strong sense of justice. Highly opinionated maybe, highly critical of those in positions of power (be it religious power or political power) – absolutely, but a damn good writer and generally well respected. His book AND YET… with its collection of almost 50 essays is an entertaining and interesting read. If you’ve never read anything by Hitchens, and you are not offended by his stance on religion, his writing offers some real gems.

On the back of the book – “Few writers can match his cerebral pyrotechnics. Fewer still can emulate his punch as an intellectual character assassin. It is hard not to admire the sheer virtuosity of his prose” – Edward Luce, Financial Times. AND “If Hitchens didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be able to invent him” – Ian McEwan.

I’ll leave you with a couple more quotes from Hitchens about himself, in closing.

I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn’t ever have to rely on the press for my information. AND
I don’t have any terrific self-esteem issues but I do sometimes realise I’ve been too lucky and that I’m over-praised. It makes me nervous. I have this sense of being overrated.

This brings a close to the first, of my two part, review of the five books of essays. Three deceased writers down, two live ones yet to come. Thank you as usual for reading. Your comments etc., are much appreciated.

Autism as a gift….the life of Temple Grandin.

Yet again I have to credit my wife in introducing me firstly to a documentary and secondly to a movie about a brilliant lady, Temple Grandin, who just happens to be autistic. She, my wife, had been reading a book called On Eating Meat – by Matthew Evans. It’s a book about the production of meat and the ethics involved in eating it. Sounds like a real page-turner doesn’t it (said sarcastically). Strangely enough it IS. It really is a book for everyone to read – meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. It looks into all aspects of raising animals for meat and also looks into the ethics of veggie and vegan food production. You’d be amazed at how many animals get killed in the process of growing vegetables and fruit. So, like it or not, no food can be eaten totally guilt free. Evans is both a farmer and a chef, and is known as the Gourmet Farmer.

46061983

In the book Evans refers to a BBC documentary about Temple Grandin titled The Woman Who Thinks Like A Cow. My wife, being my wife, did what she always does and looked up the documentary on line. Of course she insisted I watch it with her. What an eye opener into the world of Autism. AND what an amazing person Doctor Temple Grandin turns out to be. Look up the documentary on line.

This of course led my wife to one of several of Temple Grandin’s books – The Autistic Brain…..in which, Grandin, who is one of the most accomplished adults with autism in the world, reports from the forefront of Autism Science including remarkable discoveries about the brain and the latest genetic research.

See the source image

Her view is that we need to treat autism symptom by symptom rather than with an umbrella diagnosis. She also argues that raising autistic children needs to be less about focussing on their weaknesses and more about fostering their unique contributions, saying autism can be turned into a gift, not a disability.

And onward to a movie about her life, an HBO Original Film starring Claire Danes in the title role. We borrowed a copy of the DVD from our local library and watched it last night. It’s a most excellent and interesting movie – very much worth watching. Temple Grandin’s mother was told, when she was only a very young girl, that she should be placed in an institution and given electro-therapy. Thankfully her mother declined and looked into other methods of helping her daughter become what she wanted to be, including getting her a speech therapist, and sending her to specialist schools. It sheds a light on autism that I, for one, knew nothing about. The link to the official trailer is below. Claire Danes does an amazing job in portraying Dr Grandin in both her voice and her mannerisms. We follow her trials and tribulations, facing not only autism head on, but also the cruelty of others towards her, on her way to becoming a PhD and a legend in both the business and the welfare of cattle.

And if anyone would like to delve further into Temple Grandin’s life and works, her own websites are available on line. Links are below

https://www.grandin.com/

and https://templegrandin.com/

Enjoy…and prepared to be amazed.

What I’m reading/have been reading.

I’ve not had much spare cash recently….that’s nothing new….so I’ve been borrowing quite a lot more – from my local library – than usual.

Picture below shows the latest batch of library books that have been keeping me entertained.

The Way Home and The Moneyless Man – both by Irish writer and Freeconomist Mark Boyle, I have written about in my recent post titled “After we stop pretending”.

The two books about building the perfect BUG OUT Bag and BUG OUT Vehicle I have written about in an upcoming blog post, still to be published. The remainder I’ll give a brief outline about here. 

The Natural Disaster Survival Handbook is a simple to follow book with lots of pictures and text in straight forward English giving lots of helpful advice about what to do in various natural disaster scenarios – Earthquakes, storms, floods, volcanic eruption  etc.

Hazards In Hawke’s Bay is about the natural hazards of concern in my immediate locality and is more in the format of a magazine than a book. The town that I live on the outskirts of is only a few kilometres from the ocean, on the southern edge of Hawke’s Bay. Just off the coast we have the Hikurangi subduction zone – a fault line where two tectonic plates meet…one dips down under the other producing what is known as a “slow slip fault”. These faults move almost imperceptibly until they stick for a time and then move suddenly in a jarring motion producing a large and potentially devastating quake of between 8 and 9 on the Richter scale, similar to the one that produced the disaster in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. The book covers other hazards, but understandably concentrates on earthquakes since this area was hit by a devastating quake in 1931 flattening both cities of Hastings (where I live) and Napier.

Building Small is a nice little picture and plan book about building tiny houses. Some of these are smallish houses, others really are tiny – a little larger than a garden shed – all are cleverly designed to optimise both living  space and storage areas. It’s a nice book with some good designs for tiny houses. On a personal note, my wife and I are considering downsizing our home size, but increasing our land size….moving away from the town into the countryside and living as self sufficiently as possible on a small-holding (small farm), so this book was of particular interest.

The two remaining books My Year Without Matches and Londonistan I started but didn’t finish as they just didn’t do it for me. Didn’t hold my interest at all. My Year Without Matches is about living in the bush for a year without any sort of technology, making your own shelter and surviving in the wild. There were a few interesting aspects to the book, but nothing that made me want to get from cover to cover. Londonistan was too much of a divisive racist rant about how Muslims are taking over the UK. I understand how some Brits may feel – that their way of life, British customs and traditions are under threat from immigration and multicultural society….and to be honest, I do share those concerns to a certain extent. BUT I think that this book pushes the boundaries a little too much and it becomes more of a rant rather than a balanced look at immigration versus the traditional British way of life.

Although I have not had any extra cash available to buy books, last month it was Father’s Day and my youngest son sent me a card with a book voucher inside, so I happily toddled off to Unity Books in Wellington (the NZ Capital) and purchased Shaun Bythell’s second book Confessions of a Bookseller, in hardback. In an earlier post I covered meeting Shaun, who lives in Scotland’s Booktown, Wigtown – where he owns the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland – when he was in New Zealand promoting the release of his first book Diary of a Bookseller, which was frankly hilarious. The second book follows on where the first left off, telling us in diary form about Shaun’s life in the book trade and the ups and downs of owning the bookshop….the insanity of some of his customers, the sometimes bizarre behaviour of his staff….and the trials and tribulations of his own personal life. Shaun’s humour can be rather sarcastic and caustic at times, but having met the guy I can tell you that he is a very nice person, despite his quest to prove otherwise in his books. 

The second book, I bought with the remainder of my voucher, was a paperback by Wendell Berry titled The World-Ending Fire – and features a number of his essays dating from 1968 up until 2011. I happened upon Wendell Berry after reading about him in one of Mark Boyle’s books and from a reference in a video by former environmentalist Paul Kingsnorth…who just happens to be one of Boyle’s neighbours. It’s funny how one book leads to another and then another. Berry is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. Wikipedia tells us – “He is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012. He is also a 2013 Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Berry was named the recipient of the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. On January 28, 2015, he became the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.” It’s probably his absolute love of the natural world that attracted Boyle, Kingsnorth and now myself to his writings.The back of the book says – Wendell Berry lives and works in the old ways on his farm in rural Kentucky. He is also one of America’s most powerful radical voices. In the pieces collected here he writes about the peace of nature, the food we eat, and, above all, why we must care for the land we live on.

I look forward to reading Berry’s book after I finish Bythell’s. 

After we stop pretending….

If you look at this post’s title and wonder “after we stop pretending” about what? I’ll get to that shortly. It’s a prickly subject and it will make a lot of people very uncomfortable. Others won’t feel any discomfort or shame simply because they (a) don’t understand the problem or (b) just don’t give a shit. But please bear with me and I’ll do my best to explain.

Have you ever started on something and it leads to something else and that leads to somewhere else, or an idea, or pattern of thought that hadn’t occurred to you? That’s kind of how I got here….to the After We Stop Pretending thing…and it’s all my wife’s fault. Let me explain.

She, like me, has become very disenchanted by the direction that modern society is going in. Being connected to Wifi, the world wide web, to our phones, to technology, to over consumption of stuff….but completely disconnected from one another, from society, from community and most of all from nature. However, unlike me – I who am content to moan and bitch about how, as a species, we’ve lost our way and how terrible this disconnect with nature is – my wife tends to look deeper into the problem and to try to find out if it can be solved. It was her search to find ways of disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature that brought her to Mark Boyle – an Irishman, writer, environmentalist, free thinker and freeconomist – who was formerly as entrenched in the system as the rest of us, having trained as an economist.

Mark Boyle has written a book, (actually he’s written a few books…..but this one in particular was one my wife was drawn to), called “The Moneyless Man”. Which is about how he took a year off from the system – from modern day life – from the economy – from consumerism – and lived for 12 months without money. (This actually became his way of life for a 3 year period, not one). Both to see if it could be done at all and also as a bit of a social experiment. He didn’t completely disconnect from technology though. He lived in a caravan on someone’s farm – he was allowed to park the caravan there in exchange for several days labour in the fields each month. On the caravan he had a solar panel with which he would charge his cell phone – on which he could only accept incoming calls as he had no money to make outgoing calls – and his laptop on which to write his book and a number of newspaper and magazine articles about his one year of living without money. He used a bike for transport and his food came partly from what he grew, partly from what he could forage in the wild and partly from dumpster diving behind the supermarket in the nearby town. His life for the next 12 months proved that necessity is indeed the mother of invention AND that living without money is a possibility.

This first book brought my wife to Boyle’s latest book called “The Way Home” – in which, 9 years on from his moneyless experiment, he has now built his own cabin, has realised that money is in some cases necessary – so has used the money from his book sales to purchase some land of his own – but has opened it up for anyone to live there. He has totally kicked modern technology into touch, even his phone and laptop have now gone. He still writes, but on recycled paper, with pens he finds here and there abandoned or lost by other people. His philosophy is one of paying it forward – he does things for people without expecting anything in return. There is no quid pro quo with Boyle.

It is this recent book, The Way Home (2019), that provides us with the next link. In The Way Home, Boyle refers to another writer by the name of Paul Kingsnorth. Kingsnorth is a former journalist, former editor of the Ecologist and according to his book is “A Recovering Environmentalist”. He is co founder of The Dark Mountain Project – a haven for writers who have seen through the veil of misinformation and fabrication of todays society, have come to the conclusion that the environmental movement has been hijacked by big business and political clout, decided that as things stand our disconnect from nature and our belief in the ideals of consumerism and the growth economy will push us not just to the brink of extinction, but over the brink. After the collapse of the system, perhaps people views about the sanity of the status quo will change. Only After We Stop Pretending can we make the changes in the way we live, that we should have made 40 years ago and get down to the work of re-growing a living culture.

Paul Kingsnorth used to be an environmentalist who put his body on the line to protest abuses of the environment. This video is about his current take on environmentalism, the life we live and why it’s too late for us to save the earth. It’s 49 minutes long but very interesting and has many truths.

Much is made these days about buzz words like “sustainability”. It used to be about sustaining and about not abusing nature or “natural resources”. These days the green movement is more about sustaining our life style by replacing one thing with it’s perceived “eco” counterpart. Environmentalism has become about sustainable development – which let’s face it is an oxymoron. Big business and the consumer lifestyle must, it seems, be the things that we place the priority on sustaining.

We have had countless feel good rallies in parks, marches to parliament to present petitions about protecting the environment, to which a smiling politician speaks a few empty promises about looking into the problem….probably involving committees and sub committees and flights overseas to see how other governments are handling the “environment problem”. But nothing happens to slow down the wheels of industry, of commerce, of commercialism.

We’ve had countless years of presentations of scientific evidence, discussions, debates and resolutions at the United Nations – yet still nothing has been done to slow the commercial machine – CO2 emissions continue to rise, pollution of the air and seas continues unabated, the rain forests continue to be cleared at alarming rates, the icecaps and glaciers continue to melt, sea level continues to rise as do average temperatures. But it’s all okay, none of this will affect the value of your shares on the stock exchange. Despite all the international agreements and environmental protection agencies we are destroying and polluting at an ever increasing rate. Changing your lightbulbs to energy efficient ones or banning single use plastic bags in supermarkets – whilst a step in the right direction – are not going to solve the problems we face and are in fact a case of too little, much too late.

The problem is a result of the system we follow, blindly. It’s not just about our consumption of, and our reliance on, fossil fuels that is the problem – it’s about the need to change the system that drives this consumption. This is the truth that everyone skirts around because of fear of how the abandoning of the growth economy system will affect their lifestyle.

The more disconnected we are from the source of our food, the less we value it and the more wasteful we become. If I can explain….go back to hunter gatherer time…Back when we were hunter gatherers we would spend a couple of hours a day sourcing our food from the forests and streams in the locality of our home base. We’d work along side and within the natural world – take as much as we needed from nature, eat it that day, fresh and then start the whole process again the next day. Rinse and repeat.

Then some bright spark had the idea of gathering some seeds from the bushes and plants that they found in nature and farming the ground close to home base to grow the food we needed right on our doorstep. Because we now take care in tending our food supply it takes us a little longer, but we are still very connected to our food and to nature. We value it and take only what we need. Jumping forward several hundred years we have for the most part separated ourselves from nature. We now live in cities and work 8 hour days, or more, in order to earn these tokens called money. With this money, we can pay for other people, sometimes on the other side of the planet to grow our food for us, pay for the mining and refining of the fossil fuel to power the trucks, ships and planes to bring it thousands of kilometres to a supermarket near us, where we can jump into our cars, using more fossil fuel, to drive to the supermarket to collect the food, (now mostly wrapped in plastic packaging on Styrofoam trays), that we once used to grow fresh on our own doorstep. We have no idea about how much petro-chemical sprays or other toxic materials have been used in the production of our food – which is now grown for shape and colour and shelf life rather than for any nutritional value. And then we waste a third of all the food we buy. This we call progress….and….civilisation. Is it just me, or can anyone else see that this just makes no sense at all?

Photo from Gloria’s Bits and Pieces on BlogSpot.com

And don’t even think to get me started on all the other rubbish that we import from around the world that is built only to last for a limited span of time. We have embraced the throw away society whole heartedly. We have fast food, fast fashions and even fast furnishings. All of which are tasteless and unfortunately get us addicted for more of the same. Anything to keep us spending that money and keep growing the economy. We are blasted by advertisements to buy more, update this, bigger that, new and improved…buy buy buy! Celebrity endorsements on TV, in magazines, on billboards, on the internet. We have so much stuff these days that off site storage is now a multi billion dollar business. It’s craziness. We haven’t just lost our way, we’re completely off the map. A byproduct of this greed for more stuff is that we need more land and more resources, to make the stuff, so we destroy nature, we wipe out hundreds of species weekly….WEEKLY…without even pausing to consider the consequences. We need to have the courage to change, to be responsible for our own actions and to do it quickly. Governments support the status quo – they are NOT going to save us if we don’t force them to.

It’s been said many times, so I’ll say it once more in the forlorn hope that this time someone will read it and say – yes that’s absolutely right, and make the change that we all need for our survival – “You can not have infinite growth on a finite planet”. So, yes we need to Stop Pretending that everything is just fine and dandy. The science says that we may have already passed the tipping point or are within a year or two of it. It’s frightening, but we need to accept that, to look despair right in the face and change the way we live. Let’s not make things any worse than they are already going to be. Is it only when money, credit and “the economy” are seen to be nothing more than the Emperors New Clothes of fairly tales and the system comes crashing down around our ears that most of us will finally admit that it was doomed to fail all along, and try to change the system to one of living with nature. We must realise that we are part of the natural world, not above it.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Dark Mountain Project, the link to their website is https://dark-mountain.net/

Mark Boyle (the moneyless man) will be at Scotland’s Booktown – Wigtown – for their annual book festival, appearing on 4th October 2019. He’ll be talking about his latest book and his life without technology.

What does it mean to be human as boundaries between man and machine blur? Mark Boyle tried to find out, embracing life with no running water, car or electricity. The former business graduate, who once lived without money for three years, talks about his remarkable life on a Galway smallholding.