The Pheasants Revolt – Brian Viner – Book Review

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This was one of the books that I recently bought at the annual Hastings Lions Book Sale and the first one that I’ve decided to read. It’s a biographical memoir and follows on where his first book Tales of the Country, which I still have to read, left off. As mentioned in my post about the book sale, I’d already started the book more or less as soon as I got home and it only took three sessions of reading to get through it. His writing flows very easily and you find you’re unable to stop yourself speeding through the stories. Although each chapter is a stand alone story of his family and their life in the British countryside, they are in chronological order so it still, in a way, reads like it’s one story.

It’s not a new book, the ones at the book sale seldom are, and was published in 2007. But from my own experience, although cities change rather quickly, life in the countryside is much slower paced so the stories in this book will ring as true today as when first published.

Although he’s not quite in Bill Bryson’s league as far as one liners go, Viner can still throw in one or two lines to make the reader chuckle along the way, for example – “Applying a razor blade to one’s scrotum is not a job anyone should do in a hurry.” – this from a story relating to his preparation for a vasectomy operation. It’s certainly an attention grabber. Actually, on reflection, he and Bryson do have a lot in common as far as their writing styles are concerned. Both write in the same way that a favourite long-lived uncle would bumble his way through stories of his dim and distant past. Getting lost on the way and taking several side paths before getting back on track to finish the story….and on occasion just getting totally lost.

He’s moved his wife and three children from the city to an old manor house in the Hereford countryside to “live the country life”, but he’s totally inept at country living. His idea of success is being able to walk across a cow paddock without standing in a cow pat, however he does learn how to turn a sheep up the right way…..please don’t ask – read the book.

His predominantly self-depreciating stories cover everything from – being a Beater during Grouse shooting season… the first day known as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, and to grouse as ‘Bollocks, Is It Already That Time of Year Again?’ – coming home to find that the builders who have come to repair his house have spent a whole day putting up scaffolding against the wrong wall – the disaster faced when finding his two dogs had been out savaging sheep – discussing the delights and the downfalls of country dining – the right and wrong way, from experience, to raise chickens – his experiences of being a very minor celebrity – his discovery that one of his neighbours is, or I should say was, a notorious Madame (Madame Whiplash no less) and more.

It’s a very entertaining read and I will certainly make an effort to track down both his earlier book Tales of The Country, and a later one called Cream Teas, Traffic Jams and Sunburn, about the British on holiday. If they are anything like The Pheasants’ Revolt they will be witty and entertaining reads.

Gardening with my father

When I was a child living in Yorkshire I owned a mug, for drinking tea, with a little picture on the front of a child with its father watering flowers in a garden, using watering cans. A big watering can for the Dad and a small one for the son. Under the picture was the phrase “Helping Daddy”. It’s funny what we remember from our childhood isn’t it? But, like the child on the front of that mug, I used to help my dad in his garden once I was big enough to be of help.

As well as our gardens at home, front and back of the house, which were always a riot of colour, full of flowers and small shrubs, dad also had a huge vegetable garden just a few minute walk away….through the edge of the woods and down a back lane….where his widowed cousin Dora lived. Dora lost her husband in WW2 and lived alone in a house with a huge garden that she couldn’t manage on her own. The garden was divided in two by a path that ran from the front door down to the front gate. The old stone house stood at the very back of the section so all the gardens were visible to the front of the house. The path was the dividing line between Dora’s flower garden – mainly roses – and dad’s veggie garden.

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My dad…shirtless by the looks of things… working in the veggie garden. See how everything grows in neat rows.

So, from being about 8 or 9 years old I was kind of “volunteered” to help dad in the veggie garden. To begin with this mainly involved tedious things such as weeding, tidying, or fetching and carrying things for dad. As I got bigger I was given heavier work such as digging trenches for manuring/composting and using the wheelbarrow to fetch leaf mold from the woods to add to our compost pile, or other such barrow duties. I wasn’t particularly keen on the tasks, but enjoyed spending time with my dad. It amazed me how much he could grow in his garden and how well he (and I) kept it. Row after straight row of vegetables – Tomatoes, Beans, Peas, Carrots, Onions, Cabbage, Turnips, Spring Onions, Cauliflower, Beetroot, Potatoes, Lettuce and best of all, in a small garden to the side of the house was a very crowded strawberry bed. This garden was sheltered by the house on one side and walls on two other sides, providing a sunny warm area for the strawberries to thrive. Oh how I remember the taste of those succulent deep red strawberries – juicy and sweet.

At the time, I didn’t really appreciate the cycle of creation in front of me in that garden. Or of the life within the soil and how we helped to keep that cycle of healthy soil, healthy food going. The preparing and manuring of the soil in readiness for the planting of the seeds, the emergence of the first shoots of the plants, their continued growth to maturity and their ultimate harvest….interspersed with lots and lots of weeding and watering. Food on our table, and food for the family, friends and neighbours.

What I also remember is Dora bringing out sweet cups of tea for dad and I to drink and take a break from our toils, along with a plate of slices of cake or iced (frosted) buns – which always seemed to be slightly stale, but not so far gone that we wouldn’t risk eating them. You know, as a child I had no idea of the age of adults. Everyone who had finished school and started work seemed ancient to me, so one day when Dora asked me how old I thought she was I took a stab at 60….Oops. She was in her mid 40’s at the time so for a while after that she refused to talk to me.

I was fascinated by the worms in the soil – my main concern was how on earth they could breath underground. But I learned how vital they were to the health of the soil, just as I learned how vital bees were (and still are) to the wellbeing of the strawberries. I would sit and watch for ages as the bees went around their business of calling on each strawberry flower before moving on to the next, pollinating as they buzzed here and there. Not that nature asked for our help, but we did what we could as we added compost and mulch to help keep the soil protected and healthy.

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The butcher’s shop. Manure by the barrowload was gathered from the yards behind the shop.

One of the worse most odious and rank tasks (literally), that dad gave me was taking a wheelbarrow up the hill to the butchers yards to collect fresh animal manure. The butcher, Clifford, slaughtered animals on the premises in a yard at the back of the shop. Animals, I guess, are like humans in respect of their reaction to their forthcoming slaughter – shit scared doesn’t even begin to describe it. Let’s just say that there was always lots of manure and straw to transport from the butcher’s yard back down the hill to the garden. A funny thing about my journey’s up and down the hill to the yard and back. On the way up the hill, with a clean wheelbarrow, I would not see anyone I knew on the streets. On the way back, wheelbarrow full of stinking shit, a liberal amount of which I always seemed to manage to get over myself, (the smell of which seemed to linger for days regardless of how much soap I used, or how raw I scrubbed my hands and arms), surrounded by flies, and I would see lots of people who knew me, including at least one pretty girl from school. The manure patrol did little to enhance my reputation with the opposite sex, but worked wonders in the garden.

I write this, some fifty years later after moving to the opposite side of the world and have now become the keen gardener that my dad once was. I am sitting on my terrace, overlooking the garden at the front of my own home. Poppies swaying in the breeze, next to one of a half dozen stands of raspberry canes. The bees from our own hive, buzzing among the plants, work their magic. The canes heavy in both flowers and fruit, some fruit still green, but others turning a pale pink on their way to succulent scarlet ripeness. Another week should do it. In the garden to my left tomato plants are thriving and already bearing small green tomatoes. I was just having a wander around the garden – gin and tonic in hand – counting up the tomato plants. Last year we had around 70. This year we’re up to 80 at current count, with more (perhaps another 50) in seed trays and plant pots to be planted out in the coming days. Everything that we don’t either eat or give away to family and neighbours will be preserved either as tomato sauce or whole, in jars, for later use.

Oh well, it’s been another hot, late spring, day here in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand – my home for the last 30 years. Time to end this post and give my plants a good watering.

As usual thank you for reading this. Any comments or questions will be responded to as soon as possible. Likes and shares most appreciated.

I can’t resist book sales.

Saturday 16th November brought around the annual Hastings Lions book sale. My daughter-in-law’s grandfather Morris helped to bring about the first Lions book sale over 30 years ago. This years was the first that he’d missed. He died a few days earlier . Very sad because he was such an outgoing and community oriented person. On a brighter note, once again there were thousands of books for sale. All used, secondhand, thirdhand and some really well read books donated by the community to the Lions and all money raised from the sale goes back unto the community in some form or another.

Part of my book haul from this years Lions book sale. A good balance of the old and reasonably new, plus a couple of classics and some non-fiction.

As it says in the caption, these were just some of the books I bought at the sale. They were mostly at the bargain price of 2 New Zealand dollars each and most were in good or very good condition despite their age. I also picked up a few books for my wife…which I think was a reasonable swap….cough cough. And I managed to even get a couple of photography books, one of which features the portraits of Steve McCurry, one of my favourite photographers. The deal at home is meant to be, “get rid of some books before you buy any more”. I always fail miserably at the getting rid part of the deal, but excel at buying some more. Oops!

So, as a result of the book sale purchases, my to read pile has grown considerably. Although I already have 2 other books on the go at the moment, I couldn’t resist starting Brian Viner’s book Pheasants’ Revolt – the second book about the transformation of his and his families lives in transitioning from Townies to living in the countryside. He is a very humorous writer, very easy to read and I find myself magically almost half way through the book at the first attempt….in a very short time. Absolutely loving it and wouldn’t mind trying to track down the first of his books…Tales of the Country.

I will do a quick review of Viner’s book in a later post. Meantime, better get back to it. Has anyone else been to any good book sales recently?

Thanks as usual for reading, commenting etc.

Back to basics. Feed and free yourself.

Just over three years ago both me and my wife were working full time. I worked 40 hours per week, and she was working 37.5 hours per week. We were not in high paying jobs, but the money was good, and payment was regular and reliable. Then in mid 2016 we both quit our jobs and fulfilled a long term dream of travelling around the UK and Europe for 6 months, on a strictly limited budget. It meant that we couldn’t do everything that tourists usually do, but there was always something either free, or reasonably priced to do where ever we went. We had a wonderful time, met lots of interesting people, saw some of the sights, experienced a lot.

Some of the people we met lived – I don’t want to use the word unusual or strange, because they weren’t, but shall we just say – lived in ways that are not these days considered to be mainstream. Some had pretty much turned their backs on modern gadgets. Others were very much into self sufficiency and making things rather than relying on the stores and supermarkets. There seemed to be a connection with nature and more sense of community, just like when it was when I was growing up in Yorkshire in the 1960’s. Back in the 60’s, I not only knew my neighbours, but also knew by name everyone in our street – men, women and children. I even knew a lot of people in other streets nearby. If anyone had a problem or a task that they needed help with, someone on the street would be there to help out.

Kids played in the street together, and in the local woods and parks – without adult supervision, without rubberised mats to fall down onto, without having to phone or text home every 10 minutes to report where they were, who they were with and what they were doing. When we went out to play our mothers would say “be home before dark”. That was the only stipulation. We were kids and loved to play, but we also had common sense and strength in numbers. If anyone was stupid enough to try to do anything illegal or immoral with one of us, the rest were there as back up. Never any problems.

Mothers used to stand at the gates of the houses and chat over a cup of tea (and in many cases, a cigarette). But of course that was then…..and now we are so much “better connected” with the internet, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, on line games, virtual reality communities and so much more to waste our time and isolate us from the real world. We can blob out on our couches and never move all day as we watch and “like” other peoples lives….see what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Isn’t modern technology wonderful? Where ever we go we can have internet access. We can be contacted by smart phone…or smart watches even in some of the more remote places. Isn’t it marvelous to be at everyone’s beck and call every minute of every day? Things like peace, isolation, quiet, are a thing of the past…as is going for a brisk walk over the moors or through the woods… as we become addicted to our digital devices.

But I’m getting carried away, my apologies. What I am trying to say is, that by living with limited things and on a tight budget for 6 months, and managing to live very comfortably, we wondered what we could do when we returned home to simplify our lives, work less hours and have more time for us – to do what we enjoy. We had already decided that we didn’t want to work full time jobs any more and would only be looking for part time work when we returned home.

The answer was to dig up our useless lawns and turn them into vegetable gardens, with fruit and nut trees planted here and there. In the end we have over 20 trees and lots of small gardens covering what was our lawn. Except for the middle of winter, we are pretty much self sufficient in fruit and veg. We had increased our mortgage payments before quitting our jobs and had managed to pay it off, so that left the usual expenses to pay for things like the rest of our food bill, electricity, insurance, local council rates and taxes, internet, and all that is involved in keeping a vehicle on the road. In the end, we are getting by on only my wife working part time, while I look after the house and gardens and to help make ends meet we have rented out a spare bedroom through Airbnb. It is not occupied all that often, but the money it brings in pays for our little luxuries. We have more time….some of it is spent keeping the garden up and running, but since I enjoy doing that, it’s not really a hardship. We can take up hobbies, go out for the day, enjoy walks and bike rides, commune with nature, write a blog (this one) or nestle into a comfortable chair with a good book….and coffee (or wine). Oh yes I also make my own wine, jams and chutneys. We preserve any extra fruit, tomatoes, peppers etc to help to see us through the leaner months. And after 3 years – almost – things are working well. We’re living the good life.

Last year we planted around 70 tomato plants and we preserved lost of them and made sauces with others. We still have jars of tomatoes and bottles of sauce stacked on our storage shelves. This year, so far I have planted around 50 tomato plants, but have seed trays with another 40 or 50 that I am still waiting to grow big enough to plant out. And that’s only a start. Encouraged by what we have read by several authors who have simplified their lives even more than we have and gone completely off grid, we have decided that in the new year, 2020, we will start looking seriously into selling our home here on the edge of the city and buying a smaller house, but with more land out in the countryside. This will allow us to expand our gardens, raise chickens for eggs (and possibly for meat), maybe we’ll also have a couple of goats for milking to make cheese. We’ll also put in a wood lot for continuous firewood supplies, harvest rain water, put in solar panels to provide us with electricity for lights at night and other basics, but mostly we’ll be going “old school” with hand operated appliances, a root cellar to keep food fresh and attempt to be off grid and as free of “the system” as possible. It could also mean that my wife can cut back on her working hours even further….or completely if we can make our self sufficiency profitable.

Time will tell. Meantime we have renovations to do on our existing home to ready it for sale. I’ve just replaced the hallway ceiling, so still have to plaster and paint that. And we’ve had a couple of weeks now of very dry, hot weather (we’re coming into New Zealand’s late spring/early summer and it’s already hit 31C/88F) so I have to keep up on the watering. Our strawberries are producing well – we have around 200 plants, and our 200 or more raspberry canes have lots of flowers, buds and unripe green fruit forming. It looks like being a wonderful season for berry fruit. After they finish fruiting it will be time for the peaches to be harvested. I love summer fruit!

Please note…I have put a link below to the blog I used to write last year (that I should probably update) about gardening and self sufficiency. Lots of photos there of the garden and produce. Meantime, many thanks for reading the blog. Comments, likes and shares are most appreciated and if you have any questions please do ask.

https://livingthegoodlife23.wixsite.com/lizandmalc/single-post/2018/10/29/The-garden-is-in-bloom

Poppy – a poem of remembrance

Since Remembrance Day is almost here (11th November), I thought I would try to pen a poem about the Poppy as a tribute to the fallen of World War One…Known as “The Great War” and also as “The War to End All Wars”. Of course, history shows that this “Great War” did not, unfortunately, end all wars, and whether you agree with armed conflict or not, it should not diminish the bravery of the men who fought….and the many who died….in the hope of protecting the freedom of those they left behind in their homelands.

The War to end All Wars, they said

They called it that, but they were wrong

This poem is for the millions dead

And for the flowers that they fought among.

The poppies grew on Flanders Field

Red petals match the red blood spilled

Those brave young men refused to yield

And on those muddy fields were killed.

We wear the poppy to remember them

And the reasons that they died

Through our button-hole we place the stem

The red poppy, worn with pride.

On a personal note, both of my grandfathers, along with their brothers, fought in WW1. Thankfully my grandfathers came home safely. My father and uncles fought in WW2 – again came home safely, although one uncle lost an arm in the conflict. I am thankful that so far, me, my brother and my sons have been spared the horror of having to fight in WW3. I remain hopeful that this fragile peace, in which we currently live, continues.

“Be the change”….but do it soon.

The quote “Be the change you want to see in the world”, was attributed to Mahatma Gandhi….some would say falsely. It appears that the closest he came to saying these words, or something along their lines, was: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change”.

The actual phrase may have been said much later – in 1970 – well after Gandhi’s death, by New Age Teacher Arleen Lorrance, who taught at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn. The concept of “be the change you wish to see in the world,” began in a report about The Love Project written by Ms. Lorrance, and published in an education reform text. But this doesn’t detract from the sentiment of the phrase, no matter who said it.

Henry David Thoreau, he of Walden fame, said something similar earlier still than Gandhi, when he said Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around. Actually, Thoreau had a great belief system and came up with some very worthy and notable quotations. He could certainly see through the veil of crap that that the political and the industrial systems put up between them and the public to keep the citizens in the dark, meekly following on as they are told. As follows…..

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.

There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.

Thoreau died in 1862, well before the Wright Brothers first flight, but even back then he could see the amount of destruction that mankind could inflict on the earth. Of course since the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s our rate of destruction has ramped up to a terrifying level. Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, which he wrote in a basic cabin beside Walden Pond in the woods near Concord, Massachusetts. He is also known for his essay “Civil Disobedience”, an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. In which he encourages the people to stand up to the state machine, which has since morphed into our consumer driven system, that seems hell bent on destroying nature and our relationship with the earth and each other.

His banner….his writing legacy that is… about us being one with nature, of us protecting nature and ourselves as a part of nature, rather than being apart from nature…..has been taken up by other writers of the present day such as – Wendell Erdman Berry, an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer – Mark Boyle, a.k.a. The Moneyless Man, an Irish activist and writer best known for founding the online Freeconomy Community – Paul Kingsnorth, an English writer and thinker. Former deputy-editor of The Ecologist and a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project.

All of the above writers are inspirational in their regard for protecting nature….for natures sake, not just because someone has placed a monetary value on nature. Please read them, become inspired by them, and become part of the solution, not part of the problem that we face today, as we continue to allow “the system” to rape and pillage nature. Sometimes, “the Law” won’t protect that which needs to be protected, because the people who make the laws are the ones doing the plundering….or benefiting financially from those who do the plundering. I’ll leave you with one last quote. This time from Earth Liberation Front spokesperson Leslie James Pickering, who said:

…..the vast majority of efforts made in the name of environmentalism are done so through state-sanctioned means to social change. But when the system itself is precisely what is enabling and promoting oppression, how is it logical to expect that same system to provide avenues toward liberation?

In other words, the answer to our environmental/climate problem are not going to come from the same source as those who support the industries and ways of life that are causing the problem. Government and the corporate world are not going to make changes unless forced to do so.

Please look into what Paul Kingsnorth, Mark Boyle and the Earth Liberation Front think are the answers.






Freedom fighter or terrorist?

Before I start this post I want to make absolutely sure that you….yes you, reading this, understand that I in no way condone killing anyone….whether it be as a freedom fighter, a terrorist, or even as a soldier under orders from the President. Killing is killing. What I would like us to look at…..to consider, are the ethics, the reasoning behind why people take such extreme action such as destroying property or taking lives…for a belief system. US President George W Bush and his side kick Tony Blair (Prime Minister of the UK) have not been tried as murderers for starting a war, proven to be on false pretences, with Iraq, killing a generally accepted number of around 288,000 people. Why is that? Why is that not considered to be terrorism? An unjust war must surely mean unjust, unlawful killings. Is it simply because they are in command of two of the most important nations on the UN Security Council, so are considered to be above the law?

As we approach November 5th – a date celebrated by many in the western world, particularly in the UK – celebrating the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators to blow up the House of Lords, I thought it may be apt to include a post about Freedom fighters…or Terrorists. The difference between a Freedom Fighter and a Terrorist is often decided upon by whether they won the conflict or lost. Victors are generally viewed as Freedom Fighters….as are those supported by “western” governments. History has given us many Terrorists but only a few Freedom Fighters. It all depends on your point of view as to which category they should be in. For now, I want to discuss just one person…..

Most people will have heard of the Unabomber – real name Theodore (Ted) John Kaczynski. Who over a period of around 17 years, beginning in 1978, killed 3 people and injured 23 by sending parcel bombs via the US mail service. But what was his reasoning behind this action?

…. America’s little wars are designed to promote the interests of “the system,” but violence at home is dangerous to the system, so the system’s propaganda has to teach us the correspondingly correct attitudes toward such events. Yet I am much less repelled by powerless dissidents who kill a couple hundred because they think they have no other way to effectively state their protest, than I am by politicians and generals—people in positions of great power—who kill hundreds or thousands for the sake of cold calculated political and economic advantages. – Unabomber – Theodore “Ted” John Kaczynski.

On the subject of Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma federal buildings in retaliation for the Ruby Ridge and Wako siege, Kaczynski had this to say….The media teach us to be horrified at the Oklahoma City bombing, but I won’t have time to be horrified at it as long as there are greater horrors in the world that make it seem insignificant by comparison. Moreover, our politicians and our military kill people in far larger numbers than was done at Oklahoma City, and they do so for motives that are far more cold blooded and calculating. On orders from the president, a general will kill some thousands of people (usually including many civilians regardless of efforts to avoid such losses) without bothering to ask himself whether the killing is justified. He has to follow orders because his only other alternative would be to resign his commission, and naturally he would rather kill a few thousand people than spoil his career. The politicians and the media justify these actions with propaganda about “defending freedom.” However, even if America were a free society (which it is not), most U.S. military action during at least the last couple of decades has not been necessary for the survival of American society but has been designed to protect relatively narrow economic or political interests or to boost the president’s approval rating in the public-opinion polls.

Getting back to Kaczynski’s reason for sending out parcel bombs. Firstly we need to understand that Kaczynski was not some kind of redneck hoodlum. He was a very intelligent man (with an IQ 6 points above that of Einstein). He graduated high school at 15 and was accepted at Harvard University on a scholarship at the age of 16. His peers, both in high school and at Harvard University, considered him a genius or, as one classmate said, “a walking brain”. During his time at Harvard, where he earned his degree in Mathematics, he spent 3 years taking part in psychological experiments run by Harvard psychologist Henry Murray (who had worked for the OSS during WW2 – later to become the CIA – doing experiments on brainwashing and interrogation), logging over 200 hours as part of the study. He underwent mind control experiments and psychological abuse. Whether this had any affect on his thought patterns from here on in is the big question. Since Kaczynski turned against science and technology, one would have to support the suggestion that the experiments did indeed have an effect on his future behaviour and choices.

After Harvard he attended the University of Michigan where he earned his Masters and then his Doctorate in Mathematics. Then at the age of 25 he became the youngest ever assistant professor of mathematics to teach at University of California, Berkley. But after only 2 years he suddenly, and without warning quit and moved back to his parents house in Lombard, Illinois, and two years later still moved into a single room cabin in the woods just outside the town of Lincoln, Montana. Disenchanted with the modern world, its technology and its greed he turned his back on the “wealth” that a Harvard education all but guarantees and went to commune with nature instead.

It was a very basic cabin, without electricity or running water and it was here that he decided that he would live a very simple life, would become well versed in woodsmen’s skills and try to be as self sufficient as possible. He kept himself to himself, would go into town, by bicycle, for a few supplies and also borrow books from the library there. He was happy living with nature and had a few favourite hikes that he’d take to get away from the locals who would walk in the woods near his cabin.

One day, on arriving at one of his favourite hiking spots, he had a very rude awakening. In his own words….It’s kind of rolling country, not flat, and when you get to the edge of it you find these ravines that cut very steeply in to cliff-like drop-offs and there was even a waterfall there. It was about a two days’ hike from my cabin. That was the best spot until the summer of 1983. That summer there were too many people around my cabin so I decided I needed some peace. I went back to the plateau and when I got there I found they had put a road right through the middle of it … You just can’t imagine how upset I was. It was from that point on I decided that, rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system.

So quite simply, his reason for sending out parcel bombs and also sabotaging several property development projects in his immediate neighbourhood, was revenge for the damage that THEY had done, and were continuing to do to nature.

And so began his 17 years of “terror” – as the media called it, mailing out parcel bombs to people who he felt were responsible for the direct destruction of nature, or involved in advancing technology, which would add to the damage to nature. Many were to people involved in tech development at universities or who worked for airlines – hence his nickname Unabomber (University/Airline/Bomber). He would probably have never been caught had it not been for his wish to have his Manifesto – Industrial Society and Its future – published. He sent it to several newspapers and magazines with a note saying that if they published the Manifesto, he would desist from terrorism. Finally, with agreement from the FBI and the Attorney General, it was published in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

According to a documentary I watched about Kaczynski, his brother recognised that some of the things mentioned in the Manifesto matched the content of several letters that Kaczynski had sent him over the months leading up to the publication of the Manifesto. After consulting a lawyer, the authorities were tipped off and Ted Kaczynski’s cabin was raided, revealing bomb making materials and his diary/note book.

The Manifesto stated that the result of the industrial revolution has been a disaster for mankind. Technology has destabilised society and made life unfulfilling. He says most people waste their time in useless pursuits because of technological “advances”, have artificial goals and subject themselves to an overconsumption of mindless “entertainment”. He predicts that further technological advances will lead to extensive human genetic engineering and that human beings will be adjusted to meet the needs of the social systems, rather than vice versa. He calls for all to abandon technology and return to the wilderness.

In order to save a little time, I’ll quote Wikipedia. – Kaczynski argues that the erosion of human freedom is a natural product of an industrial society because “the system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function”, and that reform of the system is impossible because “changes large enough to make a lasting difference in favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would be realized that they would gravely disrupt the system”. However, he states that the system has not yet fully achieved “control over human behavior” and “is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival”. He predicts that “if the system succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down,” and that “the issue will most likely be resolved within the next several decades, say 40 to 100 years”. He states that the task of those who oppose industrial society is to promote “social stress and instability” and to propagate “an ideology that opposes technology”, one that offers the “counter-ideal” of nature “in order to gain enthusiastic support”. A “revolution against technology may be possible” when industrial society is sufficiently unstable. He additionally states that “a movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid all collaboration with leftists”, as in his view “leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology”.

Kaczynski’s views have attracted a lot of support over the years and even more so in recent times…David Skrbina, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan and a former Green Party candidate for governor of Michigan, has written several essays in support of Kaczynski’s ideas, one which is titled “A Revolutionary for Our Times”. Paul Kingsnorth, a former deputy-editor of The Ecologist and a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, wrote an essay for Orion Magazine in which he described Kaczynski’s arguments as “worryingly convincing” and stated that they “may change my life”.

Personally, I agree with Kaczynski’s views although, as stated in the opening paragraph of this post, I do not agree with his methods.

So why is it that Kaczynski was considered a terrorist, a serial murderer, and tried in a court of law for targeting specific people, that he saw as being responsible for the destruction of nature and his way of life, with his parcel bombs, killing 3 – when Bush and Blair were responsible for the deaths of almost 300,000 men, women and children, many killed at random by bombs, in an unjustified military action, and walk away completely free men? Were any of those deaths legitimate?

The question is…is killing another human being ever justified? The initial answer from most people would be “NO!”. But, what if a psychopath smashed his way into your home and was going to kill your wife and kids….would you feel justified in using lethal force to stop him? In this case the answer for many people would change from no to “Yes, to protect my family I will do what ever is needed.” So, what if the threat was no less real, but less immediate?

It is generally accepted these days that mankind/humankind has wrought devastation of apocalyptic proportions on the natural world, particularly over that last 150 years. The system that feeds this devastation is the consumerist growth economy model that the “western world” has promoted for many years and is now being adopted by what were once considered “third world” countries. We are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction and we don’t appear to have the will, at government level, to abandon this destructive path.

If we carry on along this path it will result not only in our own deaths, but also that of most living, breathing animal life on the planet. Kaczynski recognised this fact and tried to stop, or at least to slow down, the advances in technology that were pushing us toward the edge of the cliff…..so was he justified in taking those lives? Most people will say absolutely not, that he had no right to take lives and his punishment (8 life sentences) was apt. But look at it from his view point. He wasn’t simply trying to stop a madman from breaking into his house and killing his family, he was trying to stop several madmen destroying nature’s home and killing all life on the planet…you and me included.

Faced with the barriers that political and industrial/global corporations have put in the way of actually doing anything effective to save the environment in which we live, what should our response be? Step up our recycling efforts (and give ourselves a pat on the back for doing “the right thing”) in the vain hope that it makes more than a miniscule difference to what ends up in the landfills or oceans? Business as usual, head in the sand, hope it goes away, but meantime let’s make as much money as possible for the banks, shareholders and chief executives? Do we take to the streets in more mass marches….attend more ‘feel good’ rallies….sign endless pointless petitions? Listen to more lies and delay tactics from smiling politicians? Wait for technology to save us….instead of creating more problems as it usually does? Or do we do something else, and if so what? What are we prepared to do to save the lives of our family?

It’s an interesting question I think – a question of ethics – at what point do people feel comfortable at drawing their own line in the sand, taking action and saying – no more!