Taking time out to see a new version of the world is paramount for writers, so today I took time out. I looked at a medieval castle, ate in an organic restaurant and watched a workshop for quilters… that’s women making patchwork quilts, for the uninitiated! The surroundings were beautiful. I was in the middle of rolling fields; sheep grazed and new lambs ran about like lunatics in the Spring sunshine. It was good to be alive.
The castle was built when life was brutish and painful. People living beneath its walls died young. Serfs bowed to the landowners who were often viciously cruel and unconcerned, keen only to squeeze the last drop of labour from their impoverished workers. Laws were non-existent. Tyranny ruled. It wasn’t till William the Conqueror invaded, that any sort of coordinated government ruled the land, and it was hit and miss at that stage. William tried to standardise the law in England, but he had a tough job.Even as late as 1850, the people of Britain were subjected to an unclear legal system, that at times still bordered on tyranny.
As I looked up at that castle, with the sun shining on it, the stone walls didn’t seem that forbidding, until I started to think about the present, because we are still witnessing great poverty and cruelty across the world. Leaders are still torturing and killing their people. There is pain and suffering everywhere.
Leaning on a field gate in the English countryside, looking at a castle that itself had borne witness to horrible events, it was hard not to feel guilty. I can’t go to Lybia and tell Gaddafi to stop; I can’t go to all the African countries where children are dying of starvation or AIDS and make it okay. I am impotent when it comes to making any real changes, anywhere.
That’s why, when I watched thousands of people marching against the cuts in London last week, I felt uplifted. At least they were doing something. There is more poverty and despair in this country than there has been for years and the cuts will only make that situation worse.
I am not naive. I know we are in serious financial trouble as a nation, but we put the politicians who made the mistake that got us here, into power. We voted them in. We let them behave badly.
We are a nation of ‘nice people’ – we wait and hope things will improve. This time, we couldn’t wait. We demonstrated. It’s a shame that some idiots turned a peaceful demo into a violent one. That will cost the country more money we haven’t got. Those arrested will have to go through our judicial system. That costs money. Some of them may be jailed. That costs money. The police will need to spend more money next time – even though there are plans to cut the force to the bone, so they will have to do more with less, but that will still cost money!
It seems to me that there must be a huge sea-change in the way we view our lives as the 21st century moves forward. We have to rely more on ourselves to survive. We have to learn all those ancient skills we have forgotten, because, let’s face it, in the past few years, we all wanted bonuses like those bankers… We all aspired to be rich, rich , rich.
The concept of ‘rich’ needs to change. In the future, you will be rich if you grow enough vegetables to feed your family. In the future, you will be rich if you generate your own electricity, collect enough rain to water your garden and wash in, cut your own hair, save enough to pay for the things you are not skilled to do like drill and fill your own teeth or visit a doctor. You will be rich if you manage to live safely and flourish without a car. You will be rich if you look after the old folk in your family instead of asking Social Services to do it for you – they won’t be able to because IT COSTS MONEY!
This change will have to come if we are to survive. We have to learn to live with the world, not off it! It’s not a never-ending resource. We have to replenish and retrench and rethink the way we live, otherwise we will not survive. This applies to everyone, not just those of us who want to go on marches or protest peacefully, nor does just apply to people who are a bit ‘hippyish’… Those bankers will have to grow their own food too.
Can you imaging living in a world where you have to be totally self-sufficient? Those kids running wild over housing estates, causing havoc to their neighbours, trading drugs and stealing will have to be in their gardens or a field tending the veg or else they won’t be eating. There won’t be any oil so how will you heat your house, cook your food? Do you know how to make fire? How to chop wood? How to hunt for game without relying on beaters, dogs and a gun? Do you know how to spin wool? Do you know how to sew, to knit, to weave, to build a house using wattle and daub or cob? Do you know how to clean wounds and heal someone without resorting to antibiotics? By the way, antibiotics are running out, we are told. Do you know how to ring a chicken’s neck and pluck, clean and store it without a fridge? Do you know how to make a shelter with just the things you find in a forest? Do you know how to survive without help, without phones, without the Internet, without a supermarket, without hot water, without money?
Back to that castle in the distance. It was once very strong. It’s now a ruin. Be prepared. Nothing ever stays the same…