Thursday 30 December 2010

The Darkness Around Us Is Deep*

It is still dark as I write this in bed this morning. Already it feels like winter has been here for months. The sense of light increasing directly after the Solstice just doesn't seem to have happened yet.

I met a man just before Christmas who had spent years trying to build a PassivHaus. He was retired, he had the money and he was committed. He ended up moving into a modern energy-intensive home where he will install solar panels. Why? Because the planning laws were so obstructive they blocked all his attempts at building a low-carbon house for an energy-leaner future.

In the library yesterday a member of the local Labour party (yes, it even exists in Southwold!) told me that out of all the people he spoke to at a recent anti-cuts demonstration in Beccles, only 2 were aware of the true scale of the cuts to the NHS being pushed through by the Coalition government.

In the film Blindness (2008), based on the book by Jose Saramago, an epidemic hits an unnamed city and over the next few weeks everyone loses their sight. The first ones to go blind are herded under government orders into an old hospital and left to fend for (or fight it out amongst) themselves. Armed guards are stationed to prevent escape attempts and boxes of food are thrown into the courtyard. The governors and military who implement these short-term measures fail to consider they too will be struck by the "whiteness". Only one woman can still see. She pretends to be blind so her husband and their group can survive.

When I first thought about aspirations, resolves, intentions, I thought of how I could play with the word ‘Aspiration’, to bring it into a transition context with something of the flavour of energy descent. Call it ‘down-spiration’? ‘De-spiration’ maybe? But it just felt like one of those jokes that covers over something important that I might need to look at. And we’re going to need a lot more than wordplay for the coming future.

So in 2011 I’m going to do my damnedest to keep my eyes open, to keep sharp, to keep conscious. And also to stay positive in the true Transition spirit, which is a post End-of-Suburbia-moment positivity: You’ve been shocked awake to the realities and implications of peaking fossil-fuels, climate change and the fantasy of the economic growth model and all its gross inequality. And just how much suffering it creates. You’ve realised that most of the present laws are holding all this in place. And that only 2 people in town are aware of it.

But you have found some people you can talk and work with. Who get a feeling for the very real challenges facing us as individuals, as communities, as the human race, as part of the planet. Who, like you, are struggling to keep awake. And it's hard.

But I'm going to keep talking and working with them.

*Title from William Stafford's Poem A Ritual To Read To Each Other

Pics: Winter solstice sunrise 2010; And the band played on...

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