An Uncertain Future… is exactly what we need… maybe?

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Image & quote found at https://joannahubbard.wordpress.com

There hasn’t been time for people to properly digest the full meaning of Brexit, but ever since last week’s referendum decision to leave the EU there has been a palpable air of fear and anxiety in Britain. Many of the people I have spoken to who voted Leave have expressed some concerns about where we go from here. The “I voted for it, but I really didn’t think we’d win” confession is not an uncommon statement. Some Remainers have poured scorn on this, branding them as ‘ignorant’ or ‘stupid’, but with the UK’s preferred and usual First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system the protest vote has long been the norm for British voters.

Some are decrying the democratic processes of the referendum, and perhaps it was too close a decision decided by too few people, but in many ways it was the democratic failures of the FPTP system in our general elections which guaranteed the widespread, and ultimately deciding, outpouring of dissatisfaction in British society delivered by the much more democratic referendum system.

I am not a Leaver (although I am certainly not a supporter of the EU trading bloc) and I find UKIP rather disturbing to say the least, but the FPTP system used in the last general election saw the votes of 4 million people who did vote UKIP almost completely ignored. As my own party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas, put it in the Guardian recently:

Perhaps it’s no wonder that leave’s message to “take back control” stuck. People do feel powerless. Not least the almost 4 million people who voted for Ukip at the last general election who have just one MP representing them. As the one MP for more than a million voters I know all too well how our electoral system isn’t up to the task of representing genuine political differences that exist in Britain.

If the UK’s representative democracy had ever truly represented the opinions of the people whom it claims to represent (glad I’m writing that and not saying it) then we would have a vastly different political landscape today.

Yes, we would have to stomach the opposing, sometimes even unpalatable, ideas of those we disagree with, but at least we would be actively encouraging the kind of visible and relevant political debate and activity which leads to a much deeper and more responsive democracy.

Of course it is worrying that millions of people might fall for the BS of a charismatic charlatan, but I am of the opinion that bad ideas create bad results. We have only to look at the incredibly pathetic results of the BNP trying to work at local council level to see how those who value rhetoric over reality fair in the political climate of the everyday world.

There would have to be genuine accountability and the ability for regions to recall their MP in the face of inactivity or poor performance (poor performance being a failure of duty to their geographic region rather than a failure to tow a party – or ideological – line). There would have to be a written constitution; drafted and implemented to protect the rights of all people to live unmolested by others and which guarantees liberties and freedoms for all. There would have to be the reintroduction of real political power at local levels. And there would also have to be an open and accountable system of public spending, allowing everyone to see (and ultimately decide upon) where monies derived from taxation and other state dealings was being spent; currently just 5% of all public spending is allocated by people or bodies which are publicly accountable for their actions.

All of these will be necessary moves if we are ever to wrestle democracy back from the hands of the elite pariaharchy who currently hold way too much power and shoulder nowhere near enough responsibility.

Personally, as I shall discus in a forthcoming post, I believe that the ultimate aim must be for an even deeper and direct form of democracy (one which is humanist, ecological and economic as well as political) as part of a new radical movement based on the unique problems and possibilities of life in the third millennium CE. But even the first – and in my opinion rather minor – step of introducing Proportional Representation would radically alter the face of democracy in the UK.

A parliament of many smaller parties representing diverse demographic and geographic needs would inevitably lead to greater political (and perhaps, in our gambling based global economy, economic…) uncertainty, but at least it would be better at representing a fluid and diverse nation. So, if we are prepared to believe, as the permaculturalists do, that every problem is a solution, and that every crisis is an opportunity, then an uncertain future may indeed be exactly what we need right now…

…probably…

…maybe?

The Echo of The Voiceless: Pt 1

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Like it or not, the UK (as it is currently constituted) has decided to leave the EU. What this means for us in socioeconomic terms will only become evident over the coming decade. Likewise what it means for Britain as a unified whole will only become evident over the course of the next couple of years. The one thing we can be certain of is that the entire process has laid bare the terrible state of politics and democracy in Britain, right here, right now.

From the very beginning the referendum was a farcical affair. What we needed was a year-long process (at the absolute minimum) of information, education and debate. What we got, for what was billed as ‘the most important decision in a generation’, was a short-lived barrage of sound-bite, fear-mongering, popularist jingoism and media hype.

If we have learned anything from this referendum it is that the powerful and the political on both sides of the debate have nothing but contempt for everyday people. By ‘everyday’ I mean the people I spend every day with; the former – and formerly loved – ‘working class’ people of the regions which, once upon a time, made up the  Labour heartlands. I live in Doncaster, where 69% of voters ticked the ‘Leave’ box.

Neighbours and work colleagues I’ve spoken to (not so much friends, as I inhabit largely left wing circles, but more on that later) were all hungry for more information. Rather than focusing on the immigration debate – which made up 90% of the vox pops in the media (a propaganda strategy used to reinforce classism for the last 50 years) – the majority of people voiced concern for the immediate welfare of their friends and family and many spoke about their fears for an uncertain future… the kind of thing which should be at the heart of every political decision (more on that later too).

People were truly torn and many felt that they were making a decision between a rock and a hard place… it is not as if we’re exactly thriving under the EU, despite the £millions of EU funding which has been pumped into the region. None of this was reflected in the media or in the attitudes of politicos… both left and right.

The right have always seen us as feckless, lazy, uncultured and lowly. We should never be surprised by the undisguised hate which comes from a class of people who depend on others to do their work for them; if they did not look down upon us they would be forced to admit their complicity in our suffering. But it is the allegations from some on the left this morning which have uncovered the real crisis in modern democracy.

Apparently Britain’s poorest communities are full of ‘ignorant’, ‘uneducated’, ‘bigoted,’ ‘racists’ who fail to understand the enlightened message of the supposedly left-wing and socialist Remain campaign.

Ignoring the fact that this was a decision between which neoliberal, largely unaccountable, top-down bureaucracy would have the greatest sway over our lives, it is exactly this attitude towards poor working class communities from some on the left which ensures the mistrust of poor communities and ultimately guaranteed the Leave vote in the majority of  England’s and Wales’ forgotten towns. In fact it was the blatant arrogance of the mainstream left which caused much of the current political isolation in the first place; as the IWCA wrote after the defeat of Labour in last year’s general election:

The New Labour project was underpinned by the belief that Labour could ditch Clause 4, embrace neo-liberalism and orientate entirely to the middle class, safe in the knowledge that its working class core vote could be taken for granted because, in Peter Mandelson’s words, they had ‘nowhere to go’.

Cruddas says that its current plight ‘could be the greatest crisis the Labour party has faced since it was created. It is epic in its scale’. Post-New Labour, what is the Labour party for? If it cannot retain working class support in its heartlands, if it is no longer seen as the party of the class by a significant and growing section of the working class, what is its reason to exist? Can this ever be resolved? Having lost Scotland, and facing constituency boundary changes that will likely work against them, will it ever be able to form a national government on its own again? Labour, like the Lib Dems, are finding out the hard way that there is no need for three neo-liberal parties, or even two; and that gaining votes in Guardianland doesn’t compensate for the loss of the core it took for granted.

One only has to look across the Channel to mainland Europe to see the vacuum being filled by Euro-nationalist parties […] the French think-tank the Jean Jaurès Foundation, founded by the former French PM Pierre Mauroy to ‘promote the values of Democratic Socialism’, issued its analysis of the factors behind the rise of the Front National. It reported:

‘With no political offer from the left, working-class French people feel they have been abandoned economically, socially and culturally. The FN has stepped into the breach: it says to these people: “you are the most important and we will fight for you”.

‘The left is trying to make up to what it calls ‘real minorities’ who it believes are discriminated against. In doing so it has become indifferent, even scornful, of the wider French working class. They say to these native French “you have not understood, you are racist and sexist”, and so these people have said, so be it. They are ready to admit voting FN because the left has abandoned them and the FN is interested in them.’

In short, the left in France has abandoned class politics, embraced identity politics and taken the core working class vote for granted, and is now reaping the whirlwind.

The IWCA has been warning about the political vacuum in the former Labour heartlands for years. I believe in a different politics (which I shall elaborate upon in a future post), but, as somebody who lives and works in one of the poorest regions of Britain, I have the utmost respect for their analysis and a first-hand understanding of the classism which their work has helped to highlight. Labour and the left in general have no idea what it is like to live in impoverished Britain.

Every basic security has been swept away and every basic need has been hijacked by the neoliberal money machine. One of the most basic of human needs, shelter, has become a pension scheme for the affluent, causing the widespread return of absentee landlords and a rise in sub-standard living conditions. This has also helped to make house ownership all but an impossible dream for the vast majority of people living in impoverished towns. Without the dream of a better life who can really be enthused by the prospect of low-paid, zero-hour, menial work which will do little more than pay the bills and put food on the table until you die (usually prematurely of a poverty related disease). Despite the lack of truly attractive career opportunities the vast majority of us living in the former Labour heartlands are in employment – regardless of what the BBC would have you believe – most of the children living in poverty today (a full third of children in the UK) have one or both parents in work. The education which once might have helped to break us out of the poverty trap no longer exists (we are all ‘ignorant’ and ‘uneducated’ after all), because the vast majority of local schools now focus more on discipline than they do on education. Small wonder that British children are the loneliest and most prone to depression in Europe. As for that other poor epidemic, obesity (can’t they just exercise and eat quinoa?), our communities are surrounded by arable land, but our towns have become food deserts where its easier to buy pizzas than potatoes (unless, of course, they’re chipped!) and lettuces tend to be sold wrapped in pitta with kebab meat. Can anyone really fail to understand the bitterness, cynicism and anxiety which runs through these communities.

An influx of new people to towns where resources are already stretched to breaking point is always going to cause resentment. But to see this as racism, bigotry or ignorance completely misses the point. Sure there are dickheads, show me a single human community which doesn’t have its fair share of haters, but the truth is that these areas – even ‘too white, too working class’ Donny – are incredibly tolerant despite the socioeconomic crisis we’ve been suffering for years. Yes there are flash-points, but the haters are a noticeable minority.

Far from being ignorant bigots the majority of the one-time salt-of-the-earth are simply trying to make the best of a very bad situation; a situation exasperated by the fact that they have been abandoned by the political elite. But just because the political have abandoned impoverished communities it doesn’t mean that the people in those communities have abandoned politics. The myth of apathy does not hold water when over 70% of people actually registered to vote in the referendum. The EU referendum result was, in part, a protest by a people who feel – not without good reason – completely abandoned by the existing political status quo.

People are obviously desperate for change, but the changes which have been offered are all but meaningless because the power to affect change at a local level has been all but stripped away. I believe that, far from bemoaning our lot and attacking people for taking sides in an ill-thought out, farcical referendum, this result opens up an opportunity for new and expanded political debate and, more importantly, a new way of doing politics.

But, if we are to be truly democratic (and, for that matter, truly progressive) this debate must include the forgotten people of the former Labour heartlands.

(Rant over)

The Great Undecided

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Like the vast majority of people I speak to, even at this late stage, I remain undecided with regard to the EU Referendum.

My younger, braver, more committed self would have stuck to his anarchist principles and declared: “Voting changes nothing! Why beg for sovereignty when you can build autonomy!” (there’s something rather melancholy about the fact that it takes age to really appreciate the beauty of youth, I do believe that only the under 30s should be entitled to vote 😉 )

But there are elements of this referendum which go way beyond choosing between Westminster and Brussels. Like it or not things will change after Thursday – and I fear that it won’t be for the better, regardless of the outcome, if we do not change the way we think about politics in the UK.

There is nothing simple about the choice at hand. We live on an ever shrinking planet where everything we do – every choice we make – touches on millions of lives; both human and other. It is  with regard to the ‘other’ (animal welfare, ecology, sustainability, etc.) which I have personally turned to to try and inform my own decision. Yes, we have the EU to thank for things like cleaning our beaches and preserving diminishing fish stocks, but there are also areas where Britain is way in front of the EU and where the EU is in fact a barrier to change (as Geoarge Monbiot’s Feral conclusively shows).

That younger self I referred to was a keen ecological and animal rights activist – who wore out a perfectly good body in defence of the earth (ow, my aching bones). Back in 1995 an equally youthful and much, much braver defender of animal rights, Jill Phipps, died trying to stop the live export of veal calves from Coventry airport. Veal crates had already been banned in Britain five years earlier, but it would take the EU until 2007 (17 years!) to catch up. Likewise sow stalls were banned in Britain in 1999 and the EU did not catch up until 2013. Britain was also the first to ban animal testing for cosmetics (1998), but when the EU finally banned this completely unnecessary practice (2009) its regulations were much stronger and further reaching than Britain’s.

I am not trying to use these illustrations to sway people’s opinions either way, I am merely trying to illustrate the complexity of the choice that we are being asked to make. We each have our own passions and convictions and must, therefore, consider that which is closest to our hearts when we make our decision. And yet those who have the strongest leanings in both camps are acting as if we, the great undecided, are fools for not recognising their self-evident ‘truths’. How can we struggle to make such a simple choice as ‘in or out’?

But therein lies the great tragedy of modern democracy. Boiling things down to simple, bipolar choices – Leave or Remain, Right or Left, For or Against, Them or Us – actually reduces our capability to influence the political landscape. We have the technology (shit, now I’ve got the theme tune to the Six Million Dollar Man running through my head) to make decisions based on actual policy rather than party or ideology.

Allegiance to a single party or political belief is sooooo last millennium. The dinosaur rhetoric of your average old-school politico would be laughable if, as the murders of Jo Cox, Lee Rigby or 500,000 Iraqi children (through sanctions) has shown, their dogma were not so hideously dangerous.

It is time to move on. To use the great opportunities presented to us by the communications age to build a new kind of politics. One which puts debate before conflict.One that builds unity instead of division. One which places compassion above greed. Something like the idea the very wonderful Artist Taxi Driver (@chunkymark) is outlining here:

But until then – and regardless of whether Westminster or Brussels calls the shots – the real engine of change will remain those who dare to take a stand for their convictions. Those who see what must be done and who act upon their beliefs without victimising others. Those who, with their own bodies, feed the hungry; rescue the oppressed; protect the vulnerable; give voice to the voiceless; heal the hurting; comfort the despairing; guide the lost; educate the ignorant; provide for those who have not…

These people are – and have always been… – the ones who really change the political and social landscape, no matter where they put their cross.

Speaking of which… where the hell should I put mine?

In loving memory of Jill Phipps.

One Year from Class War, One Million Miles from Freedom #VoteClassWar

I’ve just been reminded that the next general election is exactly one year away today. Normally I’d be like ‘yay… whatever :-/’ about the sham of ‘representative democracy’ in the UK – whoever you vote for the millionaires win!..

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But next year I’m going to get into the swing(-o-meter) of things and take a dive into the murky world of British politricks… next year I’m going to stand for the Class War Party!

Partly because I completely agree with Ian‘s sentiment…

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As Madam Miaow says:

Looking forward to seeing Class War liven up the general election. “Because all the other candidates are SCUM!” With very few exceptions, I’d say they were cutting with the overall mood. – See more at: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/class-war-comes-to-penge-ian-bone.html#sthash.z0Jhc276.dpuf
Looking forward to seeing Class War liven up the general election. “Because all the other candidates are SCUM!” With very few exceptions, I’d say they were cutting with the overall mood. – See more at: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/class-war-comes-to-penge-ian-bone.html#sthash.z0Jhc276.dpuf

“Looking forward to seeing Class War liven up the general election. “Because all the other candidates are SCUM!” With very few exceptions, I’d say they were cutting with the overall mood.”

And also because I’m sick of all this shit I keep hearing about ‘apathy’, it’s utter BBC bollocks and everybody knows it. It’s the politicians who are aPATHETIC; courting the attentions of an ever dwindling pool of venom and self-interest while the rest of us (the majority of us!) disengage from a political system which is as decaying and corrupt as the economic system it serves.

The reality is that we should be heartened by the fact that it was only a minority of a minority who voted the Tories into power… it means we’re not a nation of twats. The sad fact is that the British elite are winning the class war and this has left the vast majority of British people nowhere to turn politically. What choice is there really?

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The only difference between Labour and Tory is that one smiles while their screwing you.

Change is coming though. Slowly and surely something new is forming from the fluid and intelligent actions of an emerging precariat class. I have more faith in people than I do in politicians, but in the meantime we have a very real obligation take a stand against the cruelty and violence being inflicted upon the most vulnerable people in our society.

A vote for Class War – like any other vote in this sham democracy – will change nothing. The difference is that Class War are not promising that it will. Croydon South Class War candidate, Jon Bigger, puts it perfectly when he says:

I’m not expecting a massive vote for Class War candidates but this gives us a chance to talk about freedom and equality … At the next election we can occupy the ballot box and set the agenda.

All the main parties will claim to represent everyone while really representing the vested interests of their backers. The super-rich rule our politics, but we can change that. We can actually do what democracy was invented for and get into our public spaces to act politically.

Whenever a politician visits our towns we can mobilise and call them to account. When they knock on our doors, we should challenge them. Who funds them? What makes them think they can possibly represent us?

No empty promises, just a raging voice against the bastards who get ever richer from the misery which they cause. And if this isn’t enough to convince you to stand under the banner of Class War they have some pretty good policies too…

50% mansion tax – abolish the monarchy – abolish all public schools – double dole – double pension – double benefits

…to name just a few 😉

Keep abreast of the news at www.classwarparty.org.uk

If you are interested in becoming a candidate then follow this link 🙂

#DoncasterIsGreat for #SeedFreedom: Introducing the Donny Seed Exchange – #ILoveDN

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Tomorrow (2nd October, 2013) marks the start of the Fortnight of Action for Seed Freedom 2013; a project created by the amazing Dr Vandana Shiva…

As part of the fortnight of action – and the forthcoming The Gifting (more on that later) – we’re creating Doncaster’s first free seed bank. With the help and support of the Doncaster Central Development Trust (that’s the DCDT *not* the DMBC!) we’ll be creating a space to freely exchange seeds at Church View (the former art college behind St George’s Minster opposite Tesco car park). We’ll also be planting some of those seeds in garden created by Doncaster Urban Growers (DUG) earlier in the year.

Why is a seed bank and garden important?.. Let’s let Seed Freedom explain…

What is a seed bank?

A community seed bank is a network of seed saving and exchange, a site for exercising Seed Freedom. Seeds are collected, saved, grown out, multiplied, selected, distributed …and the cycle continues, the circles of freedom keep expanding.

Seed banks are also called seed Libraries, where you can borrow seed like you borrow a book, and return on reading (growing and multiplying).Some communities, especially in Europe and USA, also have heritage seed savers who grow and distribute heritage seeds at a cost. In Navdanya, we promote community Seed Banks to recover Seed as a commons. So far 80 community seed banks have been set up by Navdanya.

How does it help

A seed bank will provide a refuge for local seed varieties in your region. This is a crucial step towards seed sovereignty at a time when patented seeds conquering the markets leading to great scarcity for regional seed varieties. Moreover, your seed back also can be a sanctuary for wild or traditional plant varieties which are important for its particular properties (like medicinal value, nutrition content) but are not considered as a crop for cultivation.

How do I set up my own?

First, start collecting the seeds in your region. If you are saving seeds in pots, keep it in a cool and dry environment to prevent any damage. Similarly it is important to label the pots with the details of the seed variety contained in it (like the name of the variety, particulars of the variety-for eg, drought tolerance etc). If you are planting the seeds, make sure you are able to identify the varieties cultivated (for instance, by labeling the plants). Similarly, save a portion of the seed before replanting the variety.

If you are a school, start saving seeds by setting up a “garden of life” to save seeds of freedom. If you are in a community, start a “garden of hope” as a community seed bank. If you are associated with a temple, church, mosque, gurudwara, start a seed sanctuary or distribute seeds as a blessing.

For more information about Seed Freedom visit – http://seedfreedom.in/

To download a PDF of the Donny Seed Exchange flyer click here.

To get involved leave a comment or email opendigitaldesign[at]gmail[dot]com

For the love of light… and the light of love. #Photography & #philosophy from St. George’s Minster. #DoncasterIsGreat #ILoveDN

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Photography is an ailment where the afflicted become completely and utterly infatuated by the nuances and intricacies of light. If you were to walk a mile or two with somebody under its spell you would frequently witness them stopping to stare at patterns of light in much the same way that a lunatic stares at the moon (ah, moonlight, a -3ev glow which is akin to a kiss from an angel… er, sorry, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I myself suffer from photography).  One of my favourite writers is Charles Bukowski; partly because I share his horrendous experiences of – and subsequent distaste for – wage slavery, but also because we share a familiar childhood memory…

“The first thing I remember is being under something. It was a table, I saw a table leg, I saw the legs of people, and a portion of the table cloth hanging down. It was dark under there, I liked being under there … There was sunlight upon the rug and on the legs of the people. I liked the sunlight. The legs of the people were not interesting, not like the tablecloth which hung down, not like the table leg, not like the sunlight.”

Charles Bukowski, ‘Ham on Rye’

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Of course the love of light long predates the mechanical invention of photography, and the capture and manipulation of light is not constrained to the humble photographer. Architects are among the greatest manipulators of light – especially those who are involved with the creation of religious buildings; places which so often walk a fine line between being inspiring and being imposing.

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As a designer of over forty workhouses, the prolific architect Sir George Gilbert Scott knew all there was to know about imposition. The authorities of his day saw fit to intimidate the poor and unfortunate for the unforgivable crime of ‘not having enough’ (which for some strange reason seems depressingly familiar). Luckily for the people of Doncaster (and for the travellers who pass by the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras station in London) George Gilbert Scott was shown the error of his ways – and subsequently introduced to the Gothic revival movement – by fellow English architect (and designer, and artist, and critic…) Augustus Pugin (although it could be argued that with the Houses of Parliament, Pugin himself had a hand in designing the most nefarious ‘workhouse’ of them all 😉 ).

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As a self confessed ‘lover of light’ I am a huge fan of Gothic architecture. In buildings such as St George’s Minster in Doncaster (designed by the aforementioned George Gilbert Scott) the light changes constantly. Minute by minute it dances across stone, wood, plaster, paint and metal to reveal new wonders in each new moment. To know the revelations of light one must also know darkness, and the Gothic revivalists use the play of shadows much like circuses use anticipation-building drum-rolls. We moderns fear the darkness and this is reflected in our everyday architecture. Our places of work and our shopping centres (themselves temples to the new religion) are glaringly bright; as if the very thought of a shadow would stop people spending money (unless you’re in Hollister of course, where the light is kept purposefully dim to hide the spot covered faces of their teenage – and wannabe teenage – clientele). Even our night skies are bleached orange through our irrational desire to chase away the black. Small wonder that our world feels ever less enchanted when the secret things are constantly running out of places to hide. What good will all of that light be when we have surrendered the ability to see? As Edward Abbey famously observed:

“You cannot study the darkness by flooding it with light.”

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Anyone who is familiar with the essays I wrote for The Idler magazine (and the piece I wrote for vol. 2 of the Dark Mountain journal) will know that it is not just the architecture of the Gothic revival which interests me, I also have something of a soft-spot for the wider philosophies which accompanied the movement. At its best (when it wasn’t dripping off the corpse-like tongues of myth-building nationalists) the medievalism of the Gothic revival was a call for re-humanising productivity through craftsmanship and guilds (for a great overview of these ideas I suggest you read Tom Hodgkinson’s ‘How to be Free’). It was about putting art at the centre of human activity at a time when it was becoming clear that mass-production would rip the creative spirit out of the common worker simply to maximise profits. John Ruskin, one of the movement’s greatest philosophers, wrote: “You must either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him, you cannot make both.” This is why, despite their grandeur, buildings like St George’s celebrate the hands of men as much as they do the hand of God. Every inch – each stone and each wooden block –  is carved in celebration of life and the creative urge of our species.

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Sadly Ruskin’s essay on the economy, Unto This Last, remains as relevant today as it was when it was first published in the 1860s. Inspiring both Tolstoy and Ghandi (who translated it into Gujarati under the title ofSarvodaya  “the well being of all”) it argues – in very practical terms – for an economy which is highly sensitive to the natural world, for more creatively rewarding work (which I’m sure would have pleased Bukowski), and for a universal social wage; anticipating- and often going way beyond – both the green movement and the welfare state of the following century. His term “luxury for all, and by the help of all” is far warmer than Marx’s more famous doctrine:  “Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!” (‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!’), and although Ruskin himself can be somewhat conservative at times his calls for the equitable distribution – and ethical re-evaluation – of wealth, communal self-sufficiency and individual freedom offer a much more humane political philosophy than the authoritarian ideologies (both left and right) which have reaped so much misery from Ruskin’s time to our own. For Ruskin the keys to human happiness were freedom, knowledge, art, health and compassion:

THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.

Ruskin attempted to put these ideals into practice with his coincidentally named Guild of St George. Through the guild he planned to create a network of communities purposefully designed to challenge the profit-hungry economic model and to provide alternatives to mass production and work slavery. The guild is still in existence today as a charitable Education Trust with a collection based in Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery, but Ruskin’s dream is yet to be fully realised. The good news is that with modern technology, the maker movement, permaculture and the internet it is now easier than ever to build a localised, environmentally sensitive, craft-orientated, human-scaled, community-based economy from the ground up. We’re already experimenting at nearby Church View, so you never know, one day St George’s might be home to a community of minster makers echoing in some small way Ruskin’s dream for the Guild of St George. 😉

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#DoncasterIsGreat but here’s how we make it totally f%*~ng awesome!..

The towns and villages of Doncaster lie in fertile lands which are interspersed with moth-balled industrial sites… abandoned now, but with a long proud engineering heritage. We have everything we need to be self-reliant, resilient and sustainable, yet we’re officially one of the poorest regions in the country. How can this be? Why does our region have such promise yet provide so little?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the damaged inflicted on our region by hostile governments, bad management and one of the most inequitable social structures on the planet… but that doesn’t mean we have to put up with it!

There are worse places than Donny of course. Places like South Central LA for instance…

If you live in Donny you’ll probably recognise some of the problems listed at the beginning of Ron‘s TED Talk. We may have fewer drive-thrus, but look on every high-street of every village and town and you’ll see seemingly endless rows of takeaways selling similar looking beige shit (which looks the same coming out as it does going in!)… Despite being a semi-rural area Doncaster is another food desert.

Up until recently people said Donny was a cultural desert too, but lately local artists have managed to prove them wrong! As one of those artists I’d like to suggest that its high time creative people in our region got creative (and more than a little ‘gangsta’) about grass-roots regeneration in Doncaster. Food forests are a great place to start cuz growing your own food is like a gateway drug, once people realize that they can save money by providing some of their own food they begin to look for other ways to become more self-reliant in other aspects of their life. And self-reliance is what will eventually ensure that our resource rich environment provides for the people of Donny instead of providing for bankers and the people in Whitehall 😉

So why not join me in joining DUG (Doncaster Urban Growers) at 6pm on Thursday May 23rd as they begin to develop a Food, Herb and Medicinal Garden at the entrance to Church View (behind the Minster opposite Tesco car park)

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#DoncasterIsGreat but would be better if there were more #EQUALITY Find out why this Saturday…

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One of the most important political books of the last decade was written by an epidemiologist. Unlike with the coalition government it wasn’t based on ideology and mythology, but hard facts and scientific research and its overwhelming conclusion was that more equal societies are better for everyone, rich and poor alike.

The book is ‘The Spirit Level‘ and its co-author, Professor Richard Wilkinson, will be at Doncaster’s Church View Centre this Saturday (27th) from 12pm. Be there! 🙂

In the meantime find out more about this important issue (and what you can do to address it) at The Equality Trust‘s website… http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

The Next Big Church View Debate: ‘Energy We Can All Afford?’ 8/3/13 #DoncasterIsGreat

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The next Big Church View Debate will take place 7:30pm on Friday 8th March at Church View.

Contact Rachel for more info – rachel.hubbard@foe.co.uk / 07917 358796
Oganised by Doncaster Friends of the Earth with thanks to Doncaster CDT