I had the great pleasure last night of listening to Doreen Massey give a public lecture. She is an inspiring example of a public intellectual, an engaged academic, who is both analysing and changing the world. She took as her theme 'the politics of place'. The lecture was highbrow stuff of the kind I often struggle with and in my attempt to convey some of what I learned I am no doubt about to commit mental GBH, but surely that is better than holding back for fear of misrepresentation.
What I like about Doreen's work is her clear statement that the 'end of geography', propagated as what she might call an 'imaginary' by the proponents of this late and most corrupt phase of capitalism is an illusion and should be nailed as such. We are as much indicted in a process of international exploitation as we were in the days when we sent our best and brightest to administer the colonies and half the known world was coloured pink on our schoolroom maps.
Her question - to herself and others - is how we can live a positive response to the globalised world we find ourselves in. She made me question my own easy notion about the local and its safety. How easy it is to sit in Stroud and wrack my conscience in choosing between French organic apples and fair-trade Kenyan mangoes. Within our Transition Town process we have a theme called 'learning from the South' and a commitment to community-to-community trade between ourselves and the poor countries. This is the path towards the solidarity economy that is the 'alternative globalisation'.
But Doreen is right that our involvement in the lives of those in far-distant places goes beyond buying their crops and using their time to provide cheap holidays in warmer climes. London is the capital of the financial system that facilitates the global trade system. This makes our responsibility for challenging that system and its consequences especially acute.
I feel sure that building a strong local alternative economy is part of the answer, but it is not enough. However, the alternative on offer last night - and this was a point made by several questioners - is to be left in a dithering limbo of indecision. Ultimately, any consumption more complex than self-provisioning becomes uncomfortable. Any food we didn't produce ourselves becomes difficult to stomach.