24 May 2011

If You Can't Beat 'em Laugh at 'em

For those readers who aren't already aware of it I should point you in the direction of CASSE, the Center for the Study of a Steady State Economy. In what can be depressing times, as the refusal of the global capitalist system to respect the planet we need for our survival grows more threatening every day, they manage to maintain their campaigning and educational work with vigour, and even humour.

Last year, a conference co-organised by the Center in Leeds produced the excellent report Enough is Enough, which not only established clearly the need to end economic growth, but also provided plans for what this would mean in different areas of economic life. Now Rob Dietz has produced a blog post lauding the achievements of the Everyman economist Dr Milton Mountebank, best known for his theoretical work Infinity and Beyond: The Magical Triumph of Economics over Physics.

From Oliver James's concept of affluenza to the New Economics Foundation's impossible hamster, we have plenty of advocates in favour of a balanced and fulfilling economy rather than an economy of endless expansion and futile progress. English Romantic poet William Wordsworth might seem an unlikely voice to add to their list, but his sonnet 'Nuns fret not' is the medium and the message. As Jonathan Porritt pointed out, nobody complains about the sonnet form because it has only 14 lines. And like the haiku and the Twitter post, a limit can provide a challenge to creativity rather than a boundary to be breached.

Here is the sonnet in full:

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

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