29 March 2008

Call to Freedom

Last night I attended the first proper meeting of Transition Wootton. Wooton-under-Edge is a delightful small town in semi-rural Gloucestershire. No doubt people there are as concerned as people everywhere about the reality of climate change. They would be willing to do their bit, make the necessary sacrifices, given the right political leadership.

But I must admit I came away from the meeting feeling alienated and depressed. The level of disempowerment amongst the 30 or so people attending was palpable. The two most enthusiastic discussions were about the technical aspects of energy generation (this is largely a displacement activity in my view) and a shared whinge about public transport.

A significant minority were for lobbying our local authority - around half of whose members are the Tory friends of big business who got us into this mess. My own suggestions for actually doing something - the something in question ranging from joining the car club to setting up a community farm and switching from buying a sofa to paying for a weekly massage - were dismissed as anarchism. Anarchism, it was pointed out as though this were holy writ, doesn't work.

Aside from my gloom at the self-imposed oppression of many of the people there I was hugely flattered to have been dismissed as an anarchist. What a noble tradition that is! From Kropotkin's ideal rural communities to Shelley's calls for non-violent action right up to Bob Marley's demand that we 'liberate ourselves from mental slavery' it is those who can shake off the shackles of received opinions who most powerfully change the world.

Shelley ends his rousing poem 'Call to Freedom' with these lines:

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.

You can find the whole poem on this blog.

Shelley is gorgeous. I first came across him in my teens when a boyfriend who is sadly no longer around to cause consternation to the bastions of authority gave me a book of his verse. I immediately learned Ozymandius by heart. Who could resist a poem that begins 'I met a traveller from an antique land' and includes the line 'two vast and trunkless legs of stone'?!

Of course it is anarchism that won't work. The system of authoritarian control, injustice and inequality is working very well. That is why we see children starving and the planet burning. What further evidence of success could we require?

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