A personal post, for a change…
I used to be committed.
I used to think that there was a future in collective action, that we were in a process of coming to understand the impact our resource-hungry species was having on the planet and maybe we might just find a solution that would give us some hope of a future. Some kind of liberal, hippyish blend of technology and changed lifestyle might just emerge.
I worked with campaigning groups, I supported the right charities, I lived what was my best attempt at a sustainable, ethical lifestyle. Perhaps the culmination of this was nearly ten years ago when I stood in local council elections for the Green Party, not with even the remotest possibility of getting elected but in the belief that by having candidates in every election in the country we were helping establish the credibility of a growing political force.
After that election I started to withdraw, to lose faith. For me it became increasingly difficult to sustain any belief that we were heading for anything but calamity. I’ve written about the kind of near future I see in a couple of novels (forgive me, but this isn’t a crass marketing post – my marketing posts are far more obvious than this – but more a case that these two novels are where I’ve explored my position most thoroughly; to back that up, I won’t even name the novels): in these books Europe is torn by the growing pressures of climate change, resource depletion and the resulting mass migration and conflict.
As things get tight, we’re faced with choices. Push forward for sustainable change, or close in and exclude? In my increasingly pessimistic vision, as explored in these two novels, we turn inwards: we close the national boundaries to the Other, we turn against the weak and anyone we can label as different; our resources are *ours* and we will defend them at all costs. “English jobs for the English”, as a particularly vile election leaflet recently pushed through my door stated.
Increasingly believing that this future had become inevitable I stopped my campaigning, unable to see any way forward. Instead, I chose simply to appreciate what we have now. This world really is an incredible place and I’m often struck by the sheer beauty and magic of nature. Let’s enjoy it while we can; enjoy the world’s literature and art and fabulous cultures before we lose that option. And hope against hope that in fifty years, a hundred years, people will still be able to do that and won’t just have been busy burning all their bridges in a short-sighted frenzy.
Selfish? Hell, yes.
Realistic? I think so. We live in an amazing world, we’re an amazing species – even if we can’t save it, we really should appreciate what we have.
But am I really advocating carpe diem as a political response to the rise of fascism today’s European election results show?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
In the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of these elections some of my friends have talked about the noble choice of abstaining from voting in a system they see as corrupt. My argument then was that for anyone who has any kind of decent ethical convictions not voting is simply giving a voice to the fascists. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.
A bit hypocritical, given the shift in my own political commitment, huh? Even though I’ve always voted, I’ve been abstaining from actual political involvement on a far larger scale, after all.
But what else can we do? I really struggle to see…