Should we honour our ancestors? Yes, but should they be revered for their wisdom and for their understanding of the greater truths in life? I’m not so sure. When I look at my British ancestors I find people who were oppressed by a culture that invented capitalism, engaged in slavery, started the industrial revolution and built a colonial empire that stripped resources from across the planet to feed the greed of a few rich capitalists and their monarchy.
My own Victorian ancestors were poor, living in rented accommodation in the east end of London. They scraped a living and were definitely not part of the ruling elite; the were full members of the oppressed. There was no revolution by them and no fight for social justice. They fought each other for scraps rather than fighting the system. They fought to survive and they had skills that kept them alive.
My older ancestors were probably similar. Whether they were feudal lords or labourers on the land, they worked to a system that they didn’t invent and one that they didn’t change. But they too had skills and they survived.
So when I look to my ancestors for inspiration or a narrative on how we might live in the future, they have lessons they can teach me. I can learn from their mistakes and I acknowledge that they lived mostly without capitalism even though their feudal masters were little better. But their real lessons are in the skills they had when it came to living off the land, building houses and making clothes; essential skills that we have lost but ones that we will need to re-learn for the future. Skills that when combined with cooperation rather than competition, hold some real promise.
If I look to today’s people for inspiration though, I often hear those who claim to be green saying they need to fly away regularly for holidays and mini-breaks, a need which is drummed into them by corporate media to boost shareholder returns. They seem happy to engage in the climate crime of flying, justifying this through pretending to offset the carbon emissions by walking to the shops occasionally. Many of those who pretend to be green fail to ditch the greed narrative. Seize The Day in their song Fly set it out brilliantly:
“I will recycle
I’ll use my bicycle
I’ll walk into town
I’ll turn the heating down
I’ll fill my kettle half way
Listen to everything you say…
But don’t take my freedom away.
Don’t take my holidays,
Don’t take my time away,
Don’t take my wings away…”
Obviously there are good people today but their messages are hard to hear as they are drowned out by society’s corporate masters, governments that dance to the capitalists’ tune and a media that is designed to anaethetise the masses.
People listen to narratives peddled by our corporate masters. These messages are believed as truth by a public that consider reality TV to be a true reflection of reality. Our recent history fails to provide a coherent narrative either: empire, industrialisation and capitalism are not the stories we need to guide us into the future.
The narratives of the past have mostly served the Earth badly and the narratives of the present are hate filled and greed driven, yet both are slavishly adhered to by the masses. Awakening from Britain’s societal hypnosis of the past 2000 years that has stretched its reach across most of the planet is the first step to change. The huge advantage we have now is easy communication; we must use this quickly and wisely.
So we need new narratives. Ones of hope that shine out from the corporate media’s glare and provide guiding lights that attracts us towards them. We need route maps that will help us end the capitalist grip on humanity and that will give us the skills, understanding and spiritual insights to live in harmony with each other, with Nature and as part of Her.
Those new narratives must be part of our being, they must drive personal and political action and they must be possible to achieve. A narrative that is simply a story will always remain a story. Many of us would love to live like the Na’vi in Avatar, connected to the forest and the animals, but beautiful as it was, Avatar is just a story and will remain so.
So how do we construct a personal and political narrative that will drive change? The internet is full of the ideas needed for our narratives, and it should be narratives – plural. Global homogenised living would be a disaster as well as being unachievable. The right story for the right place.
Firstly, we must learn from Nature, understand how Nature works, how it sustains itself and how co-operation is far more important than competition. We must learn about cause and effect, about balance, flow and about limits.
And there are people we can learn from. There are still some indigenous tribes with the wisdom to live in harmony with their surroundings but many are under threat. Groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network (www.ienearth.org) fight for the rights of these indigenous people across the planet. Other groups champion the appropriate technology needed for an alternative to our capitalist society (e.g. http://www.greenwizards.org).
To construct our narrative we need to learn the skills, ideas and morality that underpin it. We need to embrace one planet living, living within the Earth’s means not just our personal financial means. We must build a morality that considers violence against people or planet a crime.
But then we need to tell our stories, get that message out there and make it attractive. We need to look how capitalists and right wing politicians sell their narratives so successfully. The capitalists have been good at this for the past 100 years or so and we need to learn their skills at messaging.
It is no good simply to be intellectually correct with our narratives, we need to appeal to the emotions. We need to be shouting about injustice and campaigning for rights, both person rights and Earth rights – not that there is any real separation between these two.
We must use emotion in our messages and appeal to those worried about their futures. We have to learn the skills of the capitalist wordsmiths, we need to learn about nudging and reframing, we need to learn to appeal to the heart before the mind.
There is was a recent discussion on a Druid website about who should speak for Druidry. They were asking the wrong question. They should be asking: why are we all not speaking for the Earth, Sea and Sky? We must shout loudly and campaign hard en masse.
Write letters to the press, start local campaigns, put flyers through doors, demonstrate in the shopping centres with a message of hope for justice for people and planet or about the injustices that people are sleeping through.
Campaigning is political, taking a stand is political and selling a narrative is political. We mustn’t be afraid of politics but we must use it wisely.
Use ritual to bring the narrative to life in our own lives. There is no better ritual than living the life we want. It is essential that we walk the talk, we have to show that our narratives are possible, not just make believe stories. This means we can live our lives in a way that our children and grandchildren can be proud of.