Friday, 15 June 2012

Political policy and the human farmyard

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It is striking that we live in a world where political policy is discussed in terms of a human farmyard - with the inbuilt assumption that the aim of policy is to produce comfortable and contented animals.

The assumption is that discussion is between kind farmers, whose aim in life is to give the animals what they want: clean dry sheds, plenty to eat, stuff to keep them amused while they are waiting to die...

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And then I read something like Piers Plowman by William Langland written during the time of the Black Death plague and amongst extreme poverty - and he was primarily concerned with spiritual matters.

Few writers ever had more genuine concern to alleviate poverty than Langland, but there was never any hint that he would have thought this was enough or even the main thing.

So here we are in the society of greatest material abundance in history, a society that several generations ago abolished poverty as Langand conceived it; and yet we are focused entirely on material matters and exclude wholly from consideration spiritual and transcendental matters.

Freedom from poverty merely enslaved us to materialism.

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I keep returning to the theme of the fundamental irrationality of mainstream intellectual life, its psychotic quality of being cut-off from reality.

Our attitudes to 'politics', to public policy, are those of the addict; who wants something simply because he wants it more than anything else and is miserable without it, and cannot countenance going through a withdrawal process to reach a better state.

We are farm animals who need to be distracted from our universal fate by pampering and distraction; and whose only concern is for ever more pampering and distraction.

By contrast, Langland's society was significantly focused on ultimate fate, and regarded pampering and distractions as - beyond a certain necessary minimum - a snare.

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Fourteenth century Medieval England had every excuse to be focused only on getting warm and dry, finding the next meal, and avoiding a horrible death from disease - yet that was not their only focus nor their main focus.

From a public discourse which regards human society as a farmyard, nothing but more of the same can be expected.

Nothing of value can come without first an awakening to the reality of our situation, and an acknowledgement of our deliberate evasion of this reality, and a commitment to stop the evasions.

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