The Triumph of Evil

I had a seemingly innocuous email today asking my community garden group for a small, easily granted favour, that ended with the words “If I don’t hear from anyone I’ll take it that silence is consent”, and I started thinking about whether this is true, and what other meanings could reasonably be construed from silence : and it turns out they are not only varied, but many!

I don’t care

I don’t agree, but I don’t want to be awkward

My opinion has not been listened to in the past so I have stopped giving it.

I don’t like you, so I am not going to afford you the respect of an answer.

I hate you, so I am going to express that by trying to make you not exist.

I do not feel entitled to express my opinion.

I wasn’t listening.

You got my email address wrong.

You sent that to another person with a similar name to mine.

I feel uncomfortable expressing views that conflict with the majority.

I don’t know what I think.

I am shy of talking in public.

I find emails too impersonal.

I don’t understand all the issues.

I am too afraid to voice my opinion.

What’s the fuss about anyway?

Not you again : forever asking people for their views!

If I tell you that you are now giving or have ever given consent by your silence, this cannot be seen in any other way but  as highly political and, in personal communications, deeply aggressive. It says  “I am going to do what I want regardless of you and what you may think, and you do not have the power to stop me”. It challenges you to have a view and dares you to make me listen : it’s like

” We decided that at the meeting you didn’t come to”

“Well you’re quite welcome to check the minutes”

“Well in that case I will be forced to resign”

Community groups, in my experience, no matter how ostensibly apolitical their aims, are exactly like political parties in this respect : good people and nice people go in for all the right altruistic reasons, but are quickly driven or manoeuvred out by people who are looking for validation and power.

Permaculture has ‘people care’ as one of its three core principles : (the other two of which are ‘earth care’ and ‘fair shares’) and until now was the one I had thought least about, but I may start giving it the attention it deserves.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do (or say!) nothing.

Occupy the Land!

I am interested this morning in the contrasting images of the tent city at St Paul’s, where well-educated young people are politely and wittily encouraging bankers to think about the error of their ways, whilst co-operating with the police :

and the full scale eviction of travellers at Dale Farm in Essex, which looks like a historical re-enactment of the Miner’s Strike, where old ladies are apparently being booted in the head by the kind of Police for whom the chance to legally kick the shit out of people is the stuff of dreams.

I was planning to go to the Occupy protest, but what with the tents, the portaloos (paid for by capitalism?) and the spontaneous bongo playing, the only thing setting it apart from some cruddy festival is that its surrounded by York Stone rather than mud. And I don’t think U2 are playing.

At Dale Farm, obviously they are breaking The Law of Planning : in the countryside these days, you can own a field, but the state retains the right to decide what what you can do with it. Nomadic people literally have no place in our version of control-mad capitalism, which requires a house to fill with stuff, an address to register your supermarket loyalty card, a location by which your socio-economic status can be judged.

Traveller families are told they can pitch caravans only in these extraordinary little council-run concrete reservations, in London in places like Hackney Downs, the back of Peckham, and formerly in the Lea Valley, on land no one else wants, until the Olympics came along, anyway.

Traditionally, though, the Romany lifestyle was intimately in tune with the seasons : and the point of the travelling was to provide harvest labour to the farms of the south east, while overwintering mostly in London. A life of slowly working your way around the country, following what seasonal or temporary work you can find, living by crafts, and using the resources of the land : what’s not to like?. This Gypsy way of life has been having the shit kicked out of it by the state since the industrial revolution : which is why, I guess, Essex County Council chose to spend its money on riot police rather than on providing more facilities for these people and letting them live as they choose.

Now Hackney’s so over, let’s go to SoTo!

When everyone from Babs to Britney Spears is constantly filming in your neighbourhood, and everyone you go past looks like they’ve dressed from Oxfam in the dark,  you know It’s All Gone Too Far. And so it is, I fear, with Dalston : last year, I was a bit pleased that not only had drug addicts stopped shitting on my doorstep, but a few nice coffee shops had opened up. Now I have totally had enough : every other building is now full of mismatched furniture out of skips, selling overpriced flat white, and buying in croissants from the pastry depot in New Cross.

I always try and give them a  bit of (unasked-for, unwelcome) feedback : these cafe newbies : I won’t be going in the one in Beyond Retro again : those unnecessary paper cups really annoyed me. Seeing a woman drinking out of two paper cups at once made me think, though. Perhaps I have got it wrong, trying to reduce my carbon footprint (got rid of car, I am Hackney Box-Bike woman!) : maybe environmentalists should really be driving around in Hummers, eating lamb every day, buying new pants from Primark instead of washing them etc etc.

Thing is ; there is always somewhere grimy and real when places get so trendy you can’t even go to the bus stop without your gorge rising, and right now, that place is South Tottenham. I moved back here from Shacklewell last year, and I do feel quite fond of the old place : and now its even got a bit of riot-kudos. From my house, I can practically see the estate where Wretch 32 used to live when he was still called Jamal, and I found, while googling for images, this lovely set of Nicobobinus photos called Tottenham Tourist Board : beautiful grime :

Now, can someone Please open a nice cafe, with nice music and nice cake, within five minutes walk from my flat. Stamford Hill, Fairholt Road Shtetl, Seven Sisters Bridge : any of those will do!

Stuff it!

It is true that we live in the age of stuff ; plastic stuff, paper stuff, cotton stuff, metal stuff :  in western europe we have and waste so much that we are about to be engulfed in a Tsunami of stuff, that we can only cope with by shipping  it to the ‘developing world’ as rubbish for those without stuff to sort through.

This stuff tsunami is, of course, a phenomenon of only the last 35 years. I grew up in a world without computers, wearing home made clothes : first by my mother, then by me, walking to school or going by bus, only ever having one Barbie (it was a Sindy in a blue swimming costume, which came from the back of a weetabix box)This isn’t it :  I would have killed for a proper Sindy with a poncho and leggings! Mine had, as I say, a Swimming Costume, maybe a small nylon towel, and NOTHING ELSE.

Maybe my experience of the 1970’s is not how it was for everyone : because wasn’t it then that the western world really embarked on producing the mountain of plastic that is now actually threatening our survival as a species? In my family we were encouraged to want stuff that was wooden and/or brown, but I gather most kids of the time lived in a beautiful shiny synthetic world of plastic.

I think it was the arrival of Tesco’s in the early 1980’s that really encouraged us to start getting stroppy if shops didn’t automatically give us as many free plastic bags as we wanted. I remember going  shopping as a child with my mother, with a string bag (it was the colour of fingernail dirt, rather than beautiful brights, as below)


and a green shield stamp book : the bakers, the greengrocers, the butchers, and even the tiny International Stores  supermarket : they might give you a paper bag, but getting your stuff home was your own problem.

Children seem to be quite notable consumers and excreters of stuff : charming but useless bright coloured plastic toys collect around them almost from birth, and then within a few years are surplus to requirements. And the cliche is true : they really do seem to enjoy playing with boxes (and packing materials) much more than the toys they think they want.

It’s Clothes  that cause me most sleepless peak oil nights : imagine every branch of Primark,  Peacocks, Next, H&M, New Look, in every town, in every country, all piled up, like jumble sales with their cheap disposable clothes. Then imagine  the impact of that on the earth that produces the cotton, and the bleach, and the dyes, and the labour of the people who make them, and the waste that doesn’t even get in to the shops. Then imagine what happens to all of it, within  a few weeks when we’re bored of it, or its last season. Scary, and it can’t go on for ever.

Really, the best thing you can do for yourself and the planet, is buy vintage, or if you aren’t rich or live in Dalston, make your own. People used to do this, right up til the 1970’s : and here’s a couple of patterns to start you off :