Tag Archives: Molly Scott Cato

Champion Peace Making

This is another blog post in which I consider ideas raised by Molly Scott Cato about how we defend democracy and resist fascism.

Peace is essential for the good functioning of a community, and for the safety of all its members. This does not mean freedom from conflict, it means having the mechanisms to resolve conflict without violence.

Too often, what we mean by peace, is only superficial. Apparent peace can mean the silencing of dissent, the disempowering of minorities and a lack of space for difference – this is not real peace. Peace-making is not the process of normalising us all to fit in small boxes, it is the process of learning to live with our differences.

Peace is not the tolerance of intolerance, either. Those who are invested in hatred and violence will try to manipulate others by demanding that they too should be shown tolerance. This simply doesn’t work, it creates situations in which peace is bound to break down.

Real peace is achieved through dialogue, real listening, respect and open-mindedness. It means recognising that difference and threat are not the same things. But then it raises the questions of what we do with the haters, and the people who delight in violence.

Education is key. If what people mostly hear are the voices of other haters and violence-pedlars, some will be persuaded that violence makes sense and hate is justified. The media is also key here. It is difficult to build peace when sections of your media are running an agenda of hatred. It is difficult to build peace when real fears, and real feelings of scarcity are harnessed to power that agenda. However, the more we can do to tackle inequality, poverty of opportunity, lack of hope, and lack of education about difference, the fewer people will find hate persuasive. There are no quick fixes here.

We have to call out those whose behaviour is unpeaceful. It may seem at odds with the work of creating peace, but it isn’t. Ignoring abuse, bullying, harassment, prejudice, and violence towards others does not lead to peace, it leads to conflict. To call out behaviour without resorting to the same methods isn’t easy, but it is possible. We have to let go of ideas of revenge, and point scoring, and focus on moving people forward.

We can support work of this nature by sharing stories of peace making, inclusion, and co-operation. We can call out hate where we see it, and gently disagree. (That may sound like a weak response, but trust me, if you want to impact on haters this is more effective than playing them at their own game). We can refuse to get into arguments with people who feed on arguing. We can avoid the behaviours that leave some people saying that all sides of the ‘debate’ are equally horrible and aggressive. We can resist violent solutions wherever they come up – both the real ones, and the ones we put in our fictions.

I think we also need to treat hate-driven behaviour as shameful. Perhaps the best way of tackling this, is with humour. Aggression simply fuels more aggression, but if your hate makes you the butt of jokes, responding with more of the same just proves the point. Laughter can be a powerful tool for deflating aggression and undermining feelings of entitlement. It does disempower people, and if the hate is coming from feelings of lack of power, that won’t help. But often it isn’t. The architects of hate in our society are people with plenty of power. By laughing at them, we can undermine that and make them less attractive. Satire, used well, can be a very effective tool for peace.

More about Molly Scott Cato’s work here – http://mollymep.org.uk/molly-at-work/campaigns/fight-fascism/

Defending Democracy

Last night I heard Green MEP Molly Scott Cato talking, as part of a panel, about how we defend democracy. A significant part of it was about identifying fascism and talking about the cultural context that allows fascism to flourish. The rest was about what we can do, individually and collectively, to resist fascist and authoritarian urges and to create a better sort of society.

There were beer mats available for people to take away and deploy. I’ve found those beer mats online so am sharing both sides of them. You can find them here – http://mollymep.org.uk/molly-at-work/campaigns/fight-fascism/



Ultimate yarn-bombing

Wool against weaponsThe boy and I set off from Stroud at half eight yesterday. There were two coaches from Stroud, and we knew many of the other people who were going. Plus we had Green MEP Molly Scott Cato on our coach, so we were feeling especially awesome. I spent much of the hour and a half or so of journey sewing. Final pieces of scarf had come in and needed attaching to each other, so many of us were doing just that.

Arriving at Aldermaston was intimidating – the double fences, the barbed wire, the large number of police officers, the large, uneasy-making buildings. Here, they make nuclear weapons, which was a sobering and unsettling thought. And there we were, standing up to nuclear weapons… with wool.

And such wool! Brightly coloured banners and scarf sections, with words of peace and hope worked into them. More than the needed 7 miles of wool, made by hands around the world. Knitting full of love and intention, and expression of our desire for a better, safer world. 5000 people knitted. Jaine (who organised) explained it worked out at 27 years of work. An incredible expression.

Huddled together outside the coaches, with a lot of police around, the fences to one side, traffic whizzing by… I felt very small and nervous. What we were up against seemed so enormous, this terrifying, slaughtering power backed by the state. Then the wool came out, and we started to unravel our first roll. The drumming and cheering started. People sang. Those of us with needles started running around to connect up pieces as required, and the whole atmosphere changed. We were making something, coming together as a community, armed with knitting needles and wool to challenge the most deadly weapons on the planet. As Theo and I were both on sewing up duty, we raced along the lines looking for gaps, needles held high like swords. It felt potent.

By 1pm, we had the seven miles of wool in place. We held it up, we made noise, we held silence, we made more noise, we rolled it up and took it back in pieces. There were speeches. Molly Scott Cato talked about the relationship between the arms industry and the nuclear industry. The relationship between arms manufacture and international slaughter. The need for peace.

The proposed new Trident project we are protesting against will cost somewhere around 100 billion pounds (government estimates 80 billion, other estimates are higher). What would you do with that much money? How many peacekeepers could you fund? How much diplomacy could you enable? How many refugees could you help? How many war criminals could you bring to justice? How many hungry people could you feed?

Trident will give us the means to kill 45 million people.

I think that stands reflecting on. Ask in what circumstances you would feel comfortable with the slaughter of 45 million people, and the consequences of using nuclear arms on that scale. You can find out more about anti-nuclear protest here – http://tridentploughshares.org/

With the protest over, the scarf is being re-worked to become many blankets that can be sent to places of need. Some of them, no doubt will go to refugees from war zones. I’ve brought a segment home and have started the task of undoing and remaking. However, getting those blankets to where they are needed, is going to cost, so if you can help out at all with that, go here, please, and do what you can. http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk/?page_id=1104

I’m very glad I was there, proud to have been a part of that, awed by the scale, by the love and labour that went in to making it all work. My parents were protesting against nuclear weapons before I was born. My son is getting involved. Maybe by the time he has children of an age to protest, we won’t be still having to stand up against this madness. I hope, his will be the last generation called upon to resist, and that we will see sense, and stop making insane weapons that cost the earth and that we could never use without damning ourselves in every way.

The value of a person

Last week at Druid Camp, Green MEP Molly Scott Cato came and gave a talk about the nature of money. Molly isn’t a Druid, it should be noted, but is open to talking to any group of people who want to listen. Druid Camp is about finding ways to engage with the world as a Druid as well as retreating into a shared community space.

In Molly’s talk, she reflected on how people equate pay with value, where more pay seems to indicate that a person has more innate worth to those paying them. It’s a seductive way of thinking that traps us into putting a price tag on everything, and then not valuing those people and naturally occurring things that do not merit a high price.

We should pay fairly for time and skills, but the pressure in a capitalist system is to extract as much profit as possible, often meaning we will pay the less powerful less than they are worth to us. Unions were a way of countering this, but they have been restricted repeatedly by politicians. When we make hierarchies of worth, assumptions creep into the mix. Traditionally feminine areas are often considered less valuable than traditional masculine employment, for example. Hard physical labour is not valued as highly as desk jobs (unless there’s also a gender issue). Producing the product is deemed less important than managing the people who produce the product. And on the strange flip side of all of this, get high enough up the ladder and you can lose money for your company and still expect to be paid a vast salary and a hefty bonus. How we deploy wages could certainly stand some thought.

The value of a person is not their earning ability, and we should not be valuing each other in terms of cash flow. It’s horribly reductive, undermines self esteem and leaves us all vulnerable. What value do you have if you fall sick, retire, or your company folds, if you take time out to raise children or care for a sick relative, to campaign, study or the like? We are not our paychecks.

This only holds up though when you postulate that people are earning enough to maintain a decent standard of living. If you do not earn a living wage, and must work two jobs just to survive, or sell your possessions, or do without many otherwise normal things, you will feel keenly that you are not worth much as a person. It will be there every time you desperately need to say ‘no’ but can’t afford to. Loss of economic power is also loss of self, when it means you have to work any hours offered at no notice, or when it means you resort to selling your body, through pornography or prostitution. The person who cannot afford to eat properly doesn’t get to make so many ethical choices about what their employer asks of them. Undervalue a person economically, and you take away their rights to function as a person in your society.

Only when everyone has enough to maintain a decent standard of living, can we sit back and feel confident that the size of a paycheck is not the value we place on a person.

With other hats on

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Over the last few weeks, the political work I do has mostly taken over my life, leaving little time or headspace for anything else. I’m not natural politics material – I very literally do not have the right kind of hats for this, but at the same time, with so much going awry out there and so much need for change, I really feel I have to show up and do what I can.

Nonetheless, it’s a bit of relief taking off the political hat (metaphorical for now) and putting on other ones instead. This photo was taken by author Jonathan Green at a Steampunk event in Frome last weekend (where by comparison to others, I was still a scruffy urchin even with this on…). Tom and I did a workshop, aired our gear, sold books and hung out with Mr Green.

I wear a lot of different hats – some more actual than others. I’m working on becoming a marketing department for people who need a bit of that now and then. I’m aware that the people who most need marketing support are often those least able to pay for it. The blogging hat seems to have grown recently and can now be pulled down over my ears (more on that another day). I’ve acquired an art-assistant hat, I’m occasionally useful to Andrew Wood but now also doing a lot of shading for Tom as part of the Penguin graphic novel project. Apparently I’m good at feathers.

The parent hat is fairly low maintenance these days, apart from helping steer the boy through the emotional challenges of his changing body chemistry. The Druid hat is waving at me – it is that sort of hat, it might not be corporeal but it is certainly animate. I have a new book coming out soon, and I’m now a lot more involved with Druid Camp than I had thought I would be – I’ll be looking after the Green Grove which is all about walking your talk, and will include a talk from Molly Scott Cato neatly coming back to the political stuff… And I’ve been getting the music hat out and finding people to play and sing with, which is wonderful.

Somewhere at the back of the cupboard is the author hat. The one for writing fiction. It used to be a comfy hat, but then I stopped wearing it and now I’m worried it doesn’t suit me, or that if I go looking I won’t find it, or it won’t fit… It used to be the most important hat I had. This was the hat that defined me as a person for much of my life. That needs a proper re-think. It’s not my Steampunk hat, because I write a lot of other stuff too, nor is it the same as my Druid hat. So, in the spirit of authorial procrastination, I need to figure out what it looks like, and start wearing it again. It occurs to me that an actual hat might be really helpful in this regard. Suggestions?

The 70% challenge

I’m currently reading Molly Scott Cato’s book, The Bioregional Economy. You’re going to be hearing a lot about this, because it’s having a huge impact on my thinking. How I perceive the place of Druidry in the world is shifting. The choices I mean to make in my own life are all being reconsidered, too. In addition to that, I am so inspired by Molly and her vision that I will be investing time and energy in trying to get her work in front of more people. I’m not prone to being so inspired by people that I have to leap into action and do something, but Molly is an exception in so many ways.

We cannot have infinite population growth and infinite economic growth and infinite growth in consumption, given that we start out with finite resources. I’ve known this for years. What I’ve not had before is any sense of how energy use would need to change so that we can viably live within our means. According to The Bioregional Economy, current thinking puts the figure somewhere between a 70 and 90% reduction. That’s a staggering prospect with huge implications, and has really brought home to me the scale of the problem.

Could I cut my energy consumption by 70%? I may not be a good case study here because there’s already a lot of things I don’t have that a great many people take for granted as necessary. I’m living in a small space, with no car, no television, no fridge or freezer, a caravan sized washing machine. We have computers for work, we have a phone and the internet but are otherwise pretty low tech. I can’t cut back much further without being unable to work, and as this is a rented flat, there are things I’m not able to do in terms of getting a more efficient boiler, a water meter, or solar panels.

Most of my scope for cutting energy use depends on better sourcing of that which I consume. This makes me realise that I do not have any idea how the various things I buy contribute to energy use. There is nothing to tell me what the real cost of my food and clothes actually is. Where they were made, how they were produced, how they travelled, how people in that process were treated, and so forth, remain unknown to me. If I could get everything locally and direct from producers, I might be in with a chance of both knowing, and doing better. The costs of that would still be prohibitive for me, although I’m doing what I can.

There is a cost to all the things we are able to source cheaply in supermarkets. Most of that cost is invisible, but it is actually part of the reason why I would struggle to afford the things made by local craftspeople and the produce on the farmers’ markets. We push prices down all the time, and there’s a miss-match between what it is possible to earn, and what it is necessary to be able to spend. To sell my work in the modern market place, I have to charge so little as to push myself out to the margins. We’ll spend more on takeaway food than we are happy paying for printed books. British farmers in the UK struggle to make ends meet, unable to compete with cheap foreign imports. In other countries, people are growing flowers to sell commercially but cannot afford to reliably feed or educate their children. The whole system, is mad.

We keep hanging onto this myth, perpetuated by popular culture, that science will find a magic solution. Star Trek style technology will give us the lifestyle we’ve been sold, at knockdown prices with clean air. That isn’t happening. We keep taking more than the natural systems that support us are able to keep providing, and that plainly isn’t going to work.

A 70% reduction in energy use. That’s a stark and alarming figure. 90% is really rather frightening. What would that leave us? What will life look like when we finally bite the bullet and stop pretending there isn’t a problem? Assuming we get round to that in time. It casts the whole concept of what we might need in such a different way as to challenge every assumption our culture holds right now. That’s probably a good thing. Right now I don’t know how to do it, but I am determined to face that challenge.