Tag Archives: subversion

Magical reality bubbles

Reality is how we make it, and that’s never more obvious than when a group of people undertake to make a new one for a little while. I’ve done pagan events, folk festivals, re-enactment, and now steampunk. With enough people, a good setting and a little time, it is startlingly easy to break out of normal, consensus reality, and be something else. It rather flags up how delicate the conventions of the consensus really are.

Coming back down after an event is something I’ve always found hard. The bumpy return to normality, putting away the costumes, remembering not to act like I’m still inside the reality bubble.  Every time I go through it, I’m aware of how much I don’t want to make the journey back. I want to spend my whole life being a steampunk-folk-pagan-druid-author-etc. I don’t want to live in the ‘real’ world, it’s far too drab and depressing. The flip side is that I need to eat, and I don’t actually have the nerve to wander the supermarkets in any kind of regalia, and I certainly couldn’t cycle in it.

It’s an ongoing issue for Druidry that, without the context of Celtic society, there’s only so much we can revive. This weekend got me thinking about the first lot of revivalists, the sheer creative craziness of Iolo Morganwg and his contemporaries. As far as I know no one is currently doing Steampunk Druids. I ran into the 3rd Foot and Mouth Battalion, the Tea Army, airship pirates, all kinds of lovely, crazy folk. And then at his gig on the Sunday night, Professor Elemental announced a desire to become Lord Summerisle.

What would it be like to have a wider social context for Druidry? There’s no scope for recreating Celtic society, but… Steampunk is very much a heroic culture, so that’s a start. It values creativity, this is no bad thing. It does have a kind of warrior class. Some of the core components are there.

What would it be like to revive the revivalists, to play shamelessly with all that is silly about the history of modern Druidry and at the same time, to be entirely serious about the Druidry?

I have absolutely no idea how this would work or whether there would be enough interest to do anything entertaining. However, there’s three of us here, including the boy, and Lord Summerisle, and by historical standards that certainly is enough to found an order. We need an ancient history, the more ridiculous the better, and the more random famous people we can attach to it, the more accurate a revival-revival it would be. We also need a pretentious and inaccurate name, and once we’ve been going about a week, someone needs to hive off, claim even more ancient and prestigious origins and found a new one.

I also propose that only people who know nothing at all about actual Druidry should be given big and shiny titles. This would be funny, for one thing, and might appeal to folk like me who deeply resent structure, hierarchy and whatnot where it exists to fuel self importance rather than to get a job done.

If anyone would like to join me in making a little bit of crazy reality bubble, do say. We can have competitions for the best beard, and everything!


The trouble with revolutions

I’ve read enough to know that largely revolutions don’t work. Rally the troops, get all excited, kill some people, burn something… and end up with some new despotism with an unfamiliar face. I’ve read a fair bit of autobiography around China’s cultural revolution, the rush of enthusiasm, the hope, the bitter betrayal that followed. It doesn’t seem so far from the wild optimism and brutal bloodshed France went through. Wild, desperate attempts to seize power and make it all better quite often don’t.

Which when you’ve a revolutionary streak, is not happy news.

Fast revolutions don’t work. What is born in anger and brutality, is not likely to evolve into enlightened progress. I’m not someone who believes that the ends justify the means. If you look at history, it seems obvious to me that how you do a thing really informs what you get at the end. Violence begets violence. That which we build out of hatred, anger and resentment will not serve to warm our hearts much in the future.

The best revolutions are slow and quiet. They sneak in. I think about passive resistance and quiet acts of non-cooperation. A little civil disobedience can go a long way. Or wilful obedience. Sometimes nothing can be more subversive than doing as you were told. Precisely and literally. And not doing anything else.

We need change. I’m reading articles in newspapers about how the world is run to benefit the 1% who have the most, a UK education minister blaming feminism for the rising gap between rich and poor. We live in a system that is designed to serve the wealthy. We are playing a game where they make the rules, design the board, own all the pieces. Guess what? The game is rigged. We’re shown the few who sing, act or dance their way to fleeting fame and fortune to keep us believing that anyone can get out of the gutter if they’re young, attractive and lucky. It nourishes our illusions.

It’s not the physical poverty we need to tackle in this country at least. Compared to our recent ancestors, most westerners are obscenely well off. Our poverty lies in our lifestyles, how we feel. What use is money if you are miserable? What good is it playing a game you cannot win, to serve the needs of an elite few?

I’d lay good money if enough of us got angry we could storm the banks, burn a few politicians, put someone new on the throne. Give it a little while for the shine to wear off, and we’d find ourselves in the same system with a new set of faces under the hats of the elite. That’s not progress. Being the person on the throne is not a win, and only when we recognise that can we start to change the rules of the game. It’s only while we aspire to be like the people who seem to have everything, that we remain slaves of their system. Once you stop wanting to be them, its possible to rethink everything.

I want to live in a fair and sustainable world, where need is considered more important than greed, compassion is not equated with weakness, and money is not political power. I want to live in a world where beauty matters more than the bottom line, where quality means more than a quick buck. I want a whole different reality from the one we’ve got.

I am not alone.

Reading blogs and newspapers, seeing the growing disquiet amongst people all over the world, I know there are a lot of folk out there hungry for change. No dramatic uprisings. No bloodletting. No putting a new despot on the throne this time. What we need is a quiet revolution. It starts on the inside. It starts inside our own heads. It is the act of rejecting assumption and trying to figure out how things ought to be. And then, through small action, through personal choice, through our day to day choices, going after that vision of a better world. Throw away the unwinnable game. Chuck out the rules of the few designed to keep the many on a leash. Dream of something better.

Clap your hands if you believe in revolutions.

Clap quietly.