Sunday 20 November 2022

Freedom Part 2: The Sense of Wonder

In an essay first published in July 1956 in Woman's Home Companion, under the title “Help Your Child to Wonder”, Rachel Carson argued that every child needs at least one adult with whom to share the earliest experiences of the natural world, She calls for a sharing of the experience with the child, for using our senses and emotions with the child, avoiding the temptation to teach. This is not just a pleasant way to pass the time in caring for a young child. Towards the end of the essay Carson asks:

What is the value of preserving and strengthening this sense of awe, this recognition of something beyond the boundaries of human existence? Is the exploration of the natural world just a pleasant way to pass the golden hours of childhood or is there something deeper? “I am sure there is something much deeper, something lasting and significant. Those who dwell as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beautu of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night and spring after winter.” (Carson 1965, p88-9).

After her death, in 1964, the article was published in book form, illustrated according to RC's wishes. (See Rachel Carson, (1965) The Sense of Wonder, Harper and Row.) In the article, RC hopes there might be a good fairy to give each child “a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last through life”. Later, in Silent Spring, (1962) she documented exactly how humanity is poisoning every living creature on earth, including its own children.

Writing over a quarter of a century after the massive public debate which followed the publication of Silent Spring, Patricia Hynes was moved by looking at “so much death” to write The Recurring Silent Spring. She expressed her shock at

“ … the kill-potential of technology and the many ‘silent springs’ throughout the planet; my anger at living in a world in which nature and women are presumed to exist for the use and convenience of men, so that the destruction of nature and violence against women are interconnected, increasingly technologized, and infect all corners of the earth.” (Hynes 1989, p2)

The work of Rachel Carson, and other women scientists, journalists and academics circulated in the 'green', anti-war, women's movement of the late decades of the 20th century, but were airbrushed out of mainstream press, media and education. Works like that of Pat Spallone's Beyond Conception explored "the destruction of nature and the violence against women". But they were silenced, simply ignored, so that individual women and their families had no forum through which to express their concerns. RC researched and explained graphically the effects agri-business chemicals and processes upon the land, the rivers and the seas. Meanwhile, throughout the 20th century, unreported and un-noticed, research and development of medical procedures and pharmaceutical products (IVF), Information Technology (5G, IT, AI) and so on continued apace. Midwives, and their traditional expertise, have been systematically forced to comply with un-natural regulations or face exclusion from employment, so that, on Monday April 2, 2022 the Daily Mail carries an attack on the Natural Childbirth Trust as being the cause of "unnecessary deaths" of mothers and babies. Such little public debate as has taken place has been conducted by the only people who know what is going on in the fields of Big Pharma debate, and that is the scientists, journalists and academics who have been, or still are being, paid by the corporations who conduct the research. (See eg the Warnock Report to The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) 1980s)

There is, to date, no unbiased public forum in a position to conduct a free, impartial, urgently needed ethical debate in this highly emotive territory. The control over the human body and the health of the planet are matters that affect each and every one of us. For far too long we have allowed the profit motive to reign supreme, so that Forster's Machine looms large on the horizon.

Friday 18 November 2022

Freedom 1

Two recent Blogs are starkly different, and intentionally so. Murray McGrath's "After Thoughts on Independence" (22 October) is followed by an extract from a history of political economic thought of a century ago entitled Social Credit History.

A century ago, during the 1920s and 1939s, young people were not only asking fundamental questions about the social order of the times. They set about educating themselves to fnd the answers in order to participate in the social order as workers, citizens, artists, craftsmen and householders. The dominant feature of those two decades was the after-effects of World War I. Young people aged 16 plus were sent off into the trenches to kill or to be killed, and to watch their comrades die, for a cause that nobody can explain to this day.

Their families did not forget. They sought the reasons by studying, privately and in groups, in colleges and universities, adult education institutes, evening classes, and extra-mural courses, in pubs and clubs, in towns and cities throughout the British Isles. Men of letters wrote works of poetry and fiction alongside political, religious and philosophical tracts that were read, studied and discussed throughout the land, so that their authors became household names. Rich and poor studied alongside each other, with a view to building the free society envisaged by Murray McGrath.

Nevertheless, World War II followed the 1930s, and concluded with the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Driven by the worldwide corporations, a basic materialism set in over the rest of the century. Despite the work of Rachel Carson (1907-1964), and so many others, the sense of wonder at, and respect for, creation has ceased to be part of the educational curriculum.

Rachel Carson became perhaps the most articulate scientist the world has ever known. In The Sea Around Us she told how human beings, having devised ingenious technologies, explored our planet’s past and the origins of life itself. A decade later, in Silent Spring, she documented exactly how humanity is poisoning every living creature on earth, including its children. A 1994 reprnt of Silent Spring carries the following text on the back cover:

"What we have to face is not an occasional dose of poison which has accidentally got into some article of food, but a persistent and continuous poisoning of the whole human environment"

"First published in 1962, Rachel Carson's scientifically passionate exposure of the effects of the indiscriminate use of chemicals is still of vital importance. In her vivid and well-informed text she describes how pesticides and insecticides are applied almost universally to -farms, forests, gardens and homes with scant regard to the consequent contamination of our environment and the widespread destruction of wildlife. She argues that unless we recognize that human beings are only a part of the living world, our progressive poisoning of the planet will end in catastrophe. Silent Spring remains the classic statement which founded a whole movement and should be read by everyone who is concerned about the future of our world."

Beautifully written, thoroughly researched and highly readable, Silent Spring remains an inspiring 'must read' to all concerned at the corporate take of control over the human body itself.

(See Freedom Part 2 in next Understanding Blog.)


Thursday 17 November 2022

Social Credit History

Extract from
The Political Economy of Social Credit and Guild Socialism
by Frances Hutchinson and Brian Burkitt, Routledge (1997)


The UK ‘social credit movement’ can be described as three movements which coexisted in an uneasy relationship. First, a self-appointed ‘Social Credit Secretariat’, loosely formed as early as 1921, produced material for study groups which sprang up throughout the United Kingdom. Finlay estimates that by late 1922 thirty-four study groups had been formed across the United Kingdom, centred largely on guild socialism (Finlay 1972: 122). Douglas was drawn into reluctant co-operation with this secretariat in the absence of any other prominent figure. Second, the informal Chandos group encompassed a number of leading artists, journalists and Church figures who shared common links with Orage. Third, John Hargrave and his Green Shirts movement popularised social credit ideas among the disaffected and unemployed in the United Kingdom.

The character of the social credit movement, covered in detail in Part III, heavily influenced the nature of reactions, particularly in the 1930s, when its widespread popularity was perceived as threatening to the established political scene. Indeed, reactions are more accurately described as responses to elements in the publicity and propaganda of the social credit movement than to the Douglas/New Age analysis as a whole. This, coupled with the search for solutions to problems of the time from various vantage points in society – the orthodox liberal economists seeking solutions to depression, the Labour Party seeking political credibility, the unemployed and lowpaid seeking explanations and deliverance – obscured the holistic character of the original texts.

Had the texts contained merely the maverick meanderings of a single mind, the subsequent fate of the ideas would be of little consequence. It is contended here that the Douglas/Orage collaboration synthesised into a coherent framework a constructive alternative view of the relationship between economics and society. The ideas propounded by Orage and Douglas had considerable impact on Meade, Keynes and other major figures in politics and economics in subsequent decades. The central theme of the detrimental impact of the impetus to economic growth and its relentless drive towards the production of armaments and waste arising from a debt-driven financial system was often neglected, even by leading advocates of social credit. In the ensuing debate, proponents and opponents alike failed to acknowledge an alternative framework for freeing the productive capacity of developed nations from exploitation for individual greed and competitive gain. Page 80 The PE


A third publication, issued by the recently formed Credit Power Press in 1922 with the title The Community’s Credit: a Consideration of the Principles and Proposals of the Social Credit Movement (Hattersley 1922), arose from a series of papers discussed by the Swinton (Yorks.) group of the social credit movement during the latter part of 1921 and the spring of 1922. The papers were based on Economic Democracy and Credit-Power and Democracy, the authorship of the latter book being attributed in part to Orage, ‘late editor of The New Age’. Unlike Cousens, Hattersley asserts that Douglas presents a ‘permanent solution to the present economic difficulties’ – in other words, that his purpose is to put the economy right (Hattersley 1922: i). Two of the three main strands of the social credit movement began to emerge in these three books by Young, Cousens and Hattersley. The Swinton group referred to by Hattersley were one of an estimated number of thirty-four study circles which were formed across Britain in 1921–2 to study and publicise social credit (Finlay 1972: 121–2). Although these groups appear to have centred on the remnants of guild socialism (Finlay 1972: 122), they subsequently formed the caucus of the later network which held ambivalent attitudes towards socialism. Cousens, on the other hand, became a member of the Chandos group of intellectuals who met from the mid- 1920s to discuss social credit from an Oragean perspective. Douglas initiated neither of these developments. ..... P138-9

p140 The Chandos Group

The Chandos group, the second main strand of the social credit movement, first met in May 1926 at the invitation of Dimitrije Mitrinovic, a contributor to the New Age under Orage. The group was formed to explore the possibility of publicising social credit ideas, and the original members were joined at their regular meetings by academics, clerics and business people. G.D.H. Cole, Lewis Mumford and T.S. Eliot were often in attendance (Mairet 1936: 110).

named after the restaurant at which it invariably met fortnightly, the group was influential in the many spheres in which the members and their associates conducted their daily lives. The seven who first dined together on the evening of the termination of the General Strike were joined by three or four others and continued to meet throughout the 1930s. According to Reckitt, one of the original members, the core of the group were W.T. Symons, Philip Mairet and V.A. Demant, with Egerton Swan, Alan Porter and Albert Newsome attending up to the publication of their first joint attempt to explain their stand, Coal: a Challenge to the National Conscience. They were joined by B.T Boothroyd, Hilderic Cousens, R.S.J. Rand and Geoffrey Davis. The latter had a background of distributism and was a member of the Sociological Society. The members of the group were, to a varying extent, contributors to the New Age under Orage and/or active social credit supporters. There was a strong Christian influence within the group. T.S Eliot, ‘that gracious personality of crystalline intelligence’, attended from time to time (Reckitt 1941: 190–5). The group acted as a focus of its members’ interest in social credit, and steered through a couple of minor publications on the social credit theme. Already in the late 1920s, however, ‘it had become evident that “social credit” aroused considerable prejudice’ and neither publication mentioned the term, regarding it as counterproductive (Reckitt 1941: 189–95; Finlay 1972: 168–72). As Reckitt noted, the monetary reform ideas in social credit would not appear attractive to public figures unless or until they were commonly discussed and accepted by the public at large. In effect, that is what happened. Within a few years of the publication of the original texts the ideas were being studied throughout the British Isles, in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia (Douglas 1937: xiii). Following the economic crisis of 1931, finance became news and the work of a host of monetary reformers was subjected to public scrutiny. At this point, the early promotional material enabled the social credit movement to flourish on a worldwide scale (Reckitt 1941: 172–3) p40

See also pages 158++

COMMENT: Copied for John Carlisle and others interested in the history and contemporary relevance of Social Credit and Guild Socialism.


Saturday 12 November 2022

Poverty a Political Choice

Why do some people in the UK have more than enough, others have enough, whilst some have no rights to the basic necessities of life, of food, shelter and clothing? How can we exercise political choice?

The marathon task ahead is for groups of individuals to study the workings of the financial system within the daily lives of our own households, our places of waged employment and our local neighbourhoods. The quest is to develop a worldwide concept of municipal economics firmly rooted in a sense of place and community. On a pluralistic planet of difference, they embrace multiculturalism. And as our times plead for innovation, they exude creativity. Reasons enough, – good reasons, why mayors and their fellow citizens can and should rule the world.

In 1949, Huxley wrote in the foreword to a new edition of Brave New World:

“Overall, it looks as if we are much closer to utopia than anybody could have imagined 15 years ago. At the time, I put this utopia 600 years in the future. Today, it seems quite possible that this horror will come upon us within a single century” (Huxley, 1949).

Huxley was amazingly prescient with this prognosis. Given current trends, 2032 seems like a realistic date for the realization of this dystopia. It seems that the 21st century is the one in which we have to prevent a dystopia from becoming reality-one that is already well recognizable in its contours. We will only be able to prevent it from becoming reality, if we manage to unmask its dystopian qualities, and the plan behind it, in time, before people have lost their ability to imagine alternatives.

A possible route out of this impasse is suggested by Benjamin Barber in his most thought-provoking book entitled “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities” (2013). He argues:

As nations grow more dysfunctional, cities are rising. When it comes to democracy, they command the majority. Rooted in ancient history, they still lean to the future. As we reach the limits of independence and private markets, they define interdependence and public culture. On a pluralistic planet of difference, they embrace multiculturalism. And as our times plead for innovation, they exude creativity. Reasons enough – good reasons why mayors and their fellow citizens can and should rule the world.”

Barber’s central question is where lies the best hope for global democratic governance capable of addressing problems that seriously threaten humankind and the planet such as ecological sustainability, energy, food and water availability, migration, economic stability and inequality. He defines the city as an aggregation of features: dense population, relational networks, public spaces, voluntary identity, secularity, cosmopolitan, mobility, multicultural, trade, arts – overall providing the creative, pragmatic, non-ideological and open networking that democratic global governance requires. Urban living is rapidly increasing, encapsulating more than half the planet’s 7 billion population and estimated to reach 70% by 2030. City populations range from 50,000 to 20 million upwards. There is much in Barber’s argument seriously to question nation-states’ capacities to assure the planetary public good and he provides strong justification for mayors, actively mandated by their citizens, to help hold nations to account and grow a powerful contribution by cities to global governance. In this context, reform of the wages system becomes an urgent priority.

The wages system

Under the wages system, the worker has no say in the planning of the work or in the conditions of work. Workers are engaged to follow orders given by a superior. The worker is rewarded by a money wage or salary which is taxed according to the rules determined by the powers at the top of the centralised pyramids of power. Hence the big banks and the big corporations of bureaucratic capitalism determine political and economic policy. As Guild Socialists Maurice Reckitt and C.E. Bechhoffer explained a century ago:

The fundamental basis of the revolutionary case against Capitalism is not that it makes the few rich and the many poor – though this is true; not that it creates social conditions which are a disgrace and an amazement in a civilised community – though this is also true; not that it brutalises the rich by luxury, stifles beauty, and frustrates the hope of craftsmanship for the worker – though, indeed, it does all these things; but that it denies and degrades the character of man by the operation of a wage-system which makes the worker of no more account than a machine to be exploited or a tool to be bought and sold. The seed of all our glaring social failure and distress today lies not in any imagined ‘problem’ of poverty, nor in any inevitable ‘stage’ of economic development, but in a vile conception of human relationship that has entered into and now dominates all our social life and has invested it with its character of injustice and insecurity. This spiritual failure to which we have come finds its concrete expression in the wages system. Its assumptions and even its ideals (if we can call them so) have won so great a victory over the minds and wills of every section of our countrymen that its creed is the credo of England today. Few challenge it; few have the spirit even to desire an alternative, far less to struggle for one. That men should be forced by the menace of starvation to accept a price for the labour which is all they have to sell, to subdue all their purposes and all their gifts to the purpose of others (and that purpose profit), to lay claim to no right of control over the conditions of their working lives, nor any power of government over those who direct them in the workshop, to be divorced from responsibility and all the attributes of free status, to have upheld before them no standard but that of gain, no incentive but the bribe (often fallacious) of higher wages – this pathetic distortion of human fellowship, this vile and perilous imprisonment of the human spirit, is actually accepted as natural, and even providential, by nearly all those who triumph( by means of it, and by the vast majority, indeed, of its victims.” . (See: Maurice Reckitt and C E Bechhoffer (1918) The Meaning of the National Guilds, Cecil Palmer, London.)