Your Welcome to Middle-Class Lockdown is a fine, fine article. I live in the UK and although we have a lot of the same stuff going on in politics and militarily, it isn't quite so hard edged. In the 60s I marched and demonstrated and thought the world would just go on getting better for all of us and that injustice and war would be eliminated once we'd got Vietnam sorted out.
Never in a million years did I think that we would have Bush and Blair, and Guantanamo Bay.
As for the cottage dream, my advice is go for it. I used to work for the BBC in the drama department. Fifteen years ago at age 55 they decided I was far too old and they pensioned me off with a year's salary as a sweetner.
We bought a stone cottage and twelve acres of rural England. We have broadleaf woodland that provides our heating. It has a stream of good water and we grow vegetables and fruit for ourselves. I don't have a mortgage, we have very little money, and we are as happy as pigs in shit.
When you live a mile from your neighbour you have to rely on each other and other locals and that breeds a kind of community. I think that will get stronger as energy gets scarcer and we need each other's skills.
As for TV drama, gradually I have seen the once fine output of work that engaged the mind and asked questions about us and our society dismantled in favour of trivia and celebrity based crap. If you see anything on UK TV now which calls itself a drama the chances are that it will involve running, shouting, cars, guns and flashing blue lights.
I'm 70 now and no longer feel I can make a difference to politics and the world, and what I have done by retiring into the country is to pull up the drawbridge and abdicate any responsibility for it all, All I can do is look after those near and local as best I can and live my life in a way that I don't despise too much.
Thanks for the writing. it resonates deeply with me.
As you pointed out, "Never in a million years did I think that we would have Bush and Blair, and Guantanamo Bay."
It is extremely difficult for anyone to grasp the slow, subtle advance of totalitarianism while it happens, isn't it? And anyone who does these days is conveniently labeled paranoid or a "conspiracy theorist." Interesting how derogatory labels are created and new associations are attached to normal terms and words such as "liberal," (which is now associated with being weak and insincere in the (US) and the word "capitalism," is associated in the ordinary American worker minds here with Communist rhetoric, and the very use of it implies an attack upon American "values." No further examination or discussion ensues. Which is convenient for capitalists, as discourse is made impossible and art, as you point out, is coarsened -- reduced to car chases, violence, celebrity (especially celebrity) and sex (the display and associate d rumors surrounding which constitute celebrity, for the most part.) Ah brother, our chances of affecting such a tidal wave of mediocrity are small.
But when I think about it, and I do often now, I realize that it was the exploitation of the abundance of the earth's resources -- which we ourselves did not seriously question -- that allowed us all to flourish at such an unencumbered level back then. All the image producing and distributing technology that allowed our culture to flourish in our day -- you in television and I in print -- also led to the saturation of cheapness of imagery we now suffer, and the development if the Guantanamo Bay culture of fear now upon us. No technology, including television and the Internet, is neutral.
And so, like you I am retreating to the position of least consumption and damage -- the cabana in Belize -- which requires little energy and provides a year round income for the village family for whom I built it. Soon we shall build another one. I have tried to peel the onion of responsibility to find its core truth, and what I find is that I should reject what devours the earth, to which both of us will soon return, it being the matrix of our own and many other species' existence. Given that simple understanding at last, we find Alex and Joe withdrawing from the culture and earth destroying game.
Personally, I am dealing with the fact that the very book I wrote, the one that is enabling me to be in Belize, has destroyed many trees in the production of its paper, and requires many energy sucking endeavors such as publishing houses, publicists, media of all sorts, fuel guzzling trucks for distribution, and even shipping back those which do not sell. Frankly, though it was a good effort, I cannot morally justify it on the basis of its content. I cannot even justify this laptop on which I write, if I consider its cost to the planet and future generations. Culture rots only to rise again, assuming anyone survives what is about to happen to the very matrix, the very armature upon which it is su pported.
In parts of Asia it was once accepted that men, even the wealthiest of men, should in their later years "take up the beggar's cup," that is, to live at the absolute simplest land humblest level possible, and contemplate the ages. In our own way, I believe you and I are both humbly attempting to do that, inasmuch as it can be done in this terrible post-modern age of our own. My one fear is that the provinciality we have chosen can breed its own forms of intolerance and condemnation instead of wisdom. That, I believe, wiltll be the test of whether we at least got hold of the shirttails of any sort of truth (assuming we were even among those few who actually sought it) during the Sixties.
Let us pray that so called advanced societies draw a good card from the deck soon (perhaps extreme scarcity will be that card) and that the jackboot never marches across our graves.
In art and labor,