Here the street cars had stopped running, few people passed, and there were no lights; but a few blocks away we could see the trams, the crowds, the lighted shop-windows and the electric signs of the moving-picture shows – life going on as usual. We had tickets to the Ballet at the Marinsky Theatre – all the theatres were open – but it was too exciting out of doors….I suspect that our ‘interesting times’ will find us participating in a great deal of normal activity, trying to focus on ‘business as usual’, with the emergent signs of catastrophe grasped only vicariously or not at all, until their effects become too intrusive to ignore. An e-mail exchange with a friend in LA. I wrote to Richard Risemberg on 5.2.09:
It’s not as if individuals are clueless. It’s as though people collectively are fixed in some sort of amber. Perhaps we’ve been spectators for so long now that the view through the window doesn’t seem as real as the one through the television.R replies:
Simon, it's sad to say but many of them here in the US are indeed clueless. The old American habit that's come to be called "exceptionalism" nurtures that the view that "we" are exempt from the rules we believe others should follow, and even from the laws of physics. It's an endemic disease, though more people are healing themselves of it, it still afflicts the majority. Bike culture here (and urban bike culture is relatively new) is one of the bright spots. Too many traditional enviros are still driving around forests in SUVs to save them, when it's not driving in cities that will do more in that regard.From me:
I’ve submitted a proposal to our city council regarding urban agriculture – something that I’ve been campaigning on for quite a while. I’ve attached it for your interest.From R:
Very good. Urban agriculture is an absolute necessity for the survival of human culture. Any chance you'd have time ot rewrite it in more general terms for pubbing in New Colonist?From me:
It may be that in drib and drabs the embroidery of an alternative way of living is beginning to emerge.From R:
Yes...many people are choosing now to live in parallel with the dominant culture, but partaking of it little as possible. Live around it, and let it wither away as something new grows from the debris. The curves will eventually cross, one hopes. Regards, Rick [Richard Risemberg]* * * Finding a car parking space near the old town centre in Corfu can be notoriously time wasting. I park further out, using a folding bicycle that fits easily in the back of the car, to thread swiftly and pleasurably through log jams of motorised traffic, and, because I can step off and become a pedestrian to stroll my bicycle over red lights or walk it against a one-way, as well as able to stop anywhere and fold to go indoors, I’m better adapted to the narrowest of Corfu’s alleys than even a moped rider. If Lin’s with me, she can get out of our car near the town centre, leaving me to drive back out to park, get the folder from the boot and rejoin her. My folder’s also good for the local buses; easily stored with luggage for a tiny extra fare, often not charged. * * * There was a comment on one of the political-management conversations I'd filmed and posted on YouTube with permission for moderated comments. Someone had commented on an exchange exploring how a manager relates to an opposition politician "What a lot of rubbish-bit like a chat over the garden fence. Do some work for the people you represent." I rejected it - with regret. I don't think I can get into a dialogue on this; one of my reasons for being so careful about posting this material on YouTube. What I would have wanted to say had I not felt too much distrust for the anonymous person's grasp of shades of grey; more specifically, their obtuseness in using the familiar 'chat over the garden fence' as a form of denigration, when the garden fence between neighbours is one of the primary sites of political activity, where to be politic in starting and maintaining conversation 'over the garden fence' is the basis of neighbourliness, including what I've called 'responsible gossip' - a much maligned social glue. If you lack the skill and inclination to anticipate or resolve possible tension between you and your neighbour, how can you hope to address the conflicts that arise across larger borders? But then it's partly to challenge some people's wilful lack of respect for political acumen that I was posting these in the first place, as a supplement to my teaching on the subject. On this occasion I failed and I'm sorry for it. I was thinking of the Frost poem just then, with his thoughts on fences and walls and neighbours - 'Something there is that doesn't love a wall' [Back to the future 15 March 09: I'm grateful to Stavros on My Greek Odyssey for introducing me to the word koinonia ~ 'rich in meaning ... used extensively in the New Testament. It can be translated as community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy. All of which I believe go far beyond the mere description of a "close knit village." There is an excellent article on the concept in Wikipedia which I recommend.'] * * * At the back of the Apothiki, where we keep wood, and things taken from the house and garden - a ceiling made of flattened olive oil tins which we probably won't use, and rolled iron bars - part of a frame for a vine - taken down to make space for the previous residents' satellite dish, shutters, old paint, and different sizes of timber, which we will. At the back, I found - in shop condition - an electric garden vacuum and blower, missed by the previous owners. I assembled it from its scuffed box, attaching a bag that hung awkwardly beneath the two part plastic tube and, glancing at my watch to ensure we were outside siesta, I switched it on. The vacuum cleared the dust under the veranda in a trice, but I was surprised by my waning enthusiasm for it, compared to a brush and dustpan - cheap, light, easily handled and stored, silent with no cable to an electric supply, and with its sibling handbrush, getting dust from about anywhere. Brushing allows sorting - twigs that can go in a separate bin for kindling, leaves or sawdust for the compost or in a bag to damp the stove fire at night, insects that can be examined and allowed to go their way rather than be sucked into oblivion, small items like nails, screws and washers mislaid when working on the veranda which might be reusable and shouldn't go in the compost or into the vacuum bag, a button lost, a piece of crust for the birds. Brushing is soothing, giving time for reflection, letting me notice the details of the floor. It takes longer to brush - but given my profligacy with time I don't miss what I'd make up by using the gadget - half a chapter read, a couple of cups of tea, and what about the chatting time gained. The noise of the vacuum makes conversation impossible, blocking the sounds of the village.