from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 2 September 2011

travellers, the killing industry and letters to ukraine

Quite apart from the various global environmental catastrophes, there are the challenges faced by us all within our nation state. Here we're facing health cuts, education cuts, benefit cuts. Meantime Basildon Council is spending £9M to bring in bulldozers and bailiffs to move on 400 Irish travellers, a huge extended family, in effect, from Dale Farm in Essex, ground they've occupied peacefully but illegally, in that the council has repeatedly refused planning, for 10 years. There are no plans to offer them alternative sites, and inevitably they will be broken up as a community and offered social housing instead. They have some sympathetic campaigners, thank goodness, and also a few heavy duty public figures fighting for them (and Joan Bakewell, in the Torygraph, of all papers, attacks our prejudices and injustices regarding eg travelling people).

More shocking, and global in its imperative, is the world defence budget – not news, but the figures when put in context are frightening: in 2010 the world spent $1.61 trillion on the killing industry (let's call it by its true name).  We in Britain are the largest arms exporters in the world, after the US: in four months earlier this year we exported £30,499,379 worth of arms to the Middle East and north Africa. Our defence industry here in GB is worth about £35 billion per annum. Think what that would do if freed up to support peaceful projects to enhance lives and the planet.

'Not harming ourselves or others,' says Tibetan nun Pema Chodron 'is the basis of enlightened society. This is how there could be a sane society. It starts with sane citizens, and that is us.' She goes on to suggest that fundamental aggression and harm, to ourselves and thus to others, is 'to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.' 

How might we live if we didn't constantly fear others, constantly need to defend ourselves and our interests, constantly be on guard against some unspecified imagined threat to our egos, our possessions or our pride?

My friend Mario, who published a book-length sequence of poems on the experiences of the people of Chernobyl in the aftermath of the reactor meltdowns there (Heavy Water), writes a regular short column now for 'The Day Digest', Kiev. With his permission here's his 'Letters to Ukraine 7':

'How might our modern relationship with ecology seem, to an advanced alien race?  Like someone selling their home for a few dollars to rent a tacky room overnight.  Like a frog soon to be boiled alive in slowly-warming water, where the frog itself set up the experiment.  Like a surgeon crudely opening a patient’s skull, hoping that the sophisticated instruments required to complete the operation have just been invented.  Like a tourist allowed to burn the Mona Lisa in his portable stove, so everyone can enjoy a few chips.  Like the expanding circle of a biological culture in a Petri dish, moving towards its future by consuming it.  Like a split mind that reveres great poets (“I will show you fear in a handful of dust”), playwrights (“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”) and philosophers (“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”), yet organises society to be incapable of responding to them. Like a creature that defends its children from terrifying predators, then relaxes by eating the grandchildren. Like the final moments on a juggernaut hurtling towards a cliff, whose occupants heatedly debate whether they are doing 95 or 105 miles per hour.'

copyright:  Mario Petrucci 2011

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