Posted by: Linda Proud | February 7, 2011

Save our Soul!

When I was a kid back in the 60s, I used to protest a lot, too much some would say. I’d pick up a copy of International Times (IT) and have a new cause within minutes. I was a visceral teenager ready to attack and pull down anything. Perhaps for that reason I’ve been standing back and not shouting ‘Go! go! go!’ with the Egyptians this past week. I’m older and wiser now, and want to know what comes next, exactly. Power vacuums do no one any good. But, back to my red-blooded youth…

By the 70s my ‘attitude’ had developed into a ‘profile’ and I was a full-blown environmental activist. I used to go out on Sundays and sabotage hunts (sorry, dear hunters, I never meant for your abolition, just a bit more justice for the fox). During the week I was active for Friends of the Earth. On Saturdays I used to go and tell everyone in Chelmsford town centre that there was a population explosion going on (how true that was) and that we should save the whales (ditto).

As a squaddy for FoE, I received ‘The Ten Commandments’ – a list of rules to live by. One of them was, ‘thou shalt not brush thy teeth with the tap running.’ Then came the fateful day of waking up. There I was, at the sink brushing my teeth – and the tap was running. I stood aghast at my own hypocrisy. Everything flashed before my eyes as if I were drowning, all the banners, placards, papier-mache whales and camoflaged faces (we hunt saboteurs could have taught hardened mercenaries a thing or two). It all flashed and I saw it all as one: hypocrisy, yes, but behind it was this thought: ‘If I change the world, then I can change with it.’ I stared into the running water and thought, ‘I’m the one who needs to do the changing. What I need is a course in philosophy. I’ll take six months off to study wisdom.’

That was 37 years ago. I’m still studying philosophy, and one of its precepts is that wise men don’t join campaigns (somewhat countered by another which says that all it takes for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing).

But these last few months the balance has tipped and I’m protesting again. I would like them not to build the ill-named Northern Gateway. No, not a medieval entrance to a university town, but an industrial estate on what is now horse paddocks. I would like the government not to ban herbs but instead regulate herbalists. I would prefer it if libraries were not closed, especially my local one. So many things seem to be under assault at once. Good things, precious things, things of the soul. It’s terrifying.

A friend and fellow philosopher emailed last week:

all well here though we seem to be  fighting lorries, fighting terrible neighbours pulling out hedgerows with no permission, fighting stupid councils, fighting the herbal medicine bans, fighting fighting fighting……..heck………..our wonderful neighbours said the other day that they feel in their hearts that they are “Protectors of the Countryside” and we must fight on, it is brutal what the greedy developer will do……and this is an area of outstanding natural beauty…heaven help us the law seems to provide little protection as there are so many loop holes…….we are seeing a solicitor next week.

When I wrote and asked her permission to include that, she replied even more perspicaciously:
We have truth, justice and straightforwardness so in our beings, it is deeply shocking when they are not the foundation of decision-making.

This is particularly true of planning departments. The ‘reasons’ for allowing the Northern Gateway development left us speechless. So, bring on the revolution and let it be a turn to love, light, justice and soul.

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