Tactical Voting and Conscience

Green Principles, Pragmatism and stopping the Tories in Stroud

There are those who say that when they cast their vote,
They have to vote according to their conscience,
To their ‘principles’,
Rather than pragmatically or tactically,
Rejecting any ideas of ‘a progressive alliance’
(A mirror, perhaps, to the KPD’s rejection
Of a Popular Front
In the Weimar Republic in 1932 –
And we all know where that ended up).

But what is ‘conscience’?

‘The voice in your head’ that separates right from wrong?
The internal ethical guide to universal morality …
Or is ‘conscience’ no more than a ‘pre-disposition’?
But expressed with what Mark Fisher has termed,
‘A lofty Olympian sense of detachment’
In the helter-skelter discourse on social media –
But as though ethics and morality,
Rather than the replication of one’s personality,
Or one’s presentation of self,
Or one’s doxa (one’s orthodoxy), as Pierre Bourdieu put it
Were the determinants of socially mediated opinion –
‘To thine own self be true’,
Is often cited as the justification:
People conveniently forgetting that Shakespeare
Was not enunciating a universal truth,
But rather reflecting Renaissance humanism,
In a pre-Enlightenment prefiguring of individualism,
Ina pre-capitalist rejection of collectivism,
A philosophy that reaches its apogee
In a 21 st century cult of the celebration of celebrity,
And narcissistic performance of self.

Green Principles, Pragmatism and stopping the Tories in Stroud

There are those who say that when they cast their vote,
They have to vote according to their conscience,
To their ‘principles’,
Rather than pragmatically or tactically,
Rejecting any ideas of ‘a progressive alliance’
(A mirror, perhaps, to the KPD’s rejection
Of a Popular Front
In the Weimar Republic in 1932 -
And we all know where that ended up).

But what is ‘conscience’?

‘The voice in your head’ that separates right from wrong?
The internal ethical guide to universal morality …
Or is ‘conscience’ no more than a ‘pre-disposition’?
But expressed with what Mark Fisher has termed,
‘A lofty Olympian sense of detachment’
In the helter-skelter discourse on social media -
But as though ethics and morality,
Rather than the replication of one’s personality,
Or one’s presentation of self,
Or one’s doxa (one’s orthodoxy), as Pierre Bourdieu put it
Were the determinants of socially mediated opinion -
‘To thine own self be true’,
Is often cited as the justification:
People conveniently forgetting that Shakespeare
Was not enunciating a universal truth,
But rather reflecting Renaissance humanism,
In a pre-Enlightenment prefiguring of individualism,
Ina pre-capitalist rejection of collectivism,
A philosophy that reaches its apogee
In a 21 st century cult of the celebration of celebrity,
And narcissistic performance of self.

read more

Jolly Well Vote Labour

Jolly Well Vote Labour: A New Christmas Carol

Oh for a new Charles Dickens classic:
Jolly Well Vote Labour –
No more of that Bob Cratchit toasting Scrooge:
“Mr. Scrooge!… I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!” –
In the most complete and perfect depiction
Of false consciousness imaginable.

No more personal journeys of redemption
For malign capitalists such as Scrooge;
No more beneficent Victorian philanthropy
From well-heeled jolly old men
Such as the Cheeryble brothers and Mr Pickwick,
With their unexplained wealth bestowed on the deserving,
So that everyone lived happily ever after;

Instead, the likes of Sam Weller and Barkis and Pumblechook,
And Joe Gargery and David Copperfield
And Old Fezziwig, Martin Chuzzlewit, Nicholas Nickleby,
Wemmick, Little Nell, Nancy, Little Dorrit,
Fagin, Quilp, Pip, Wackford Sqeers, Sowerby,
The Artful, Bill Sikes, Mr Bumble et al
Declare: ‘Enough of this onomatopoeic caricaturisation!’

And in act of collective expropriation,
They snatch the quill from Dickens’ Broadstairs hand,
While Mrs Cratchit loudly declares:
“The Founder of the Feast indeed!.”
And under her determined leadership,
Dickens’ characters write a new Dickens classic:
Bob Cratchit refuses Scrooge’s offer of
A few extra shillings and a few extra coals,
He forms, instead, a union of all the clerks
And pettifogging pen pushers,
And, like Herman Melville’s Bartleby,
Bartleby the Scrivener,
When requested to perform a duty by their boss,
They reply: ‘I would prefer not to’;

Jolly Well Vote Labour: A New Christmas Carol

Oh for a new Charles Dickens classic:
Jolly Well Vote Labour –
No more of that Bob Cratchit toasting Scrooge:
"Mr. Scrooge!... I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!" –
In the most complete and perfect depiction
Of false consciousness imaginable.

No more personal journeys of redemption
For malign capitalists such as Scrooge;
No more beneficent Victorian philanthropy
From well-heeled jolly old men
Such as the Cheeryble brothers and Mr Pickwick,
With their unexplained wealth bestowed on the deserving,
So that everyone lived happily ever after;

Instead, the likes of Sam Weller and Barkis and Pumblechook,
And Joe Gargery and David Copperfield
And Old Fezziwig, Martin Chuzzlewit, Nicholas Nickleby,
Wemmick, Little Nell, Nancy, Little Dorrit,
Fagin, Quilp, Pip, Wackford Sqeers, Sowerby,
The Artful, Bill Sikes, Mr Bumble et al
Declare: ‘Enough of this onomatopoeic caricaturisation!’

And in act of collective expropriation,
They snatch the quill from Dickens’ Broadstairs hand,
While Mrs Cratchit loudly declares:
"The Founder of the Feast indeed!.”
And under her determined leadership,
Dickens’ characters write a new Dickens classic:
Bob Cratchit refuses Scrooge’s offer of
A few extra shillings and a few extra coals,
He forms, instead, a union of all the clerks
And pettifogging pen pushers,
And, like Herman Melville’s Bartleby,
Bartleby the Scrivener,
When requested to perform a duty by their boss,
They reply: ‘I would prefer not to’;

read more

Stroud’s Political Spectrum

Stroud’s Spectrum

The colours of Stroud’s spectrum are

not what they seem:

Vote Red: Get Green.

And this you know is true:
Vote Green: Get Blue.

It’s not some fictive story:
Vote Green: Get Tory.

So keep it real and serene:
Vote Red: Get Green.

Stroud’s Spectrum

The colours of Stroud’s spectrum are

not what they seem:

Vote Red: Get Green.

And this you know is true:
Vote Green: Get Blue.

It’s not some fictive story:
Vote Green: Get Tory.

So keep it real and serene:
Vote Red: Get Green.

read more

General Election 2019: Red and Green and Blue.

The roots of Socialism’s environmentalism go way back: Thomas Spence, for example, who thought enclosure and what we call now call factory farming should be replaced by ‘People’s Farms’.
John Thelwall – ‘that Jacobin fox’, ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ – associate of Coleridge and Wordsworth, who stayed here in the summer of 1797. His studied observations of ‘Nature’ would foreground working people too. It wasn’t just the cult of the picturesque and the sublime for him.
The Chartists, too, had a programme that involved a back to the land strand. They saw the environmental degradation caused by unbridled capitalism, industrialisation and urbanisation. Let’s not forget the 5,000 who met on Selsley Common in 1839.
Then, of course, we have William Morris. Visit Selsley Church to remind yourself of his influence! And sit and reflect on the long history of Socialism’s embrace of environmentalism. Then read the below!

The roots of Socialism’s environmentalism go way back: Thomas Spence, for example, who thought enclosure and what we call now call factory farming should be replaced by ‘People’s Farms’.
John Thelwall - ‘that Jacobin fox’, ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ - associate of Coleridge and Wordsworth, who stayed here in the summer of 1797. His studied observations of ‘Nature’ would foreground working people too. It wasn’t just the cult of the picturesque and the sublime for him.
The Chartists, too, had a programme that involved a back to the land strand. They saw the environmental degradation caused by unbridled capitalism, industrialisation and urbanisation. Let’s not forget the 5,000 who met on Selsley Common in 1839.
Then, of course, we have William Morris. Visit Selsley Church to remind yourself of his influence! And sit and reflect on the long history of Socialism’s embrace of environmentalism. Then read the below! read more

Prehistory: Why is it so entrancing?

Circles without Class Ceilings

Why can prehistory be so entrancing?

Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?

Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?

So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?

Circles without Class Ceilings

Why can prehistory be so entrancing?

Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?

Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?

So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?

read more

Prehistory and Wormholes of Time

As the traffic rumbles past on Cotswold roads,
It’s hard to hear the chip of stone on flint,
Or the croak of corvids with their blood-drip beaks,
Or the breaking of the bones of a skeleton,
Or smell the rotting flesh on the capstone,
Or taste the ashes of the dead on the nightfall wind,
Or see the blood red sunset behind the silver river
Or the standing stone’s silhouette,
But try hard on a winter’s afternoon,
And you might just slip down a wormhole of time,
To rituals of death and memory,
And recognize the prehistoric past
For what it is and was:
Not something primitive and alien,
But something shared.

As the traffic rumbles past on Cotswold roads,
It’s hard to hear the chip of stone on flint,
Or the croak of corvids with their blood-drip beaks,
Or the breaking of the bones of a skeleton,
Or smell the rotting flesh on the capstone,
Or taste the ashes of the dead on the nightfall wind,
Or see the blood red sunset behind the silver river
Or the standing stone’s silhouette,
But try hard on a winter’s afternoon,
And you might just slip down a wormhole of time,
To rituals of death and memory,
And recognize the prehistoric past
For what it is and was:
Not something primitive and alien,
But something shared. read more

History But Not As You Did In School

Did you get bored in your history lessons?

Endless facts and dates.
A dreary litany.
Prehistoric Britain …
The Romans …

Those Anglo-Saxons and those Vikings …
Then came the Normans …
WELL HERE’S A NEW APPROACH
A RADICAL RETHINK

Questioning what we were taught and why
What did the great unwashed have to say?
A four-week course presented by
Stuart Butler and the Stroud Learners’ Circle

The Exchange, Brick Row

7-9pm.

Wednesday November 6 th : Prehistoric Gloucestershire – why are we fascinated by prehistory? What can we find? Where?
Wednesday November 13 th : What have the Romans ever done for us? A local probe and a national question.
Wednesday November 20 th : The imprint of the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings upon the county landscape.
Wednesday November 27 th : Domesday Gloucestershire, feudal Gloucestershire, the landscape and the Peasants’ Revolt

Booking essential – only £30 for the entire course.
Contact Gail Snyman to book at 01453 765955
or by email snyman.gail@gmail.com

Did you get bored in your history lessons?

Endless facts and dates.
A dreary litany.
Prehistoric Britain …
The Romans …

Those Anglo-Saxons and those Vikings …
Then came the Normans …
WELL HERE’S A NEW APPROACH
A RADICAL RETHINK

Questioning what we were taught and why
What did the great unwashed have to say?
A four-week course presented by
Stuart Butler and the Stroud Learners’ Circle

The Exchange, Brick Row

7-9pm.

Wednesday November 6 th : Prehistoric Gloucestershire – why are we fascinated by prehistory? What can we find? Where?
Wednesday November 13 th : What have the Romans ever done for us? A local probe and a national question.
Wednesday November 20 th : The imprint of the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings upon the county landscape.
Wednesday November 27 th : Domesday Gloucestershire, feudal Gloucestershire, the landscape and the Peasants’ Revolt

Booking essential – only £30 for the entire course.
Contact Gail Snyman to book at 01453 765955
or by email snyman.gail@gmail.com

read more

John Thelwall: Radical thoughts on Slavery, Empire and Landscape

A Pedestrian Excursion Through Several Parts of England and Wales

John Thelwall’s account of his rambles
Between the years of the naval mutinies
of 1797 and the 1801 Peace of Amiens:

‘The cottages in general, are small, wretched and dirty. Some of them are built of brick, others are plastered and may exhibit nothing but miserable mud walls, equally naked without and within. They are wretchedly and scantily furnished; and few have even the advantage of a bit of garden. To complete the catalogue of misery, there is a workhouse in the parish, in which a number of deserted infants are consigned to captivity and incessant application…’

And even though Citizen John was being pursued,
Followed and shadowed by spies,
With consequent anxiety,
Thelwall could still write that …

‘The vivacity of conversation made the miles pass unheeded under our feet. We canvassed various subjects of literature and criticism, the state of morals and the existing institutions of society. We lamented the condition of our fellow-beings, and formed Utopian plans of retirement and colonisations. On one subject, and only one, we essentially differed – America. I cannot look towards that country with all the sanguine expectations so frequently cherished. I think I discover in it much of the old leaven. Its avidity for commercial aggrandisement augurs but ill even for the present generation; and I tremble at the consequences which the enormous appropriation of land may entail upon posterity.’

A Pedestrian Excursion Through Several Parts of England and Wales

John Thelwall's account of his rambles
Between the years of the naval mutinies
of 1797 and the 1801 Peace of Amiens:

'The cottages in general, are small, wretched and dirty. Some of them are built of brick, others are plastered and may exhibit nothing but miserable mud walls, equally naked without and within. They are wretchedly and scantily furnished; and few have even the advantage of a bit of garden. To complete the catalogue of misery, there is a workhouse in the parish, in which a number of deserted infants are consigned to captivity and incessant application...'

And even though Citizen John was being pursued,
Followed and shadowed by spies,
With consequent anxiety,
Thelwall could still write that …

'The vivacity of conversation made the miles pass unheeded under our feet. We canvassed various subjects of literature and criticism, the state of morals and the existing institutions of society. We lamented the condition of our fellow-beings, and formed Utopian plans of retirement and colonisations. On one subject, and only one, we essentially differed - America. I cannot look towards that country with all the sanguine expectations so frequently cherished. I think I discover in it much of the old leaven. Its avidity for commercial aggrandisement augurs but ill even for the present generation; and I tremble at the consequences which the enormous appropriation of land may entail upon posterity.'

read more

Ghost Mills Walks

Free, but just a few places left only – contact me if you wish to go: 9.45 – approx 13:00 FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 13TH
A leisurely walk along the towpath follows past old mills to Bowbridge and thence Stroud.
Uncovering a colonial landscape whilst in the footsteps of that ‘Jacobin fox’, ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’, John Thelwall, who left London, fed up with William Pitt’s prying spies, and walked to Nether Stowey. He stayed with Coleridge and Wordsworth for ten days, in that hectic summer that would lead to the Lyrical Ballads, before walking to Stroudwater.
Here he stayed with sympathetic clothiers and dyers, visiting Chalford, Uley, Nailsworth and Bowbridge, writing poems on the hoof.
We recreate his stay in that annus mirabilis of 1797, with a performative walk from Chalford to Bowbridge, whilst uncovering a colonial landscape.
John Thelwall was a colleague of THOMAS SPENCE – and we have a show about Thomas as part of the Stroud Theatre Festival in the evening.

Free, but just a few places left only - contact me if you wish to go: 9.45 - approx 13:00 FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 13TH
A leisurely walk along the towpath follows past old mills to Bowbridge and thence Stroud.
Uncovering a colonial landscape whilst in the footsteps of that ‘Jacobin fox’, ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’, John Thelwall, who left London, fed up with William Pitt’s prying spies, and walked to Nether Stowey. He stayed with Coleridge and Wordsworth for ten days, in that hectic summer that would lead to the Lyrical Ballads, before walking to Stroudwater.
Here he stayed with sympathetic clothiers and dyers, visiting Chalford, Uley, Nailsworth and Bowbridge, writing poems on the hoof.
We recreate his stay in that annus mirabilis of 1797, with a performative walk from Chalford to Bowbridge, whilst uncovering a colonial landscape.
John Thelwall was a colleague of THOMAS SPENCE - and we have a show about Thomas as part of the Stroud Theatre Festival in the evening. read more

Peterloo-Wiltshire Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt Walk

Peterloo Memorial Walk 2019
About thirty of us braved Manchester weather on August 16th on a performative walk around Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt’s birthplace in Wiltshire. Pictures here tell the picture of the day.
We carried out a dialogue between 2019 and 1819 as we processed: the poem below from Robin Treefellow gives a flavour of how memorialization of Peterloo can reach out to the new Extinction Rebellion generation.

Chalk and Treason

To the chalk
we must go walk.
On the chalk where vipers bugloss brightens
we must go to rebel, debate, and reinvent
This green island
owned by a small land owning minority.

So depart that moribund Houses of Parliament
mired in out-dated oppositional bun throwing.

To the high dreamy chalk we must go like the bees to nectar
discovering what Britain dreams:
dreams like a giant with ammonites in its beard.
When we have lost our way,
when the ways are all privatised,
when society is manacled to linear profit centred greed:
to the chalk we must go walk.
In walking by the yellow of toadflax and melliot
there is waking,
with waking we can change.
This green island where feudalism has gone on too long,
equality,
the earth common to all,
we must learn from the biotic knit of ground sward
and abandon the tenure under our hidden landlords.
For Britain dreams!
The land will be free of chemicals,
to breath and flourish.
So shall our life return
Rude and willed,
modernisation discarded by the road where mugwort grows.
O Albion calls us all
to remember!
freedom, green of leaf and brown of root.
freedom, bright as flowers by the way.

Peterloo Memorial Walk 2019
About thirty of us braved Manchester weather on August 16th on a performative walk around Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt’s birthplace in Wiltshire. Pictures here tell the picture of the day.
We carried out a dialogue between 2019 and 1819 as we processed: the poem below from Robin Treefellow gives a flavour of how memorialization of Peterloo can reach out to the new Extinction Rebellion generation.

Chalk and Treason

To the chalk
we must go walk.
On the chalk where vipers bugloss brightens
we must go to rebel, debate, and reinvent
This green island
owned by a small land owning minority.

So depart that moribund Houses of Parliament
mired in out-dated oppositional bun throwing.

To the high dreamy chalk we must go like the bees to nectar
discovering what Britain dreams:
dreams like a giant with ammonites in its beard.
When we have lost our way,
when the ways are all privatised,
when society is manacled to linear profit centred greed:
to the chalk we must go walk.
In walking by the yellow of toadflax and melliot
there is waking,
with waking we can change.
This green island where feudalism has gone on too long,
equality,
the earth common to all,
we must learn from the biotic knit of ground sward
and abandon the tenure under our hidden landlords.
For Britain dreams!
The land will be free of chemicals,
to breath and flourish.
So shall our life return
Rude and willed,
modernisation discarded by the road where mugwort grows.
O Albion calls us all
to remember!
freedom, green of leaf and brown of root.
freedom, bright as flowers by the way.
read more