Or, climate, politics and what really matters.
For a long time I’ve been intending t0 write my own version of my favourite story on here, the cautionary tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, though I’ve never quite got round to that or it’s intended follow-up, my second favourite story, Chicken-Licken. But I’ll often think of both of them.
Every time someone comes out with some new economic, mindfulness, management or positivity theory I think ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’
Or when Twitter explodes yet again with another doomed chorus of ‘This is the worst ever and we’re all done for’, I think ‘Chicken-Licken.’ Meaning, the sky is not in fact broken, so why not calm down?
With each of these stories being ever present near the front of my mind I’ve always been choosy about any campaigns and issues I might get involved in. Taking habitual care to be sure that by the time I do stand up for something I’m well-clothed in reason, argument and a suit of armour, just in case. And that the issue in question really matters to me all that much anyway.
Which has saved me from many a ‘save this, save that and rage about the others’ along the way. Mostly thanks to the mental filter of my two favourite stories.
Lately though, and I’m guessing you know where I’m going here, more than a few issues have been getting through my solid defences. I’ll hear or read about something, get both of my good old mantras ready and then think?
“Hang on, maybe this IS as bad as it sounds? Maybe the sky IS broken?”
“The person saying this seems decently sorted for reason, facts and argument, so maybe it’s NOT a case of Emperor’s New Clothes?
Causing me to finally haul both of my stories onto the blog here and start this beginnings of a potentially long list of what’s actually wrong:
Poverty, homelessness, political austerity, unemployment, brutal benefits, zero hours shit jobs, erosion, food waste, carbon chaos, the rich, democratic corruption, fracking, the weather, species extinctions, racism, enclosures, greed, self-obsession, oil wars, refugees, water wars, refugees, racism, refugees, intolerance, refugees…
That being just a start. And I could keep going. But I won’t.
Because, and the title of this piece is a clue, I think all of that list and more besides could be said to be sub-categories of the main two pieces of our sky that are, in fact, broken.
The climate, and our politics.
Both of these being currently under occupation by whole dynasties of jumped up naked emperors coming out with nonsense like:
“The weather’s always been variable, this is normal and science proves it. Believe me.”
As well as…
“Our parliamentary system is the envy of the world!”
And yes, I could carry on and complete a much longer list of made up but all too real quotations covering the whole draft list of troubles. But I won’t.
Because my contention is that the whole lot, and whatever else you could come up with yourself, might be sorted into being mainly a question of climate or politics. Or both.
So carry on and complete the list if you’re feeling particularly dystopian and determined make your bad day even worse. But as I say, I won’t.
Instead I’ll tell you my third favourite story. Let’s call it ‘The Transnats.’
The story comes from Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Mars Trilogy.’ A vast science fiction saga of future tales he wrote in the 1990s. Planet Earth has got itself into the same kind of list of troubles we’re in today, a mixture of climate and politics, and nearly everyone is having some or several versions of a bad time. In the story the villains are called The Transnats, a lying bunch of corporates, politicians or both, who know full well the sky is broken and the planet could well be doomed, but decide to squeeze its people and resources dry while they still can. Using a mixture of brutal politics, organised denial and the self delusions of the particularly rabid. All so the lot of them will be ok, for now. Damning the future and everyone else.
Some of the Earth’s more decent people decide they’ve had enough of this and manage to leave and get set up on Mars. Only to find the early landing parties have been infiltrated by Transnats anyway. Keen to start dominating another planet for their own greed-fuelled ends.
It all ends well. But there are three very thick paperbacks of ups and downs before reason, good sense, good science, co-operation and courage get humanity there, on both planets. During which many a new Emperor is found to be naked and many a Chicken-Licken gets over excited about the Martian sky.
But the whole thing’s a story of climate and politics, the things that matter most. Sorted eventually by the things I’ve just said, along with the natural tendency of humans, most of us anyway, to love and trust each other.
So yes, climate and politics, let’s focus on fixing them, and the rest will get sorted, piece by piece, along a better way than we’ve got these days. That’s what I think anyway.
Now where did I put those clothes?
And a way through all this? It’s complicated but what Naomi Klein says here is worth thinking about.
Big thanks to Ladybird Books for their classic illlstrations. And posthumous thanks to Hans Christian Andersen and his illustrator Vilhelm Pedersen for the illustration above. You were both right.