Capitalism and gardening

May 12, 2013 at 7:59 am | Posted in Books, capitalism | Leave a comment
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A businessman was on holiday in a small Greek coastal village where he started chatting to a humble Greek fisherman who had just come in with his small fishing boat with his morning’s catch. When asked why he had come in after only a few hours’ fishing, the fisherman replied he had enough for his family and to give to some friends.
‘But what do you do with the rest of your time?’
The fisherman smiled. ‘I eat with my family, play with my children on the beach and take a siesta with my wife.’
‘But you could spend twice as much time at sea, catch twice as many fish and sell them.’
‘And then?’ the fisherman replied.
‘After a few years you would have saved enough money to buy another boat, employ someone and within a few years you could have a fleet of boats.’
‘And then?’ the fisherman asked.
‘You could open a fish processing plant and with another few years could control all the seafood processing and distribution in Greece.’
‘And then?’ the fisherman replied again.
‘You can retire and spend quality time with your family, go fishing in the mornings, play with your grandchildren on the beach and take a siesta with your wife.’

That story has been around for a while and but it bears repeating; this version is from Trisha Dixon’s Adagio: Living and Gardening Mindfully (Murdoch Books, 2012, p. 37). As that author writes, ‘So easy and yet so hard to just live life instead of racing through it.’ (p. 39)
And this society’s aggressive capitalism – someone recently coined ‘totalitarian capitalism’ for what it is – makes it very hard to slow down and really do what we want to do and find out who we are and what we want. We’re supposed to be out shopping for white goods or clothes or whatever or working to earn the money to buy the white goods or clothes or whatever.
The best book I’ve read on the global financial crisis is John Lanchester’s Whoops: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay (Penguin, 2010). Lucid, funny, accessible. Lanchester has written a novel about the financial situation too, called Capital. When I have time I’ll read it; definitely on my list.
‘For every dollar spent on UN peacekeeping, $2,000 is expended for warmaking by member nations. Four of the five members of the UN Security Council, which has veto power over all U.N. resolutions are the top weapons dealers in the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia.’
(Paul Hawken. Blessed Unrest: How the largest social movement in history is restoring grace, justice and beauty to the world. Penguin, 2007)
Depressing. But that book isn’t. It is a book full of hope. And as Voltaire advised about what to do when politics etc is distressingly malevolent – cultivate your garden. And our garden is writing, art, books, ideas or anything creative. Or indeed for some of us it is gardening. I used to have a green thumb. But then I had a change in circumstances that necessitated living in flats for many years and I lost the habit – and maybe even the talent. And now I don’t have time – But I love having a garden. It reminds me of that saying: ‘I love work. I can watch it for hours.’ Someone else does the work in the garden and I get to reap the benefits. I do the simple things like strawberries and jonquils.
My mind is not on this blog because I feel guilty not working on the commissioned book. So I am going to finish this one with a quotation from somewhere – it is quoted in Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element. (Fabulous book on creativity and how our education system does us no favours in this respect.) I’ve got two years for this thing (somewhat less than that now) but I’m approaching the third phase.
The six phases
Enthusiasm
Disillusion
Panic
Search for the guilty
Punishment of the innocent
Praise for the non-participants

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