A Brief Introduction to the Philosophy of Small
War and nuclear weapons, population excess, environmental abuse, resource squandering, social disintegration, lack of democratic control – these are some of the issues that Local Matters have highlighted before. For around a century leading artists, writers and philosophers have raised warning voices telling us we are on the wrong road and must change direction before collapse or fall victim to a self-inflicted ecological disaster. The people who have warned us have varied greatly from deep ecologists such as Edward Goldsmith to media sweethearts like Greta Thunberg. Never has an issue been spoken about by so many and acted on by so few. Some have even been awarded Nobel peace prizes as we continue to ignore their warnings.
Who will we listen to?
In an increasingly atheistic and secular Europe, many are only happy to hear facts and figures, and a new religion or paganistic spiritualism has emerged surrounding ‘experts’ and, for some unknown reason, the dreaded ‘celebrity opinion’. Politicians and experts possess no imagination and reject every radical solution. They always prefer to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic rather than avoiding the iceberg. In England there is a single argument you will hear more than any other for the Conservatives remaining in power: they are ‘sensible’ with money which merely means they offer a slower more stable poison than a Labour government. With this religious regard for economics, the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can be replaced with ‘economic’ and ‘uneconomic’. The entire fate of a nation’s peoples is decided on the economics of a matter. If anyone in parliament called something ‘wrong, ugly or soul-destroying’ they are only taken to be correct if they can prove it to be ‘uneconomic’. This is why there came a time for economists to discuss ethics. Doctors of economics E.F Schumacher and Leopold Kohr are among the acclaimed writers I cannot recommend enough on this matter.
What effect can this have on you in your day to day life?
The general public is now ruled by two main roles, we are a ‘worker’ by day and a ‘consumer’ by night. At work, we are under continuous pressure to work hard and to save time in any way we can to make our actions, efforts and time more economic for our employer and the taxman. During work, we must think like an economist: don’t take a tea break too long, don’t view entertainment while on shift, and so on. One must be aggressively efficient in their day, especially if they want to raise a family in this chaos. We are then expected to switch our role in the evening to start ‘killing time’, spending money, entertaining ourselves, playing games, watching TV. The average person is too exhausted to pursue such efforts as learning an instrument, learning a craft, going out and exercising, creating community events, and cultural bonding. On top of this, you’re likely to get in trouble for acting as a consumer when you are scheduled by work to act as a worker. No amount of leisure time can account for nine hours plus travel and labor time lost to work.
What of the nation?
Put simply, we break down the nation. A matter much discussed by Local Matters is that England means something different to most people who live in it. The northern steelworker has a different outlook on England to the southern fisherman. Almost always, across England, there are groups of people who disagree over what it means to be ‘English’. Sixty-six million people at the time of writing this have a different view of England to one another. To ask them one thing – “Would you destroy England?” – should be straight forward but they all have different arguments for not doing so. The route of their arguments can be found in a deep native pride, deeper than anything they feel for being English; they feel above all East Anglian, Mercian, Northumbrian, Cornish, etc. The cause of national pride is that each is a citizen of those many beautiful little regions they call home. To believe in regionalism and to break down our nation is to the benefit of all men and women, not to ‘destroy’ England but to destroy the fatty, bureaucratic mess we have made around it. With this we would becreate more meaningful communities; East Anglia would have a greater community in the fullness of its smallness than as a part of a large nation, for their colourful thatched cottages and beautiful sun are not a universal national experience. The same goes for all regions. These would all still be here but without the all-encompassing presence of the state overshadowing and controlling them. Instead, they would manifest their will, art, architecture, and so forth as a community.
But this isn’t what I was taught.
All of this is against what we have been taught. We are always pushing to solve large problems with vast international solutions. But I ask any reader this: what has it done thus far? All globalisation has done is change unemployment to mass unemployment, crime to mass crime, pollution to mass pollution, traffic to traffic jams, population to overpopulation, flu to a pandemic, war to world war. The infections of society have scaled with the size of the host body. This couldn’t be more true than it is now: we have American riots taking place across Europe and a Chinese virus sperading worldwide. Our obsession with scale is literal madness.
In conclusion, small is beautiful.
What Local Matters suggests is that when faced with an abyss, take a step back. If increasing the size of a nation increases the difficulties of existing within it, we must realise we have overgrown our optimum size. History teaches us that humans do not change their civilisation after deliberation, or by their own willpower, but in the wake of the chaos that they themselves have provoked. We must avoid this.
St. Augustine – “Why should any empire make disquiet the scale unto greatness? In the little world of a man’s body is it not better to have a lean and strong body than a huge bigness with intolerable sickness?… What reason can any man show for glorifying the bigness of the Empire when all their joy is like glass, bright and brittle evermore in fear of braking.”
Published by Local Matters: thelocalists.org