In amongst various books that I have promised to review I am also dipping into another one that I have borrowed from the library, Real England by Paul Kingsnorth. I find Kingsnorth to be a very engaging and challenging writer and have been meaning to read this one for a whole, partly because it seems to sit within a place of tension within my own thinking. I have been developing a philosophy within my life that I see as a radical localism with a global outlook.
This poses challenges to the different elements of my thinking and personality. I believe that a really radical localism is a way to both reduce my footprint on the planet, that humans have been putting too great a pressure on now for several decades, and also to support my own well-being as I live a manageable and hopefully fruitful life within sensible boundaries. At the same time I am a liberal and also believe in the value of connectivity across the globe, as afforded now more easily through technology.
In a quick exchange of views these things can appear to be in conflict, but when you dig into them I don’t think that they are in reality. I am very nervous at the moment of the rise of a nationalism that is divisive and destructive, but I do feel my own sense of connection and indeed love for my local environment. These apparently similar emotions, a love for the place in which you live, have very different driving forces.
Nationalism derives its energy from the somewhat false and ambiguous nature of nationhood, a man-made concept that clumps people together largely around a common mythology of historical lies told by tyrants. The patriotism which I feel is from a care for the actual land and its inhabitants which supports me and my family and within which I spend the vast majority of my time and energy.
This starts with the small town in which I live, then stretches to the county in which I work and the island which I occasionally explore on holiday. In the end it encapsulates the whole world but my own attachment and care logically sits strongest near to me with other parts of the world cared for by those who live locally there. What value is there to me interfering with the other side of the world when I have my own place to care about on my doorstep?
At the same time I have a great respect for the other people and cultures that exist around the world and indeed that manifests itself in a desire to see all of these cultures retained rather than homogenised as has been the tendency of globalisation. Our distinct cultures can learn and grow from each other, but they should retain their own essence that is relevant to the place in which they exist. A way of life that is absolutely appropriate to one place in the world, with its own geography, geology, climate and so on, can and will be wholly wrong for another place without either of those ways of life being invalidated.
It doesn’t take long to see the tension between the elements of my thinking and wider political environment at the moment, but my localism is not about building walls and excluding others and my global outlook is not about meddling with other people’s lives or seeking to homogenise them. The aim is to care for the place and the people that I know and live among every day and allow others around the world to do the same, while sharing knowledge and experience as appropriate and celebrating both our common humanity and our regional difference.
It’s taken a long time to get here and there is a long way to go, but this is where I am right now.