Sunday, June 25, 2017

'Rise like Lions after Slumber'

The Good Guys
What is it that attracts people to engage on outdoor activities? Is it the thrill and pleasure in the activity? The tenuous move that delivers success for the climber; the buzz a mountain biker feels as they wheel full pelt through forests and streams, the crunch of gravel in their ears and the rush of air in their faces. The quiet contemplation the hiker finds as they take in an empty vista from upon high? Of course the activity itself delivers an almost spiritual awakening for the participant following a day considered well spent. However, underpinning the actual activity itself and a vital component  of the whole experience is that most abstract concept...freedom.

On the face of it, there is nothing which connects climbing a route on a remote crag where you only have the crows and sheep for company, and attending a music festival like Glastonbury with 200.000 other people. As I write it is indeed the Glastonbury weekend and as usual, I have just been a distant observer on TV and following the Guardian blogs. By coincidence, the paper also carries a feature on camper vans. What is noticeable-more especially after the wildly enthusiastic reception Jeremy Corbyn received yesterday where he drew a record crowd-has been the vitriol and hated emanating from the Tory/UKip trolls towards young people, festival goers and even campervan owners. In fact their hatred is for anyone who values freedom, creativity, self expression and who has a social conscience.

People having fun, enjoying the festival or living off grid in a campervan, drives these bitter and twisted little bigots nuts! And you can see where these Tory Party useful idiots are coming from. I have a picture of your stereotypical freedom hating troll. Living in a bungalow in some nondescript Midlands town. Trapped in a career they hate and a loveless marriage. Never in their entire lives have they even been to a live music event, climbed to the top of a mountain,smashed through the surf in a sea kayak; spent a night looking up at the stars, ridden a horse; Parked up a camper in a quiet forest in the dead of night. In short, the most exciting thing these people will ever in their sad lives is to wash their 10 year old Honda Civic on a Saturday instead of a Sunday or visit a different garden centre to their usual Sunday haunt.

Having a tame and servile populace who do not as a rule, seek to express themselves outside of those narrow parameters defined by the state as ‘normal’ conduct is of course an essential pre requisite of a state and society which functions in the interests of a privileged few. You will have noted with the Grenfell Tower disaster that it was the marginalized who had been shunted into inadequate accommodation. The poor, the asylum seeker, the immigrant, the ethnic minorities. Most people of a certain age will remember how another minority who expressed different values to the state and who sought a life of freedom outside of the narrow confines of production and consumption. Who rejected the unthinking blind acceptance of knowing your station and accepting your lot.  The New Age Travellers in the early 1980's totally rejected the norms and values of Thatcher’s Free Market philosophy and chose poverty and freedom as infinitely preferable options to  just being just cogs in the machine.

Who could forget the vile treatment dished out by Thatcher’s state goons at the Battle of the Beanfield and at other locations, where this most peaceable of communities had gathered. Brutally beaten by baton wielding state thugs who had been ordered to remove their ID tags by those who sought to cover up their nefarious activities. A pregnant woman dragged through a broken window of a bus, long haired crusties with shattered skulls and blood matted hair. Confused, frightened and lost. Children screaming as they watched their parents set upon by faceless thugs. Their twisted features hidden behind sweat dripping visors. The long convoys of smashed buses, campervans and coaches accompanied by bare footed travellers carrying their pathetic belongings on their backs or in wheelbarrows. It was a scene reminiscent of historic  war time displacements or the more recent refugee convoys which have shamed Europe in recent years.

This was their country as much as the pin striped gangsters who unleashed this terror against ‘The Enemy Within’. The Thatcher government further legislated against freedom by rushing through laws on trespass and making it illegal for more than a limited number people to gather in one place. Designed to prevent the large convoys and free festivals which had spread like wild fire throughout the land that summer. Once freedom takes hold, it is an intoxicating draught which inspires and seduces those with open minds and open hearts. In this respect, the brutal suppression of this alternative lifestyle community which had rejected the values of the market driven state, could not be tolerated by a right wing authoritarian government. In hindsight, it was always doomed to fail given how powerful the Thatcher government was in terms of a parliamentary majority and how ruthlessly they were prepared to be to protect the status quo.
The Battle of the Beanfield
Which brings me back to 2017 and the ties that bind the free spirited outdoor community with those who seek to live an alternative lifestyle. As Buffalo Springfield once sang...There’s something happening here...what it is ain't exactly clear?. The endless cycle of political, economic and social crisis which currently grips not just the UK but Europe and the US in its dark maw, is a challenge for all progressive,radical individuals and movements. The rise in popularity of left wing populists like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Saunders is a positive sign to be sure. However,there is a long road ahead. The UK/US/EU states will continue act as a dead hand on those who value freedom, self expression, alternative lifestyles and progressive ideals. 
As Orwell observed Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. Its a long way from Worthy Farm to Llanberis Pass but in their way, each location embodies the spirit of freedom,adventure and the desire to live a life less ordinary. Climbing in particular has always been considered an anarchic activity which has attracted many great minds and free thinkers. Its probably the most cerebral 'sport' of all and as such, that unique mountain spirit captured in word and deed by so many gifted individuals within the field, chimes with that spirit of hope and quiet determination. Once freedom is out of the box you cannot put it back in.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent post. Many good observations here and I have been enjoying your blog for a while now.
    It occurred to me yesterday when reading about how people are being evacuated at short notice from further tower blocks into hastily provided accommodation that we are witnessing a form of ethnic cleansing...the fire regulations are a convenient excuse to root out the illegal immigrants and the benefit claimants.

    Good to see Corby getting a bit of well-deserved glory. Keep up the excellent blog,
    regards, Iain