"Why Don't I Despair?" George Monbiot on Restoring Order in the Land

"Why Don't I Despair?" George Monbiot on Restoring Order in the Land
Published: Dec 22, 2019
Journalist and author George Monbiot mostly through his books and columns in the Guardian, but also by stepping into the action, as he did recently by getting arrested with Extinction Rebellion protesters in London. In this lecture at Falmouth University, 'How to Really Take Back Control', Monbiot lays out a path for building a vitalized and sustainable political culture, from the inside.




00:00 - 11:51
"People ask me, 'Why Don't I Despair?'". . . Two interlocking crises that are more important than climate breakdown: the ecological cleansing of both the land and the sea by the food industry; the political crisis in which the grip of neo-liberalism is able to exist without restraint.

11:52 - 16:12
Political failure is a failure of imagination. This conviction has been reinforced by four observations:
1) It’s not about political parties or leaders, it’s about big political narratives. (i.e., Keynesian social democracy vs neo-liberalism.). . . “You can’t take away someone’s story without replacing it with another one.”

16:13 - 19:52
2) The restoration story and the common structure of opposite political narratives answering the question: How do we restore order to the land?

19:53 - 20:40
3) Almost every political or religious transformation has employed the structure of the restoration story.

20:41 - 28:16
4) The need for a new story. We are stuck with neo-liberalism because we have failed to tell a new restoration story. . . While Keynesian economics should not be abandoned altogether, though a growth-based narrative is not sustainable.

28:16 - 29:59
One new story that proposes ‘a politics of belonging’ “where we see the stirrings of new democratic and economic order arising from the people — no longer controlled by the elite.”

30:00 - 32:00
How might this work? Building communities that work. . .

What possibilities might come from transferring money and power back to the people and away from the elite, facilitated by a supportive and enabling state.

32:01 - 34:05
The ability to easily attach to communities. Geographically based communities — communities attached to place; bioregional communities.

34:05 - 40:58
A science of how to make this work . . . the mixture of low threshold, low commitment activities. Revitalizing community by encouraging a participatory culture, participatory democracy, participatory economy, participatory budgeting. Shared activities. Lobbying by citizens to have their taxes raised. The Rotterdam and Porto Allegri examples.

40:59 - 47:42
Reclaiming the commons (one of the four pillars of the economy, now practically forgotten). Inventory of resources held by a particular community; and its rules and negotiations. The Enclosure Movement. Monbiot’s international experience with the elements of enclosure in foreign communities.

47:42 - 49:50
The poems of John Clare, mid-19th century, and how he describes what it's like to have 'engagement in community, whatever you did.' How things changed for Clare in mid-adulthood when the enclosure movement comes in. [Read a recent article in these pages with reference to John Clare here.]

49:51 - 57:02
Examples of reclaiming the commons. Land value taxation and community trusts; local community-held properties for productive social use. What possibilities might come from transferring money and power back to the people and away from the elite, facilitated by a supportive and enabling state . . . leading to democratic regime change.

57:03 - 1:03:39
How to achieve effective regime change? The surprising momentum of the Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016, what it had tapped into; and its application in UK politics. Monbiot’s conclusion . . .


George Monbiot's website.


Enclosure, Anti-Vagrancy Laws, and the Rise of the Urban Poor, or, Why Swift Was Always So Pissed Off. [o]



GEORGE MONBIOT (MON-bee-oh) is a British writer known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000), Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding (2013) and Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in the Age of Crisis (2017). He is the founder of The Land is Ours, a campaign for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom. His "political awakening" was prompted by reading Bettina Ehrlich's book, Paolo and Panetto, while at his prep school.




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