• Louis

Smell the Land

Smell the land.

There is a big ship called ‘Capitalism 1’ steaming through northern waters. The old senior officers on the bridge are confident that all is in order, they have sailed this way before and always enjoyed the accolades from the ship owners, the passengers and recipients of the precious cargo they bring.

There is a first mate on the bow who can see an iceberg in the mist ahead. Her name is Science and she races to the bridge to sound the alarm but is not heard over the chatter of the men congratulating themselves on great successes of the past and future spoils.

She then races down from the bridge and convinces some passengers and crew to launch lifeboats. Some are eager, some are hesitant but agree and most refuse, they don’t believe the captain and his first officers could be wrong; “we have sailed this way before and it has all been well” they say.

As the crew below deck throw more coal into the boilers and the ship powers on, some of the small sail powered lifeboats separate from the big old ship. These little sail boats are all identical except for the folk who have listened and acted and heeded the warning. There are enough provisions in these little boats to get to dry land, the boats are robust with oars and sails and a hand tiller to steer away from the threat. The folk in these little boats are a rabble, a mix and diversity of all classes and from different ports of origin and different ages and backgrounds. But now they all have something in common, their survival. They know there is a great challenge ahead and some distance to cover and so form teams within the boats and stay within sight of each other. A loose network forms amongst them and the other boats with ropes and lights connecting them; a flotilla or community all heading for dry land and a safe place. The occupants pick up the oars and set the sails and steer south all pulling in the same direction.

There is a term from the time of sailing ships and whalers and pirates and those looking for new frontiers, before the time of radar and good maps, in the days of exploring and discovery. When the first mate would climb the mast and look out for hazards or breakers indicating rocks or land or birds to suggest there was land nearby. But sometimes the first sign of land would be the intertidal smell and arrive on the wind before sight or sound. The smell is of that critical and unique strip where the oceans and the lands and the air all meet. The strip of sand and rock and weed and primitive, delicate and spectacular life forms that cling to life and die and mutate and smell of evolution and hope and the balance of life.

Smelling land over the horizon, required a great sense of trust in the nose, in the direction of the wind and in the person who could smell it. It would be the basis of decision making, trust in the experts and a direction for the crew to set a course and navigate towards.

The first mate can smell the land and is leading the flotilla to safety. She was the first to raise the alarm and persuade those concerned to launch the boats. Not everyone listened but those who did are in good company, they are dry and while they have less of the luxuries they will survive.

The big old coal powered ship; Capitalism 1, is about to hit trouble and sink. With it will go a lot of old thinking, great ingenuity and engines of industry and ways of the past. Some of the old crew will go with it and some will hang on the flotsam and jetsam and be rescued.

Capitalism 2 looks more like a flotilla or network of small boats, is powered by masses of diverse teams and tribes and communities in the lifeboats, all pulling with human effort in the same direction with the sun and the wind filling the sails. The first mate’s steady hand is on the tiller that is called democracy.

We all need to start seeing through the mist, believing science, getting off the old fossil steamer and smelling the land.

What follows is a collection of ideas, theories and tools dreamt up in isolation in country Victoria during our second wave of the 2020 pandemic.

It offers a separation from the old ship Capitalism 1 and paints a picture of a new ship called Capitalism 2.

It is not right or wrong but it has a faint smell of the land, beyond sight or sound but within our grasp.


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