Wonderful article, thank you.
It brings up much bigger point… as a side job (in Berlin, DE) I clean rich people’s apartments (well, not always rich – sometimes just for people who cannot figure out how to clean for themselves…). It is amazing (and I mean – pretty terrifying) to get to know people and their spaces – often very impersonal, full of fancy gadgets and designer furniture (or straight up IKEA hell), looking like some commercial or social media post… Often these are the people who are trying to be “green”, too. I am baffled how deeply many people bought into capitalistic greenness. As if buying more things that are made “sustainably” are making them more sustainable – how about simply not buying?
I don’t even know if I can call these places “home” anymore. Not for the lack of fireplace but for the lack of life fire itself. Television sets are the new fireplaces, really. People are so brainwashed and easy-comforts addicted, they simply don’t have a reference point as to what home is. It is surreal and nauseating.
I think time and quietness is actually easy to find – it is right under our nose, that is – if we put our phones down. A coworker of mine works three days a week and says she has no time to go food shopping (because we all know how fast the time goes by looking at the screen…). People have no interest, but even worse – they have no abilities to take real care of themselves. Whether cooking food or taking care of their house – everything simply comes at a price point that more and more people are willing to pay. I used to hate the fact that I gre up poor in Eastern European country. But these days I am infinitely grateful for what it taught me and what benefits it has afforded me – homecooked meal anyone?
Great thoughts – thanks. The endless pursuit of stuff just doesn’t compare with the “simple pleasures” that existed in previously quieter periods/regions of human existence – but sadly many people seem to have no concept of the joys of connecting to that simplicity.
Many of the available feelings of pleasure are surely embedded in the human psyche via a million years of evolution – but most people’s conscious brains seem to only function across the timeline of the latest fad.
As an aside (or maybe not) I’m writing this while the only noise I can hear is the sound of the wind gently passing through the nearby trees – which is more than enough to make me happy.
Indeed there are plenty of academic studies that establish that enjoying natural green spaces contributes to happiness, mood and earlier recovery from surgery, and recent studies suggest exercise is a more effective remedy for depression than pills or counselling.
I’m always baffled by the people paying a fortune to pound a treadmill in an expensive gym when it’s lovely outside. This must be the pinnacle of our uprooted societal madness. I mean – we live in a great city with any number of green spaces…why not go and run in them FOR FREE? And if we’re having a conversation about the nuttiness modernity generally then we could of course address the issue of how, in times gone by, these people wouldn’t have to run after work to keep fit…they’d probably be active enough all day doing their work (in the fields?) that that would suffice.
Whatever. As a big fan of running and walking for the price of a decent pair of trainers, I look at those gym bunnies in their expensive air-conditioned caves and think: “oh dear”.
Indeed! I get a wry smile on my face when I contemplate how people hire other humans to cook, clean, fix and tend to the lawn, yet they drive 20 minutes to the gym for “exercise”.
Yes, my son is a keen gym bunny but seems strangely reluctant to do a little vigorous housework.
I get what you’re saying, but at the same time, why do you care about other people’s exercise choices? I often prefer the treadmill for various reasons – it’s easier on my knees, I can accurately gauge the speed I’m running to set progressive improvements, I like to combine running and weight training and calisthenics into one workout, so it makes sense to do it all in the gym, I often see familiar faces down the gym and have few other social opportunities, and my home showering set-up leaves a lot to be desired, so coming back from what is often a cold, wet run where I live to an unpleasant cold damp shower isn’t attractive. I spend much time outside tending to my own little woodland so I don’t have any great need for more time in nature. The thrust of the article is that we be left to decide for ourselves as far as possible to decide on the true priorities of life, and to be fair he does suggest just focusing on making your own home a reflection of your values, but it’s very easy, as in judging people for running on a treadmill when you don’t know their circumstances, to fall into the flaw you wish to expose. When I see someone running, be it on a treadmill or outside, I think “good on them, at least trying to do something for their own health, full power to you.” As Bob Dylan put it, “in a soldiers stance I aimed my hand at the mongel dogs who teach, fearing not I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach.”
Wonderful response, but I don’t agree that capitalism is to blame.
Not quite sure how you can say it is wonderful if you don’t accept the central tenet of the article. By capitalism we don’t mean a market where you buy and sell things, we mean the vast unaccountable financialised system which chases growth & profit at the expense of everything else. We mean the rootless consumerist hell based only on monetary worth. This is what Paul Kingsnorth has in mind.
Hmmm, I am not quite sure how my comment shows you that I “don’t accept the central tenet of the article”.
I can find something wonderful (poetic, insightful, multifaceted) without having to 1) echo the same ideas in my comment and 2) fully agree with what was said (although that is not the case). It’s a bit like this – I find, for example, reconstructive facial surgeries “wonderful” (as a human innovation) but don’t think that every person needs to have access to a nose job – but this is far from the topic of the article. Anyway. Comment section is for sharing thoughts sometimes more personal and less directly related to the article. So yeah, I can find something wonderful and not share exact same sentiments.
Maybe this is my non-native English that separates how we both see and interpret what is written but I also want to share another opinion with you here. Besides the obvious need for trading goods and important/vital services, I (in my opinion) don’t think there is a reason to separate the “unaccountable financialised system” from the “market where you buy and sell things”. Buying fire wood from privat person or going to the dentist or buying groceries is necessary, but we also are making many decisions in our everyday personal lives that are totally unnecessary. I do think every personal choice we make affects this “unaccountable financialised system”. It’s every personal choice of 8 bln people and in the end it is not so personal and affects us all (and yes I am well aware that many of us can’t make or can’t afford to make other choices). I see capitalism as permeating everyone’s psyche. We live in the world where entrepreneurialism is a virtue and making yourself into a brand is a new normal. Thoughts about financial growth are shared by every person I know without any recognition that such growth comes at a cost of environment and their own personal life.
I do strongly believe that if everyone would put their images-creating/images-translating devices down (things that affect us deeply and create phantom needs that drive us into various consumptions), the “unaccountable financial system” would slowly collapse. If no one is recharging it, it cannot survive. It is all made by people, ran by people, supported by people.
As I find the topic very interesting as well as your comment, maybe, if you think I’m somehow wrong in my thinking, you would mind elaborating a bit?
Wasn’t actually replying to you but to Warren Trees comment: “Wonderful response, but I don’t agree that capitalism is to blame.”
Oh, haha. Well damn, pardon my french 🙂 must be the heatwave.
And perfectly reasonable for Bagdo to respond, whether you were replying directly to them, or on a comment referring to them. Or indeed in an open comments thread, not referring to them at all.
Unfettered capitalism has unquestionably created the most improved living standards for more people than any system known to mankind. Yes, it has gotten out of control in recent decades by government ineptitude and attempts to create windfalls for the elite, but the concept of capitalism is not the root cause. I would most certainly prefer this system with worts and all vs. a totalitarian or Marxist regime.
Curious term “Living Standards”.. you’d have to define “living” for me. Do you mean existing? doing less (enjoyabkw? fulfilling?) work?” Maybe I’m being pedantic but it’s worth considering isn’t it?
Also, the notion that the only alternative to modern capitalism is Marxism is also highly questionable. For millennia money (capital) was for the few: the many living more or less fully self-sufficient lives as hinted at by PK. You could hardly call that “capitalism”. I fully believe we will have to revert to something like it with locally (if not self-) produced heat power, food and homebuilding (or at least home enhancement including self-installed simple insulation, eg sheep’s wool, external wood cladding etc. Then like the Brexiteers hoped for, we really will be taking back control!
I disagree. Capitalism has improved the living standards for people by making non-people out of the others. It has done that within the same country many times, and then by exporting the poverty elsewhere with Imperialism. The net result is that when we are told it has improved living standards, we, as in me and you are in the group that survived this road-roller called Capitalism. But that does not mean it was good, but anyone it has affected is dead, or extinct as in some species. So who is left to complain. A few here and there? The bus will go over them too. Then me and you eventually. Also, to think that “if not Capitalism, then what?” and quickly pick a regime or totalitarianism is to not see the whole picture.
Everywhere I lived, the cleaning ladies who come once a week all told me how rare it is to see home made meals, and so much I clean despite my handicap. I grew up poor in Paris, and now it is a strength.
“The fireplace at the centre of the home, he wrote, was both an ancient practicality and a device of “cosmological significance” across cultures and time: “Conversation is directed into the fire while dreams and images are drawn out of it.”
The Romans knew this. Lares and Penates. And it is part of what the late, much lamented Sir Roger Scruton spoke of when he coined the word “oikophobia”, meaning the opposite of this – that is, active hatred of one’s own country, as practiced by our (anything but) “Liberal” classes for a many a decade. So many that Orwell noted it clearly.
We’d be happy for the “anywheres” to **** off anywhere. Anywhere but here.
Yes, a very profound article from Paul, as always. My parents still have an open fire and an almost endless supply of wood, so that’s good.
That’s good because picking up say a 10kg bag of ‘real’ COAL from a Service Station is now banned by the Green Reichsfuhrer, and his/her minions.
And hilariously, their renowned Energiewende is now reliant on Lignite Coal, the filthiest there is.
Yes, I thought of Scruton, too. But I also thought of Eric Kaufman, who has described the movement inflicting all this upon as as “Left-Modernist”. And for such a “movement”, with its Mao-like hatred of tradition, home, identity, gender roles and nation states – of all that has hitherto constituted nature and humanity (and in fact still does) – the attack on the hearth is perhaps the whole point. One must never forget that the Left-Modernist regards all these things as “constructs”, “ideology” to be done away with. The result will be Hell, of course, but such is the “critical” and “hate-filled” turn of the “Left-Modernist” mind, that the result is of no importance. They just want to destroy.
I have found a numberplate for sail GA55 GUZ and in my dreams I would love to buy it and affix it to an old 4.5 litre diesel Toyota Landcruiser….
My first reaction when woke crazed kids hit the streets was …. oh look, our own Red Guard.
Nor have I seen any reason to change my mind. These indoctrinated fanatics don’t want “justice”, they want revenge on all this responsible for …. what?
But consumerist capitalism is fine!
Perhaps we need to wait until the next generation decides to deconstruct the tradition of the iPhone.
You ok with the anti–capitalist side of the argument too? PK is as anti the absurdities of ´free market capitalism‘ as he is so called ´leftist modernismˋ. He is as against driving around in those ridiculous SUVs as he is the nonsense of transgenderism. Unherd readers tend not to mention that, its all just the endless anti woke-stuff. Íˋm as anti woke as the next man but the real damage is done by the capitalist consumerist machine that relentlessly destroys all in its path.
Totally untrue. Unlike the command economy, the free market is susceptible of subtle formation to fruitful ends – as in border control and low migration. As for wider issues of supply and demand, any socialistic attempt to sustain unviable industries will do no more than put off the evil day and make it worse. The trick, therefore, is to have a workforce so well trained that it can adapt; and for this you need a selective and NOT a “comprehensive” education system. Britain was in poll position to achieve this degree of functioning efficiency when Labour snuffed out schooling in 65 – all part of its essentially hard left egalitarian agenda. The Tories rescued us from rustbucket industry and appalling public service in many areas, but not – alas – health, which is ripe for Euro-style privatisation along the lines of social insurance. Look with honesty upon the situation and you will see that a) the market is the basis of an efficient economy; b) it can be shaped by cultural forces; c) that these are nationalist, not socialist; d) that the Labour party opposes these truths and does maximal damage – education, immigration, health; e) that the Conservatives offer the best remedies when at their most right wing – Thatcher and Powell and f) that sadly they are usually too cowardly.
You still seem stuck in the free-market capitalism vs. Statist command economy, dichotomy. The thrust of PKs arguments here and elsewhere is that both these options are dead. The whole idea of an ‘efficient economy’ gives the game away. Globalisation is the ultimate ‘efficient economy’ but it leads to the destruction of communities, human tradition and environments. It produces a homogenised culture where monetary value ends up being the only value. That’s what economic efficiency means. It is utterly naive to think rampant capitalism cares about family, tradition and community- such concepts are a barrier to economic efficiency. You are a very long way from Paul Kingsnorth. Read his article “How the Left fell for Capitalism” 5/7/22
Correction: he is a very long way from truth. So are you. Hence your recourse to easy polarities – statism versus globalism – not even supplying a middle way. I do supply it – with a strong bias to the market, but with important safeguards – ie, immigration control. Demography and descent are key to culture, which is in turn the key to keeping a country as a home. And the advantage of this – which the left will call “bourgeois capitalism” as distinct from their own global caricature – is that it has been tried before – and works! Read the collected speeches of J. Enoch Powell.
I come from a small north-western town called Newton le Willows. Once their was a locomotive works, print works and two coal mines. A community. Now it’s it’s just zombies. Either on benefits or office drones commuting to the cities buying takeaways and always staring at their smartphones . I was one. Now trying to slowly release the corporate noose from my neck. On a 3-day working week and reigning in spending. Brewing my own beer, growing vegetables at my allotment, home cooking, buying local produce and reading books from the library. Just need a log fire. Reclaim yourself.
I share a lot of these sentiments and the analysis of focus. But I think it’s important to realise that the pre-modern “home” was much more porous than we might imagine and nothing like the nuclear form which is a modern creation; with extended and mixed families common due to early deaths and remarriage; and all that embedded in a wide-reaching and mixed relational ecology of loyalties and bonds, from guilds and sworn friendships to fealty and sacred vows. If there were a centre to this, it was transcendent, felt and known in the immanence of buzzing connections.
Such an extended vision is worth rehearsing as it offers hope for the cosmopolitanism of now, inviting an opening up, horizontally and vertically, as much as resistance, with nostalgic risks.
Exactly it was an intergenerational, inter-woven net of life and unfortunately death. It was more chaotic perhaps but more open to the possibilities of time well spent. And Although I’m sure there were households no modern person could tolerate no matter how nostalgic, the analog nature of it all would be liberating for many of us.
Ahhh this article reminded me of a funny incident I witnessed on RTE (Irish) NEWS way back in the 1980s.
There was some huge storm coming in from the Atlantic and it was so serious that the weatherman was sitting in the seat next to the newscaster to discuss it.
At one point he said something along the lines of “Yes but hopefully it will have lost most of its power by the time it reaches Dublin”
No one blinked or reacted. And I just sat there thinking “did he really just say what I just heard!!?”
Yes, and wasn’t there a Dublin politician a few years ago who stated publicly that tourists should stay in Dublin and stop visiting rural counties, especially Donegal. And you get those regular outbursts from Irish green party members, advising everyone, including rural folk, to give up their cars – seemingly oblivious that they’re preaching to people who have next to no public transport.
It does make me laugh that politicians and local authorities make no to little effort to provide even vaguely decent public transport and yet keep wondering why people still drive more or less everywhere. It’s a similar disease to those who obstruct developments in their local area but lament the fact their children can’t afford to buy a family sized house like they did.
Thank you Paul. All true, but hardly new. As mentioned by others, the TV has been the fireplace for decades now. I wonder how many more examples of the illusion of progress it’s going to take for people to wake up and see how far we have fallen?
The TV used to be a family gathering place.
In my teenage years, I knew I was independant when I lit my first fire.
What i particularly admired about this wonderful essay was it’s inclusion of ambiguity, or an alternative narrative. So many articles these days are simply didactic, but Paul avoids this by his inclusion of thoughts about the move away from the familial home, which he recognises as essential to growth as an individual. In fact, the essay has many, many layers, like the accretion of wood or coal in a fireplace with the lower layers continuing to glow and feed the new additions – to nourish them, even.
Fire is, of course, elemental. It’s utilisation as a source of warmth and cooked food is as old as the human story and may even be it’s prime factor as people first gathered around to form smaller, intimate communities. As a child of the 60s, i grew up with a coal fire and the advent of television and how that change of focus occurred. It’s still recent history, and yet there are generations now born who will have little inkling of it’s value.
Paul refers to households containing two or more people but the increasing trend (or so it seems to me) is the household of one. During the pandemic, this was brought into stark focus as isolation replaced the ability to commune when desired. That, however, reminded us all how much we’re interdependent. Suddenly, and for other reasons too, supply chains and the more local ‘making of things’ has assumed greater value although of course the economies of scale will to some extent decline – what price inflation?
In the end, what i loved about the essay comes back to it’s multi-layeredness, in addition to Paul’s usual stylish prose which at times seems to hanker towards poetry. Just one more example – his thoughts around the role of women: in the home; in work; in society and how these have been affected by the changes away from the home & hearth as a focal point. Perhaps, instead of using the term Progress, we should find an alternative which signifies the changes that will inevitably occur over time – increasingly more speedily – but without signifying something necessarily positive. And perhaps, its use to describe the tribe of Progressives will lead to its abandonment. There’s hope – plenty of it!
Stats from ONS on household size fyi:
The number of people living alone in the UK has increased by 8.3% over the last 10 years; in 2021, the proportion of one-person households ranged from 25.8% in London to 36.0% in Scotland
I enjoyed this article and share many of its values but I really don’t want to return to pre industrial Britain which for many was nasty, brutish and short. I think that to a certain extent the lifestyle Paul describes is itself a product of modernity, and progress is, as ever, a double edged sword.
While Paul’s children may benefit from being at home I’m sure he would not hesitate to fall back on industrial civilisation if one if them became seriously Ill.
I always think about dentists when people bang on about the wholesome life of our ancestors. OK, they didn’t suffer from our obsession with sugary additives, but even so… PK is right about the Machine and its malevolence, but there are prices to pay for simplicity.
He’s the kind of nostalgist that Remainers think Brexiteers are.
Yes – it’s easy to see both sides. The west has lost something important with regards to belonging and family but has also gain much in term of longevity, health care and wider opportunities. The question is whether we can have it both ways. I think it is possible. Those on the left believe it is consumer capitalism that is culpable for the destruction, those on the right believe it is liberal values and ‘wokeism’. But as PK has noted elsewhere, they can be seen as two sides of the same coin. See “How the left fell for capitalism.”
ahhh… maybe dried eco green sandaloids would make the perfect fuel for the fireplace at home, kindled by torn up pieces of the governments zero emissions ‘ policy?
I like my kitchen, within reason. I spend quite a lot of time there very happily, cooking, eating, chatting, arguing, doing the laundry, studying, writing and just sitting gazing out at the garden thinking. It is the centre of our home.
I don’t think capitalism highjacked the feminist movement though it certainly makes as much out of it as it can. I think feminism developed out of industrialisation and capitalism in the same way that Marx did. The Industrial Revolution brought about conditions which led inevitably to a thinker like Marx to come along and offer a solution, right or wrong, to the problem of the industrial worker’s exploitation in the 19th century. Feminism is allied to Marxism, it is’nt some kind of natural human progression liberating women from their kitchens, if anything it is anti-human by undermining relationships and the family.
Having said that we are where we are and I agree with most of what Philip Kingsnorth says. Great article.
Yes, but there is a great difference between working in your kitchen because you choose to be there, doing that work, as part of a family that cares for each other, and being obligated to work in the kitchen, doing work you hate for family members you fear and dislike and who treat you poorly, because the alternatives are even worse.
Of course, it is agency that makes all the difference to each and every one of us, woman or man.
There are still plenty of people today who do not or feel as if they do not have agency over their lives. One of the main causes of unhappiness I should think. But I don’t believe feminism was or is the answer to feelings of powerlessness, which both men and women experience.
That’s the point of part of my comment, that industrialisation and capitalism (following on from apprenticeships, indentured service, obligation to your lord etc, prior to industrialisation) continue to take away many people’s agency, there’s always something we must do if we are to survive. Marxism and feminism are two (optional) responses to that, but I don’t think either bring about a happier situation. On the contrary.
It is an ongoing problem for mankind I think, to find a way of living that is least likely to make us unhappy. For me my faith is the answer.
We are very fortunate (at present) to while away our time on these ideas, the Ukrainians are not so lucky.
I will add, for me the scenario of misery you describe has overtones of some Victorian melodrama rather than having any basis in real life, except occasionally, maybe.
Women of all classes have been wonderfully resourceful throughout history, not the perpetual victims of the feminist imagination.
And our children and youth have appalling mental health problems- is this connected to the lack of home?
Sacrifice is a meaningless word because of its politicization and what Michael Easter calls The Comfort Crisis. I’m glad I’ll be dead before our collective stupidity catches up to us…
Unpleasant remark. I am hoping that this was some sort of joke that went awry.
It may just be that T.O. is hinting that the world can do without yet another pessimist. But only they can clarify.
Mean, mean, MEAN!!!
Population density has much to do with the ‘progress’ that is being forced on us. Away from urban centers, the smoke from the odd wood fire is no big deal – something that you just occasionally smell on the wind. When people in cities light up their fireplaces the air becomes toxic. Have you ever been in a city in the developing world when the temperature drops and all the wood, kerosene and coal fires get lit? And then of course there’s CO2 and diminishing resources to factor in. As the population grows and gets more densely packed, we eventually will have no choice. I often think of the Kurt Vonnegut short story where he imagines a future planet overwhelmed with people, old age and death eradicated by science, multiple generations stuffed into tiny apartments fighting over every square foot and eating processed seaweed. On the other hand the human race’s desire to reproduce does seem to be starting to subside – perhaps because our adaptations are making our lives more and more meaningless?
Thanks Paul. POI: women (and children under 10) were banned from working in mines in Britain in 1842 and only in 1874 in France – see Germinal. It seems likely Ireland was covered by the 1842 law but there may have been an exception…?
Children wouldn’t have been working in mines in Ireland as there were very few – the Industrial Revolution largely passed Ireland by, I think most historians would say it never happened here at all and the rural urban split of population well into the last century was still that of a largely agrarian country.
You’re wrong about that. Ireland had a significan number of mines both coal and metal in the 19th Century.
There was no exception. I a proud of the part I played in getting the prohibition on women working in mines repealed
On the other hand, I find that owing to changes in working patterns and the convenience of internet delivery services, my wife and I are spending more time at home than ever before.
And here in the English countryside there is (currently) no problem in getting hold of wood and setting fire to it, although it has to be said that the cheapest logs have sold out locally and only the more expensive kiln-dried stuff is still in stock.
It’s not legal to sell wood that isn’t kiln-dried, since a year or so ago. That’ll be why.
Not quite – it’s illegal to sell wood that isn’t “ready to burn”, which means has a moisture content lower than 20%. The cheapest logs now are seasoned logs that aren’t kiln-dried.
Personally, I think there is much more to read here than merely “being to stay at home”. I don’t think that would be the definition of home. Because if it is, then it is very limiting. Very technical. My physical being, finding myself in the same place as a building, along with my wife is not home. I think the definition of home is larger here, in the context of this article. It is a microcosm of the planet itself, it is life itself. That cannot and should not be reduced to the idea of the mere physicality of being at home and then getting everything delivered there thanks to modern choices.
Very good article, thank you very much
Many people are now working from home and reconnecting with their hearth, and certainly not missing hours spent on expensive, polluting and time-corroding commuting. Not all homework is ennobling, however: you only have to read Silas Marner to understand that, or Great Expectations to know that the corollary of the honest toil of the blacksmith is unlettered ignorance, or of the weaver, being subject to local suspicion and isolation. But yes: home has been atomised, domestic skills are regarded with suspicion (hence the rise and rise of ready meals and people who need Delia to tell them how to boil and egg) and so on. Our post-Christian world view doesn’t help: I think faith-based cultures (as in Italy) maintain the centrality of home, the family and the meal much better than lazy Brits who graze in front of the TV or snack and skip meals, and who seldom see their kith and kin and have parked mum in a care home. But I don’t think all this should be a reason to lump in (as some commentators have done) a kind of anti-green agenda that associates caring about clear air and global warming with a woke conspiracy or governmental bullying. We are now globally interconnected beings, as we were not in the past: like it or not, we now know our devices and actions and shopping choices and fuel consumption preferences have repercussions, not just for us, but for every person, insect and creature on earth. The hearth is now global in a way it never was. There are still too many who defend their solipsistic choices as their ‘rights’, sometimes enshrining a nostalgia for what never was as a justification for not wanting to make sacrifices for the social good of all.
Ah, remembering the “good old days.” So much to be said for the simpler life of the past, where being in a family meant you lived together, ate together, laughed and learned together, and sometimes worked together.
When I first went looking to buy a house in Los Angeles about 38 years ago, the real estate agent continuously showed me properties that she thought were “good investments.” I kindly and gently explained to her that I was not looking for an investment, but rather a “home” for myself, my wife and our two young sons. But she did not understand, so we parted ways. I found my “home,” and later another.
If I could I would be buried on the property, like the grand children’s pet guinea pig, just because of the memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, family dinners, weddings, and many other family and friend events over the years. My children are long gone but still talk about “coming home” and our grandchildren talk about coming to visit Granddaddy and Halmoni (Korean for grandmother).
But as for the statement “Humans recklessly burning anything in sight on a vast scale is not a story to be defended,” I would argue that but for our primitive ancestors learning to tame fire, none of us would be here. And I love my fireplaces, outdoor fire pits, and barbecue grills…likely left over Neanderthal or Homo Sapiens heritage.
“Only by promoting the fulfilment of individual desire as the meaning of a human life, can the selflessness that we once prized as a cultural ideal be transmuted into the selfishness that capitalism needs to thrive.”
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this article and most others by Mr. Kingsnorth, I hardly agree that somehow capitalism is at fault here, just as I believe that capitalism is not to be faulted for all the car and plane accidents that take place. Capitalism has improved the human condition immeasureably over the last century. Humans alone chose to be selfish.
The problem is perhaps not capitalism per se, but the idea that capitalism is or ought to be limitless (so that wealth concentration too can be limitless).
Think that’s built into capitalism.
There is no doubt that corruption exists in all systems. But if an entrepreneur brings to market, at his/her own financial risk, a product or service that others are willing to pay for, why is limitless wealth an issue under a free market? Would it be better to not have the innovation, breakthrough medical device or game changing technology? I don’t recall seeing such innovation under Stalin, Mussolini or in North Korea, Argentina, Cuba or throughout the Middle East and Africa. Perhaps there is a reason why people attempt to flea these places as soon as they scrape up enough funds to do so, which is very few. That’s if they are even allowed to leave.
Interesting article thank you. From my point of view it misses the point when poor people end up, apocalypse style, burning furniture to keep warm and cook food, of which there will be little because some silly autistic Swedish schoolgirl appealed to dimwitted 21st Century fools who hadn’t considered the consequences of their second hand received opinions; and cared less. Stop listening to spoilt children, yet to add to the human condition through ignorance.
Not so much the schoolgirl as the IPCC, I suspect. Always interested to hear a detailed rebuttal of the latter’s views, but rarely get anything useful in that regard on otherwise-interesting UnHerd.
I’m sorry but I find this extreme nostalgia pretty weird. We are in far better health and have far higher standards of living than even fifty years ago. Most people do not want open fires which really are polluting and unhealthy. Bronchitis was a chronic disease because of them. I remember open solid fuel fires when I was a child and the drudgery involved. If you feel you must have an open fire, get a gas-powered one for now.
Yes I agree with that. I grew up in West Yorkshire when coal fires were common. All the buildings were literally black. No doubt many of the carbon particles ended up in our lungs too. However I have little quarrel with gas or petrol power. The CO2 from these does not drive climate change, so much of the nonsense about fossil fuels can be ignored. But pollution from coal was definitely real and bad.
It’s funny seeing how many Unherd commenters love this blinkered nostalgic view of the past. Even really clever people can deceive themselves.
High personal debt (the norm) means less ‘free’ time which means less quiet home/child time which means higher anxiety/stress. A cycle that few can avoid unless very mindful, childless and lowly indebted. High indebtedness equals a serfdom to the financial/corporate system which aimed for our souls and now truly owns them. Escape , flee back to the best level of self sufficiency you can manage- the better to limit the insidious tentacles of the financial/corporate vampire that seeks to feast on your lifeblood. And now your recent $800k mortgage rate is going to steadily climb until your blood pressure is elevated and the home has become a frustrated stressfest and the wife/kids are revolting as you struggle to keep your feet on the ever speeding rat race……………………………Thankfully I am old enough to not have bought into that scenario too much – but that did not happen without a hell of a lot of planning and some luck …I feel for the younger homo sapiens who have bought the dominant reality.
I loved reading this. Thank you!
Anyone here followed the anti consummerist John Zerzan over the years? After the ‘twin towers’ he made a short film in which George Bush junior said in a clip ” we gotta get these terrorists – they’re stopping us from shopping” – the clip was repeated! Zerzan’s view was different, he said we are terrorised by shopping. How true to my mind – and about much else as this article suggests.
“the matrix of government, technology and commerce”
“the shutting of the stable door long after the horse has been turned into dogmeat”
Ha, love these 2 sentences.
75 comments already but I wanted to add one more: this was brilliant and wise.
For some primal reason I see a newly built house without a chimney as incomplete. I’m old enough to remember a (rare) home without electricity using oil lamps for light and an open fire for heat and cooking, water drawn by bucket from a well. I live in a log cabin with just an electric real-looking fire – I craved a stove but I’m getting old: also gotta be green I s’pose.
I remember the “open house” ..neighbours simply let themselves in, guaranteed a cuppa, home-made sida bread and a good chat! Sadly gone now: I blame the TV and the smart phone is 100 times worse!
I suppose if we want to get rid of our tellies, we ought really to get rid of all screen-based gadgets including our phones, tablets and computers – in fact, this very computer I am currently staring at right now and typing this comment on in response to an always thoughtful essay by Mr Kingsnorth, which of course I would not be able to read if I was an actual Luddite. In fact, I doubt I’d know who Mr Kingsnorth was at all and about his generally very cheery outlook on the current condition of the human condition.
Maybe that would be for the best actually…
Nah, just kidding! He makes many very valid points as ever about the loss of individual and communal independence from ‘Big Government’ as represented very appropriately in the diminishment or outright excision of the hearth in the home – Hestia begone! As ever though, after finishing one of his pieces, I always leave off feeling a bit concerned for the guy – that the whole weight of human endeavour and its current malaise is always such a heartfelt woe for him!
Perhaps calling it an ‘obsession’ would be a more appropriate descriptor – at least in this written form; I do not have an insight into his day-to-day existence of course, but certainly in his essays, one always gets the impression Mr Kingsnorth might have preferred living in a different century entirely, certainly pre-capitalist and pre-industrial, though I’m less certain on his views about current healthcare standards – still, whatever century it might be, I’m sure he’d critique it all the same! Some of us are just made to worry – to the point of distraction – about the ‘state of society’ I suppose, regardless of the state it is in!
Yeah let’s chuck everything backwards 50 years when it was great for me.
What nonsense. These are the best times EVER for the vast vast majority of humanity.
Actually on second thoughts……is this article taking the mick? If so, it’s hilarious – and fooled loads of Unherd readers too.