Tuesday, 8 September 2015

On doing things locally

Hi everyone,
Here I am.  It's Tuesday evening here, and I'm enjoying a post-dinner glass of wine and typing this.  It's another chilly evening and I'm looking forward to crawling into a warm bed.
Today was fairly busy at work: a few more substantial matters coming in to be dealt with.  I put off my regular trip to the opp shop till tomorrow and caught up with a number of blogs over lunch.  After work I was rostered on at the legal service, so I headed over there and saw a couple of clients (one a probate matter, one a divorce).  Happily, they were all sensible people who, honestly, had pretty well solved their problems already - mostly I was just there to reassure them!.

Something that occurred to me while I was there was that this volunteering fed into an idea I've been mulling over of localism (no, wait, don't stop reading!).  It struck me that one of the biggest causes of anger with the world is too great an exposure to powers which affect you (or which seem to) but which you can't control.  The outcomes of court cases in which one isn't a party, for example, or the activities of governments which are so remote that they seem to work with a kind of God-like indifference to most people's lived reality.  This seems to be almost exactly what lies at the heart of, say, some secession movements.  It probably also explains (for me) why I find reading the metropolitan daily newspapers so dispiriting: in the end, it's all about conversations dominated by who can shout the loudest and be the most unpleasant.  For myself, I'd far rather read the Border Mail or the Shepparton News than the Herald Sun or the Age.  After all (and this is how it ties back to volunteering), I can't do anything meaningful to stop more savage storms brought about by climate change, but I can go out and put plastic sheeting over the hole a storm has just ripped in Mr Jones' roof.  I also can't realistically be anything more than one pipsqueak voice in a national discussion of the Family Law Act, but I can tell Mrs Smith how she can best deal with her violent ex-partner's application for access to their children.
I think Edmund Burke was onto this when he said that "To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle ... of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind" (1).  He might have added that it will be the links to our own 'little platoon' that will be the strongest and most sustaining  When you think of it like that, the 'withdrawing' (for want of a better word) from a more worldly way of life of Plain people, simple living and homesteaders becomes much easier to understand and make sense of. 
This all leaves me feeling rather more satisfied with the things that I do around here with SES and the legal service and all.  Brighter (or more ambitious) people than me can try for sainthood and changing the world.  For myself, I'm content to focus on problems I can solve with two hands, a strong back and a brain.
(1) Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: London, 1790), pp. 68-69.

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