Recovering feudalism

We live in a demanding age. That is to say, an age in which people make lots of demands. That is, a consumer age. I look on ours as a demand-side culture. This goes with a supply-side government and economy. We get what we think we want, until it kills us. Unless, of course, what we want is good, in which case it is no longer available. Because good things tend to make us independent.

Cars do not make us independent. You have to buy them, fuel them, park them, and so forth. Sometimes you have to fix them or replace them. You need “insurance.” None of these things can be done on your own; nothing you have to pay for is like that. You go around the city, or the country for that matter, in a metal box, insulated from experience, but utterly dependent upon vast networks of “suppliers.”

Your mediaeval knight was much more approachable, and interactive in live time, even when wearing his armour. Often he would take the metal off, and walk about like me, in the sun. And he could only kill people one at a time.

Walking about in the sun today, even along city sidewalks and back lanes, I had a marvellous sense of my freedom. It was constricted only by motorized vehicles. Not one other thing threatened my life. (I still limp slightly from one of my encounters with these infernal machines, a decade ago.)

If we have democracy, we will have cars. Most of the people do not know any better. They are easy marks for salesmen. They do not see the implications; or they do not want to see them.

Now, under the feudal system, we have carts, and horses, and a great variety of other modes of transport. (Think mule trains, for instance; think dog sleds; think barges and canals.) These immediately make the world much larger. Suddenly five miles is some distance away; and thirty miles, to the county town and back, would be a day’s journey. (Mennonites in buggies. Who does not love them?)

Would gentle reader rather the world larger, or smaller?

(“Let’s make America big again.”)

One’s thoughts turn to improving things, around home, in the way God intended, by hand and eye. For what is there to buy on a feudal estate? And why should speed be needed?

No: a thousand acres arable, a few hundred more of woodlot and commons, and Everyman in his own garden. We can have pretty much everything we need for a couple hundred families. And with a priest to remind us which way is up, and a lord to remind which way is sideways, everything should tick over nicely. All the work is seasonal and has variety. All the food is fresh. All necessary skills can be acquired by emulation. We needn’t learn to read, unless we are genuinely interested.

The bureaucrats of business and officialdom are always trying to impose literacy. Their authority depends upon it. No communist regime ever came to power without launching a literacy programme.

Signage, with symbolism always trite, spreads everywhere. Each must read his (boring) orders. Stop. Go. Faster. Slower. No entry. Turn left. Smile. Pay here.

“Do not cross the tracks. It takes hours to disentangle them.” (This sign once encountered in the London Underground, at Covent Garden. Someone must have rebelled. Ditto that in the men’s lavatory, Piccadilly Station, circa 1975: “The City of Westminster is not responsible for the opinions expressed on this wall.”)

Literacy is not merely overblown, as a means to understanding. It is principally a means to misunderstanding. It is a dangerous affectation in the common man. He gets into his head all kinds of ideas that he cannot wisely absorb. It beats him down. It makes him the prey of sophists and word-manglers. It cancels his memories, overrides his instincts, enfeebles his will, subverts his judgement. It damages his eyes. Soon he is wearing spectacles, and driving a car. Wildly.

Flaring red necks on tiny points of contractual detail. Otherwise docile and complacent.

Aristotle was quite clear on this. See his Metaphysics, somewhere in book VI and/or XI, as I recall. Or if not there, in some other book. It is possible for a man of culture to acquire letters, says the master of those who know. But it is not necessary. It is an accident. For most people it is a bad accident.

Yes, I think, we must find a way to return to the feudal system, and discard all this socialism and capitalism that has been imposed on us.