It is not necessary, may even be counterproductive, to regard our many corrupt businessmen and politicians with anger and a thirst for revenge for the great damage they have wrought during the last decades of the 20th century, both to our societies and our planet and its people. Similar individuals have undoubtedly been doing similar things since humans first gathered together in societies, but in many ways, it may be argued, they have little choice in their actions - as the deer in the forest eats leaves and the predator eats the deer and the carrion eaters eat either when they have died and the decomposers eventually deal with everything in the natural cycles, so the businessman and politician feel it is their way in life to attempt to become “respectably” (as opposed to those who deal in more overt violence and accept the label of “outlaw” from any society) wealthy and influential through bribery, deceit and violence, and when meeting with some success are urged on to ever greater excesses in what can be seen, in “modern” society, as a suicidal feeding frenzy as each blinded, crazed feeder blindly, thoughtlessly, mindlessly seeks to outpace his (there are few “hers” at the significant levels of this evolutionary branch) rivals. They can no more undertake the calm, useful, community-oriented way of life of a decent, honest citizen than the carrion eater can survive on leaves. And it does little good to rail at the vagaries of nature.
Rather, as we deal with nature’s harsher aspects or those which inconvenience us, as we have built warm houses to shelter us against the snow and cold, as we have constructed mighty machines to carry us across oceans in hours or even to other planets, so we are quite capable of devising systems of government and society which control these human predators who are so obviously born with nothing a civilised people would recognize as higher human morality or ethics. Small steps to such ends have been made continuously since the first Erectus struck down the first Neanderthal to steal their food, or cave, or woman, and the other Erecti gathered together to lay an even bigger strike on the remaining Neanderthal until there were none left at all. In ancient Greece a system of citizen participation in an organised community was first tried, on the fields of Runymede a Great Charter was born, 150 years ago American gunfighters in the Wild West were forced to lay down their sidearms for the greater good and peace, at least legally speaking, although in the history of that country the law has been recognised much more in the breach than the following thereof. It was not an easy task in previous times to corral these predators, nor will it be any easier in this time, because, as always, predators, honed in the harsh school of natural selection where all mistakes, all wrong turns, are of the high consequence variety, are strong, resourceful, and cunning, in that they learn from their mistakes and devise new strategies to circumvent or even trump our efforts at control, and they have always as much as possible infiltrated the governing bodies which we have erected, until, during the last few years, they control many of our largest governments outright through bribery and corruption, and thus are in an ideal situation to block or diminish our efforts to control them. But control them we must. Their madness, their hubris, their blindness to the destruction they wreak, grows as mighty as the machines we build, and threatens to destroy us all.
As the phoenix prepares its pyre it looks to rebirth; it may be that the huge, unsustainable doomed construct we call the Global Capitalist Market Society will be the tinder igniting the phoenix’s pyre heralding the great conflagration of the 2nd age of man and the dawn of the 3rd millennium, the new world, the new Aquarian society long spoken of in Wicca, to arise from the ashes of the old.
Is there no other way? Must most of us perish like the phoenix that our offspring inherit a new, better world? It is not yet known.
The portents are, however, not favourable.
“Hi Daddy Daddy! Are we going to feed the fish now?”
The bright voice of Elizabeth floated in through the back door just before the door itself opened with a rush and a bang and the patter of footsteps raced across the grey wooden floorboards of the woodshed which separated the kitchen proper from the outdoors. Flashing blue eyes, waving yellow hair, brown summer freckles and a happy smile with what seemed to be constantly upturned corners stopped and stared expectantly at me over the edge of the table where I was finishing my toast and coffee while reading the last of yesterday’s editorials from the Colonial and Voice. I could not help but grin at this apparition which greeted me like this almost every morning, her enthusiasm for life never flagging, but growing each day.
“Of course we are, Sweetie! Just wait half a minute while I rinse my dishes, ok?“ I answered, laying down the paper, which had a lot of “same old same old” but not much new to say, and gathering up my cup and plate to give them a quick rinse at the sink and laying them in the drying rack - a prime rule both individually and socially, if people want to get along together in an equal sort of society, is don’t leave your messes for someone else to clean up - a smallish matter in itself, rinsing a cup out, but indicating a much bigger underlying sort of attitude if you think you are too busy to do it but someone else is not. She watched with her big eyes, dancing impatiently from foot to foot. “And what have you been up to already this morning, eh, Sweetie?” - unlike her father, her inner clock was timed to wake her up with the birds and the sunrise.
“We went and fed Goober the bunny his lettuce and carrots that we got from my garden, and we went and talked with my pony Jangles - Daddy, can I get a big horse soon? I think Jangles is really nice, but I’m almost a big girl now and you said when I was a big girl I could get a real horse like you have so we could go and ride along the big trail by the Bay together some day you know with your big horse Windrider and maybe Mommy too on Shadowdancer and Beezer can come too and we can take a picnic too and...umm - ”
I was finished drying my hands as Elizabeth finished ran down and paused briefly for a breath and maybe to figure out where she had started and where she was going with that thought, and smiling in sheer joy at the innocence and beauty of the slightly puzzled look on her face as her brain tried to catch up to her mouth, took her by the hand as we headed out the door, pausing for a second while I pulled on my rubber boots.
“One of these days, Honey, we’ll get you a real horse for sure - maybe for your birthday next year, eh? Jangles is getting a bit old as well, and I imagine you’re getting a bit heavy for him. So we’ll certainly be thinking about it. By the way, did Mommy get away ok this morning?”
“Oh sure, Daddy, I had breakfast with her and walked her down to the gate about seven o’clock. She showed me the Horsetails by the little bridge - the Eck - Ecka - oh, what? Eckaseesum? - you know what Horsetails are, Daddy?”
I chuckled at her attempts, and helped out - “Equisetum, Sweetie. Yes, I think I know what Horsetails are. Did Mommy say what time she expected to meet us for supper?”
“Oh yeh - I almost forgot - she said to tell you she would leave a message with somebody called - ummm - Teddy? No! - Tommy at - um - the Voice - she wasn’t sure what time her meeting would be done this afternoon, but would know later.”
“Ok - thanks, Honey.” A few of us were planning a get together later.
We had been walking as we talked, of course, and by now were almost at the large aquaculture ponds which were something of a new addition to the Greenways projects. We had spent over a year planning for the aquaculture system, working through as many variables as we could based on permaculture and environmental accounting principles, and thought we had things pretty well covered for a sustainable, enviro-friendly fish-growing operation - fish were a much more efficient source of protein in every way than red meat - this year would be the big test. We had located the pens themselves about 50 yards from the waterfront of St. Peter’s Bay - three large plastic-lined tanks about 20 meters by 30 meters by 2 deep, two for growing and one for use as a settling tank for flushing-through water. Ninety-nine-plus percent of wastes were removed from the water before it was returned to the Bay, and 99%+ of the wastes were recycled on the farm. In theory, anyway - how practical these figures were would be determined over the next couple of years, after a full growth cycle. But such theory held little interest for Elizabeth, who just loved to get out on the gangways between and around the pens and throw handfuls of feed to the fish, who made a great commotion jumping around and generally roiling the water. Fortunately she hadn’t started naming them yet - it was always traumatic when we had to kill and eat something she had made a pet of first. The lobster incident when she was four years old will be long related in this family, I am sure.
We opened the little shed where the feed and scales and other supplies were kept and measured out the feed for the two growing tanks, and I let Elizabeth feed them while I undertook a look-around, a visual assessment of the farm, as I liked to do each morning for a general overview to make sure everything was looking well - and just because I loved the life and property here so much, and felt so lucky to be living here.
Directly behind us, about 100 yards up a slight incline, was the big old farmhouse called Greenways, a rambling wooden and stone structure built over 100 years ago when this part of PEI was still a fairly important ship-building center, and this very property home to one of the larger ship-building businesses in the area. A large three-story central block facing north towards the Bay was flanked on the east by a two-story wing, at the back by a largish green house we had added for the southern sun and a one-story conglomeration of back sheds eventually leading to the kitchen, and wrapped around the front and west sides was a big old verandah with a sagging roof where we liked to sit when we had a chance on a summer’s evening and watch the fishermen making their way home or checking their lines or nets around the Bay, although we didn’t seem to get much chance to do that these days. The whole thing was based on white, but it hadn’t been painted in about three years and was pretty patchy-looking at the moment, although we had started a paint job a couple of years back and got all the trim painted green, which was now fading a bit; add to this the various pastels (also faded) in different sections of the building, and the weathered grey of the sheds, and that was Greenways the house - not your average suburban bungalow.
There was an acre or so of market-garden veggies out back where they got the maximum amount of sun, and nearer the house a little herb-rock garden we’d been working on for a few years - quite a peaceful and beautiful spot now that it was maturing - we’d both been familiar with permaculture principles for many years, and Greenways was our chance to see what could be done on PEI, where the climate presented a serious challenge. But with the almost constant breeze over the Island, and our direct north shore frontage, we had a combination of windmills and solar panels that provided almost all of our power requirements now, and were ready to put a tidal generator into St Peter’s Bay to give us the extra KW we needed - there was a growing power industry on Green Island, and with researchers from Athenia, we were now on the verge of energy self-sufficiency - something undreamed of a few years ago, when private power companies were loath to spend the necessary money in a low-population area. As with many things on Green Island, another example of what can be accomplished when the capitalist profit motive is removed from necessary social infrastructure, and progressive, sustainable communities become the major focus. Quickly, too, when governments are truly concerned with the public weal, rather than maximising corporate profits by looting the public weal.
About another 100 yards east of us was the Morell River, fronted by a thickness of yellowy-green scrubby alders along most of its length, although we had cleared an area behind the bar for our vessels where remnants of the old ship-launching ramps still existed. Across from our property on the east of the Morell was a large area of salt marsh, which was a haven for many species of birdlife, and a few hundred yards upstream the railroad bridge was visible from the shore area. To the south and west the property was bounded by woodland, primarily scrub pine and spruce, but we had been encouraging the re-establishment of hardwoods such as maple and birch and beech, hoping someday to restore something of the original Acadian forest that had covered the Island before the shipbuilders and mercantilist traders came along, whose worldview said that trees in the forests were best used to create human wealth in the present generation, rather than something to be honoured, used sparingly and preserved for future generations, as the inhabitants before them had believed, and had so preserved for thousands of years.
Most of the space before the woodland began was our garden - we were almost entirely self-sufficient ourselves, and grew enough to sell at the St. Peter’s Farmer’s Market on the weekends through the summer - chemical-free produce had a large and growing customer-base, now that most people were aware of the great damage done to the environment by the years of heavy chemical spraying that had been the basis of agriculture on the Island for many years, not to mention their own health from ingesting all the agricultural chemicals and hormones that were such a central part of the so-called “Green Revolution” of the 60s - like so many things related to capitalist infrastructure, the very name itself a perverse lie - it was indeed a “revolution”, but it’s purpose was no more “green” as environmentalists understood the term than “free trade” agreements had anything to do with trade or freedom, at least for most of us. The big fish kills in Island rivers during the black years of the 1990s had created a movement to strictly regulate such chemicals, however, and the government had finally been forced to do so, against the loud protests of the agro-chemical-farming industry, a protest which was not yet silenced.
I completed my sweep back - the few minutes I managed many mornings like this was something of a meditation for me, calming me for the coming day’s activities - by looking along the vista of the big St. Peter’s Bay out beyond the fish cages, stretching from St. Peter’s Village off to the south, the church spires barely visible in the distance, to the small opening to the Gulf of St. Lawrence off to the north, where the large sand dunes of Greenwich were visible even from here. The gently rolling hills and green fields, divided into the farmer’s quilt of fields, hedgerows and stone fences and trees and shrubs - countless shades of green interspersed with the yellows of early grain and red soil - of the north side of the Bay captured my attention for a few moments - their great beauty never diminished, nor the patterns formed by the endlessly shifting shades of colors and shadows playing together. A smile on my lips, I looked down a little closer to home where Elizabeth was just throwing the last of the feed into the near pond, laughing and tossing her head in such innocent joy as the fish jumped up to capture some in mid-air.
With a sigh of resignation, I looked at my watch.
“C’mon, Elizabeth,” I called to the small blond wonder still entranced by the jumping salmon, “let’s walk you over to the Dellington's. I have to get into Charlottetown to meet some people for work. Let’s go!”
She poked her face into the fish feed bag to make sure there wasn’t a last handful to drag it out another few seconds, saw there wasn’t, and turned the bag upside down over the cage, scattering the crumbs for a last morning snack for the never-satisfied fish.
“Okay - on my way!” she laughed. She returned the bag to the shed and closed the door, then skipped over to where I waited and took my hand. We forged a new path through the morning dew and grass-spider webs glistening on the green grass as we turned our steps towards the grey stone walls of what at one time was the carriage house, but many years ago had been turned into a guest house, and now served as the home of Lilac and Abellard Dellington. The Dellingtons had come with the farm, as it were, when Brittany took possession; the farm had actually originally been theirs, but like so many others in the grasping capitalist world they had lost it to the banks when the growth in farm income failed to keep pace with the growth in interest rates charged by their local friendly bank (interest, somewhat ironically, on loans the bank had encouraged them to take in the first place), and Joseph Black’s Uncle Genghis had got the farm at a fire-sale price. He did, however, keep the Dellingtons on to do the actual work, as he was more interested in being a gentleman farmer on the Island colony, with some vague plans of restoring some grandeur to the old ship-building property. He had never made a go of it, but the Dellingtons had come to stay, and had worked the fields of Greenways in a mixed-farm for many years - it was one of the things we were lucky about with Greenways, that it had never been turned into a monoculture potato farm like so much Island land, thus the soil was less depleted from years of monoculture than in many other farms. They were a wonderful old Island couple, had never had children of their own for some reason, and had taken to Elizabeth like a long-lost grandchild, as she had to them.
As we approached the door of the carriage house, it opened and Mrs. Dellington stepped out, fanning her full-length apron to shake the flour from its folds - fresh baking every day was both an old Island tradition and a most welcome dietary staple at Greenways. It had been a bit of a contest for a few months to get Lily, as we usually called her, to switch from white flour to the much healthier and tastier whole-wheat flour, but now she was an enthusiastic convert, and usually had a basket of whole wheat breads and tarts and other treats for the Farmer’s Market on the weekend.
“Nannie nannie!” cried the irrepressible Elizabeth, dropping my hand and running off across the lawn to where Mrs. Dellington kneeled with open arms and wide smile. As always.
“Come to Nana, wee one! And how are we this morning?” she picked up Elizabeth and swung her around, doing her own small survey of things important to her, looking over to where I was arriving at the edge of the steps.
“So, Mr. B,” she said, looking down at me, “and what business with the new Island government will you be up to today then?” Almost five years since the election, but still new to Mrs. Dellington, bless her heart.
Mrs. Dellington had never approved of the People’s Government, although she, as many other Islanders, had not been entirely happy with the traditional system the last few years either. But as an Islander born and bred, who had spent perhaps 20 days of her life more than 10 miles from her home in St. Peter’s, it was firmly fixed in her worldview that the province of PEI was governed by the Liberals and Conservatives, who took turns in the completely natural, and comfortable, course of events. They were special people, those who had run the Island since time immemorial, and there was something out of place in her universe that someone else was now speaking in her daily newspapers who did not declare themselves to be either Liberal or Conservative. But Brittany was part of the change, and she had loved Brittany like her very own special child since her arrival, and, another practical Islander trait, she was generally prepared to stick politics back in the closet if it threatened to get between her and her family.
“Yes, Mrs. Dellington,” I replied, smiling up at her, for I had always had a great affection for her and her disapproval of some of my recent activities could not change that, “I will be off to the City today for some meetings - as you know, the Referendum is next week, and there’s a lot of activity at the moment.”
“Oh, I know, Mr. B, I know,” she replied, “and don’t think Abellard and I ain’t talkin’ about it all, of an evening, either!” she warned, a glint of fire in her eye, shaking a pudgy finger at me. But also a smile on her face - even through her troubles, she recognised, I think, that although I represented change to her, and was therefore basically suspect by definition, I was not evil incarnate, and maybe, just maybe, something good might come of it all.
“Is Brittany all right, then?" she continued, a small frown of concern coming to her face, “When she came over this morning to say she was on her way, then, she looked a little distracted. And when I asked her if everything was alright, she didn’t really answer. I figured something was up....”
“Well, Mrs. Dellington,” I said, “something has come up quite suddenly..”
I didn’t get a chance to finish my answer - suddenly Elizabeth squirmed in Mrs. Dellington’s arms, shouting “Beezer! Beezer! Lemme down Nana lemme down!” leaping from Mrs. Dellington’s arms as she did so, and taking the steps two at a time she dashed off across the lawn to where a pony-sized ball of black fur was gallumphing across the grass, long red tongue flapping in the wind of its passage. It let out a “Woof!” as it saw Elizabeth approaching, and slowed and stopped as she reached it, dropped to her knees and flung her arms around the great shaggy neck.
“Hi Beezer!” her voice drifted back across the lawn, "Where have you been all morning? I missed you!” And she hauled the compliant giant down on its side beside her on the wet grass, rolling and laughing.
I looked up at Mrs. Dellington, smiling. “Well, I guess she’s in good hands, and I better be on my way. As I was saying, something has come up, and it may be a problem, but since it mainly concerns Brittany I think I’ll leave it for her to tell you.”
She looked at me for a minute, then returned my smile. “Ok, Mr. B, I guess I understand. Have a good day then.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Dellington. I’ll try to!” I turned and waved and called to Elizabeth. “Bye Elizabeth - have a nice day, and we’ll see you at supper!”
She turned from Beezer the big black dog and waved. “Bye Daddy Daddy!”
I walked back past the house where I grabbed my jacket and changed the rubber boots for some sneakers, then strolled out the lane to where the bicycle waited at the gate for the short ride into Morell where I would catch the 7:55 GRIS-RT, weekday regular route, Souris-Ch’town. I paused a few seconds at the little bridge and saw where Brittany and Elizabeth had been looking at the Horsetails, and felt a brief twinge of regret that life was so very full these days of work and what we regarded as necessary political activity - both of us felt that time was far more enjoyable and usefully spent studying nature, such as the Horsetails at my feet. Soon, we hoped, there would be time for more.
But first there were some things to be done - things that would not be easy or pleasant, things that could go the wrong way, things that could have unthinkable consequences if we failed to deal with them properly. The problem of Joseph Black and his desire to wrest Greenways away from Brittany and I, the problem of Joseph Black and his political comrades who wished to wrest our newly established democratic government and Green Island away from us all.