Part five: Phoenix takes-off.

“Look at that. They’re showing our school.” Joe was the first to notice.

 

Rowan’s eyes popped. “They’ve got a video of our school parliament and how we’ve changed it. That’s so cool.”

 

“You deserve being on this enormous screen, as you’ve shown how it can be better organised. There’s lessons for everyone.”

 

The PH movement, with its prominent logo, had refocused technology to serve the people with — the new payments, cancelling debt and stopping rent payments. It had  somehow taken over the Piccadilly advertising screens in London to broadcast information that challenged the status quo. 

 

There followed a video with an authoritative voice booming out across the Circus:

 

“The equivalent of ONE MILLION DOLLARS  a minute is paid in farm subsidies. A report back in 2019 highlighted this subsidy and how it promoted high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser. What action was taken in the four years since the report was published? Absolutely nothing was done about it. It’s your money, it’s adding to climate change problems and it’s not serving us as people.” 

“Now it’s your choice in this new world. Decide what you want and how to spend your money. Should we stop these subsidies? What do you think? We want you to get involved. Shouldn’t we be involved in the decisions that affect our lives and how our money is spent? Get online, join the local groups, raise your voice.”

 

Maisie and her children were fresh from a student climate change demonstration. There had been many but she questioned if they were effective. PH’s timely release of these announcements was impressive, stirring people up and showing ways to get actively involved. But would it lead to lasting change?  

 

There were groups gathering in nearby Leicester Square. They weren’t the usual groups of young tourists. There was something ominous about them. Maisie decided it was time to get the kids back home.    

 

…….

 

The videos were part of a rapid cascade of news items: a rolling schedule of quotes and videos being broadcast in community centres and through TVs in pubs, the public screens in parks, in world-wide cities and on the net.  

 

They were introducing innovative projects and asking people to get involved:

“We can turn this into an active and popular politics. We can’t just sit back and watch politics as a spectator sport. Politics isn’t something that just happens in Westminster, it’s something that happens in all of our lives, and we have to  genuinely take control of that, get out there, to get involved to be part of the change to be part of the new politics that I believe and hope is coming. It’s one of the great opportunities that any of us have had in our lives,” declared George Monbiot a journalist and activist based in the UK.

In the US on the Times Square Screens the quotes were subtly different:

“Each time a man stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” was a spoken quote from Robert Kennedy. 

 

On hearing this, a man’s avatar, at one of the world-wide cyber camps stood up, raised his fist and declared: 

 

“Let’s send out the ripples. PH has shown us the way. We can take back control of the net, from the corporates, let’s pull down their invisible fences and make it our own again.”

 

More videos and statements appeared.

 

This was not random information and it was interacting with the audience. As people raised questions or made demands, a new response would appear on the screen. The technologies used by Google and Facebook, the artificial intelligence that gathered data about participants and then tailored advertising, were being harnessed in a positive non-commercial way. This was stimulating further interest and discussion.

 

People were joining together to discuss the changes and make their own demands. There was a significant shift with people following up on the ideas, making suggestions for their own solutions and sharing ideas for collective action.

 

Another announcement came from the Oracle and CISCO corporations. They were offering and demonstrating how their networks and databases could help people to find information, organise collectively, develop small scale self-managed initiatives. Groups came together in real time to discuss shared interests, vote and launch new projects.

 

People were talking about growing their own food in Manchester in the north  of England. An example project taking over derelict urban space and growing food on roofs was shared. There was an immediate knock on effect. Groups came together and decided to do something similar in Cardiff, Glasgow and Chicago.

 

Others were interested in water harvesting and sustainable power sources, immediately revealed, on-line were examples of small scale self managed projects in Germany, others agreed to investigate how to do something similar

 

A trade union group wanted to look at how better to organise community nursing, a Dutch project was already doing something similar, it popped up on screen and they checked it out.

 

Sally, online in the UK, told us about her grandchildren being home educated through the cooperation of parents living in houses and the canal boats in Willesden and Harlesden in North London. Others began to look into the possibility of home education  for their children.

 

Janey came on video conference to explain their shared use of land and co-operative way of housing in Australia, others downloaded factsheets on how it was organised to see if they could do it in Argentina and Thailand.

 

“So what’s in it for me?” Another camp participant shifted the conversation to the economic system. “Capitalism as we have it has not served most people well.”

“If this rebellion is going to be successful we need to be less selfish and competitive, more collaborative and challenging to the status quo.”

 

“We now have a minimum income, there’s less traditional work to go around, we have more time to get involved ourselves in organising things and making our own decisions.”

 

Groups were forming and evolving around the world.

 

A trade union group’s representative spoke out:

 

“We’ve proposals for a 2-1-2 week. Two days paid work, one day actively getting involved in politics and two days working for the local community. Growing, entertaining, creating local capital, whatever helps, we have to find a new direction.”

 

……………..

 

“ we are at a critical stage in two ways. The first we’re seeing today is the conflict we predicted, especially from those with most to lose. There’s a resurgence of the old ways of organising. Primitive gangs, powerful hierarchies of vested interests, corporates muscling their way in hold on to what they’ve got. We’re heading into the unknown but it’s our belief that people will take control and get actively involved. Many have predicted this new way of localised self-organising following on from a step-up in our consciousness.”  

 

There was a sudden rush with shouting and screaming. It was manic: children were rushing in, with horrific wounds; arms were missing, they were battered and bruised, cut up by knives; as if wounded from vicious street fighting. The games had come alive, the avatars were efficiently repaired and things began to settle down 

 

Maisie was back in the cave network with Jake.

 

“These fights between avatars online are easily handled but there are reports coming in of fights in reality,” explained Jake.

 

“Do you know anything about the groups of young people hanging out in central London?” Maisie asked.

 

“We know of gangs recruited by landlords to intimidate tenants.”

 

“So what is anyone doing about it?”  

 

“This and other violence from gangs, are challenges we anticipated. The technology can help here as well. The G5 networks with CCTV and sensors on every tree and lamppost are now enabling us, and the Police to monitor and record where there is conflict.”

 

“But what can be done about it?”

 

“With the financial system getting gummed up and the uncertainty in government we worry about the police. But it does seem to be working. There needs to be continuing flows of money to pay for public services to ensure they continue to do their job.”

 

“ There is a real risk of social breakdown?”  asked Maisie.

 

“In many ways it’s as expected. As problems arise people are getting involved with new responses. There are groups of volunteers, like angels getting involved to try and calm down things and show that the community wants to see peaceful ways to resolve things. As expected, some owners are reacting to not having their rent paid and are setting-on gangs to harass their private tenants and the courts to challenge their corporate clients. There are conciliation projects set up to try and amicably resolve disputes. Other groups are tackling the issue of contributing towards funding services”

 

“Many people must be losing out”

 

“Of course but ultimately we think everyone will gain but not in a material sense. We wanted this change as it’s a necessary reordering of society. We are already experiencing a domino effect with people organising themselves and joining in, taking control. It’s the new form of participation that we hoped to see with one group encouraging another, we can see that happening. Our next step is challenging people to keep the changes we’ve already made.” 

 

………

 

The Prime Minister of Finland is addressing the nation on TV, also picked up by the PH rolling programme of information:

 

“The minimum payment is a policy that we were planning to implement. The changes to the economic system in general will have an explosive effect on our institutions and on the structure of society. Many of these changes will be beneficial but the pace of change if it’s too quick could be devastating and destabilising.”

 

“This is about engaging and empowering people to take control of themselves and their communities. In this we wholeheartedly agree as it continues a seventy year experiment in the Nordic countries. As social democratic societies I think many of our systems operate locally and to a decentralised model. The more hierarchical societies where income and wealth is distributed more unequally have even more challenging times ahead.”

 

“We urge our political partners throughout Europe and the world to embrace these changes . It’s important to shift away from both free market liberalisation and centralised government and head towards a new partnership engaging the people we serve.”  

 

He’s joined by the EU President.

 

“From the very beginning of the EU we promoted and valued the idea that power comes from the individual upwards rather that the institutions downwards. These changes are in line with and will thoroughly test our adherence to those principles. At times we have lost our way and this provides a reset.

 

As a first step the EU will put all its efforts into supporting the localisation of our activities with the effective support of the regional and global networks. This will affect how we do business, the sharing out of our resources, the way we as politicians and government serve and interact with our citizens. This will not be easy as there will be a necessary reform of our institutions and members states.”   

 

The system interjects with a statement from Monbiot commenting on the work of the climate extinction movement from some years earlier in 2019.  

 

“Gradualist campaigns making small demands cannot prevent the gathering catastrophes of climate and ecological breakdown. Only mass political disruption, out of which can be built new and more responsive democratic structures, can deliver the necessary transformation.”

 

Clearly the PH system was finding quotations that supported its own approach and a big agenda.

 

……………………

Maisie’s family are sitting down to dinner, discussing the changes.

 

“ It’s worked out well. I’ve lost my job but life is better. We’ve found lots of empty ground for growing vegetables and selling the excess at the market. People are much more aware and save water and power, they reuse and re-cycle. I’m helping people with their money and most seem to be surviving on the minimum payments with little bits extra here and there. I wouldn’t have thought it possible in just a few months, but people really are adapting and pulling together,” said Simon. 

 

“There’s bound to be problems. How’s the finance side working, haven’t the banks just about collapsed?” Maisie was more challenging. As a reporter, her family provided insights.

 

“Retail bank services are working again and payments are being made, investments are in turmoil. The rich seem to have been most affected, as their activities are becoming so expensive, even for them,” countered, Simon. 

 

 “Aren’t there gangs roaming the streets?”

 

“I saw the Police dealing with some thugs and volunteers were helping out.” “We’re managing OK as a family?”

 

“Financially  it’s OK, admittedly we’ve had to restrict our spending and it does depend on me continuing to get work but quality of life has obviously improved for you. What about school?”

 

“We love it,” Rowan and Joe were almost in unison.

 

“We’re all involved in the school parliament. We  meet to discuss subjects and feed it into the main decisions. Teachers have changed the lessons. There’s more freedom and we’re more responsible. Everyone likes it,“ said Rowan.

 

“I was with the PHoenix people again this week, I’ve prepared another article. To continue with the changes people will have to get involved and make demands. That puts people on-the-spot, if they don’t, the whole thing might collapse. This next period is the most risky. I really hope it works. They’ve turned the tables and shown a different path. ”

 

“ Look at the TV now” shouted Joe. 

 

…………………….

 

“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one…. ”

 

There was a cascade of information, directly from PH, the Phoenix Movement, through the net and all means of broadcast, with John Lennon’s Imagine playing softly in the background.

 

At the bottom of the screen, operating like a ticker tape was a mix of quotes starting with “I have a dream” followed by statements from PH: 

 

You’ve seen the positive effect of the new monthly payment, want to keep it?…… get involved and make it happen…….. How are you going to use your time?…….You’ve seen debt and rent payments were cancelled…….. To keep these changes you need to get involved……. make your wishes known…… otherwise all will be lost……. The power is in your hands….. get involved and don’t complain……  let’s not lose it.”.

 

Finally a child’s voice spoke out:

 

“We’re in a mess of our own making and there is no excuse. We care less about our people, and those who share our global home. Our system doesn’t serve us all. Our institutions only serve the few and we recklessly damage our planet.” 

 

“But there is a solution”

 

“Phoenix have created a global network and harnessed technology to destabilise and disrupt our institutions and show new ways of organising. It’s now up to you. What’s holding you back? 

 

“Rise up. Rise up

 

Let’s fly.”

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 08.00.00

 

lethargy no more

I’ve committed to writing our story but it’s not quite happening. I live in India where nothing goes to plan and I’m English so used to orderliness and predictability; that combination alone, can be a mountain to climb. In my careers, I’ve been: initiator of projects, corporate trainer and now cycle tour guide. I sell ideas, pass on the passion, create change. I’m a storyteller in so many ways, so how hard can it be? Surely, it’s just an extension of what I already do?

 

Yet, I’ve hit the writer’s fortified wall surrounded by an impassable moat. In the mix of emotions and challenges is the usual insecurity; the lack of direction; uncertainty about my ability to write the story; the grief itself and my remorse from a whole series of what-ifs leading to a mountain of regret.

 

I’ve read novels, guides about writing, famous memoirs which seem to go through the eyes, get mashed in the brain and somehow leave my body with only the slightest lasting impression. As part of this learning and the need for tangible experience, I’ve written a handful of short fictional stories and then invited what feels like a mangling through the raw roasting of an editor.That may have set me back.

 

As a consequence, the outlook for our story does not look good. 

 

I’ve now joined Skillshare for online training to help provide insights, direction and instil routine. I’m living in hope.

 

Since her unaccepted death I know I spend too much time fretting on what went wrong and the mistakes I’ve made.

 

To help create the story there is material from Manjula’s audio recordings in her own language, video recordings in English and interviews with friends. It’s now all down to me, the failing husband.

 

I feel I’ve let her down yet she always lifts me up. There’s a clue to what will get me out of the self-pitying, self-imposed, lethargic doldrums. 

 

The answer is my muse, my Manjula. 

 

Manjula over ten years has been our energiser. Everything was for her. Together we created a successful tourism business, a wonderful life, the envy of many of our guests. Manjula is the lettering through the English seaside rock. She is in anything and is everything; her pictures fill the house, the logo, the web site, our blog, every single aspect of my life in India is Manjula, her presence is within and around me. Her memory, my beautiful Manjula – will never be lost. I’ve found joy, wit, love and happiness and it continues. It’s Manjula who will help me to reach through the dirty, dusty, murky curtain, past the most difficult times, to that whole collection of memories that make up our life and that will lift me from the pits and motivate the telling of our story. 

 

Planning

2BEA159E-D0D9-473E-B187-42481AED0CABLeft a bit, turn it slightly, what’s the view like? Yes, that’ll do.

lucie can’t quite believe it.

 

I’m out with Sally and project director Satish on a mission for MAnjula

Happy Diwali Manjula, I love you.

My beautiful star, ruled my world.

……

72062377_10156702489175544_5027947037505617920_n
there’s nothing more to tell you

You light the skies, up above me

A star, so bright, you blind me, yeah

Don’t close your eyes

Don’t fade away, don’t fade away, oh

Yeah, you and me, we can ride on a star

If you stay with me, girl

We can rule the world

Yeah, you and me, we can light up the sky

If you stay by my side

We can rule the world

If walls break down, I will comfort you

If angels cry, oh I’ll be there for you

You’ve saved my soul

Don’t leave me now, don’t leave me now, oh

Yeah, you and me, we can ride on a star

If you stay with me, girl

We can rule the world

Yeah, you and me, we can light up the sky

If you stay by my side

We can rule the world

Oh, all the stars are coming out tonight

They’re lighting up the sky tonight

For you, for you

IMG_3820

 

Manjula’s even got me into ‘Take That’ from the Stardust Movie.

months pass

FF6AADA0-3B0C-4C44-B0A9-F2461FB2DC85

 

Manjula peeking, its been seven months now.

Why are my videos upside down? Is somebody trying to tell me something?

A96D9043-B505-4E54-94C6-2609E0CFA105

 

at least the photos are the right way up

more for our story

 

The day could have started better. Gathering extra information for our story is not proving easy

Sumukh and I had gone to see Lakshmi to interview her for more insights into Manjula’s life around the time she first came to work for me. We found out some stuff but she could have been more cooperative. There seems to be some block which I don’t understand. Maybe it becomes part of the story.

In the past week Sumukh was due to meet Manjula’s brother for an interview and that was called off. It might be the usual Mysore experience where nothing quite goes to plan or are there other reasons.

I’ll bring Indian team members together to get a perspective on this.

 

The other neighbours seems more friendly and were engrossed with our photo albums. I wonder what do they really think about poor Manjula marrying what they will see as a the rich foreigner.

Next, was much better

A social occasion with an added purpose, to meet Vidya and her new baby Vishnu. The Grandmother: Sudha is probably Manjula’s closest friend, a witness at our wedding and hopefully a great source of information for our story.  We brought sweets, crunchy snack things and silver bangles for Vishnu. Satish and I had a wonderful lunch.

Sumukh, will hopefully interview her, in the next few days.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding more details

B77A0EEE-3E8C-4DC7-B0AD-045C3493C7E4I tracked down Manjula’s neighbours and friends from over eight years ago when she first started working for me.

They couldn’t quite believe it , as manjula was so discreet and personified humility they knew nothing about us setting up Mysore Bed and Breakfast, her managing the cleaners, gardener and drivers, the visits to the U.K., her friends around the world. To top it all, the fact that we’d got married. I was so proud of my beautiful and they were so surprised.

An especially poignant moment was when they’d checked I’d properly created a Hindu funeral and I shared the lovely video of releasing Manjula’s ashes into the river

Sumukh and I will interview them for our story.

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