Life after the Rat Race

A year ago we contemplated about exactly who is in Transition. Now let’s drill down further. How do Transitioners think? What motivates them? Why would anyone wish to get involved? Afterall, most of us would fail to get excited about the very idea of working on a long term project designed to turn around a globalised economy into a local-focussed community. Most would wonder: “Can’t somebody else do it?”, “Isn’t it someone else’s problem?”, “Is this even a problem?”, “What can I do?” or “It seems an insurmountable problem so why bother?”. We can respect these points of view but we still do what we do. Is there something just a little bit different about Transitioners? Are we all, for want of a better word, a bit odd?

Well, we certainly are different. Few people know of, or understand, Peak Oil. It is an issue that you have seek out and study to understand it. It is not a topic of popular television. Even fewer of the people who know of it fully understand the profound impact it may have on advanced industrialised societies. Most don’t want to know or assume everything will be fine. Afterall, if it was something to be genuinely concerned about we would hear more about it wouldn’t we? So, firstly we must realised that the Transitioner has identified an issue of great social importance and recognised it as such. This suggests that Transtioners are forward thinking. They follow a story to its logical conclusion. They see how it will end. They have, for want of a better word, ‘vision’.

Some of this is true with Climate Change – although this is far better known. Whereas Economists may discount the future a Transitioner does not. It is a different philosophy. Transitioners assume that there is something that everyone can do about Climate Change – and this goes far beyond “fighting” it. It isn’t somebody else’s problem in some dim-distant future. It is THIS generation that shares the responsibility. So, after the “vision” bit we recognise that the Transitioner feels tremendous responsibility for events unfolding. He or she identifies not only with people elsewhere on the planet but also with generations yet unborn.

There is also something very unconventional about the Transitioner. Most people think of ‘fighting’ climate change as requiring them to go on a demo. To Transitioners it means rolling their sleeves up and digging the vegetable patch. These issues are not of some academic interest. No, they have practical solutions. It requires a bit of lateral thinking but it isn’t rocket science. For example, in a world short of fossil fuels it will be expensive to fly, therefore we should plan to not fly – certainly when we know the damage it can do to the climate. Therefore you create a local life that doesn’t require you to fly. You don’t sit around moaning about how “unfair” it is. That isn’t the Transition way. You look at the brightside. Flying is crap, staycations are fantastic. We need more of the latter and none of the former. If the economy won’t work without flying then there is something wrong with the economy. That can be fixed too.

So we have learnt that Transitioners are unconventional in the way they think, they see where things are going and they take responsibility for the outcome with practical action in the present day. Now we know what they are, let us also think about what they are not.

Are they all white and middle class? Actually Transition groups are a reflection of the communities that form them. They have the same ethnic and minority mix. They are of the same culture. If most people are white and middle class then the Transition Group is no different. It is important to note that different cultures have different ways of handling the core concerns at the heart of Transition which may lead people to be more or less inclined to get involved. The Transition movement is constitutionaly orientated around being as inclusive as possible.

Are they people with nothing better to do? Busy-bodies and do-gooders? Far from it. Most are too busy to do much about Transition. There is a spread of ages from mid-thirties to mid-seventies so some of us have young children whilst others have grandchildren. Some have full-time work, others part time whilst some are retired. Many are active in other organisations whereas others are not. All are extremely busy with work, children and hobbies to give up much time for Transition. They have lives too. But somehow, amid this chaos of life they manage to set aside just a little bit of time to do something about Transition. It is a miracle!

Are they all a bunch a wooly-minded, liberal, lefties with their heads in the clouds? Nobody quite fits this stereotype in reality. Almost none are wooly-minded as this contradicts the basic operating system of their lives where they have vision and take responsibility. That takes a lot of thinking about. It is mostly rational and logical with no need for great emotional involvement. Are they politicaly liberal or left wing? Some maybe but the spread of political persuasions probably reflect that of the society they are drawn from. Certainly they are open-minded and open to new ideas suggesting a liberal philosophy. Equally well their desire for grass-roots action, free of Government interference, can be seen as possessing a strong conservative element. Certainly this is the view of our new Member of Parliament Steve Baker when asked about the matter during hustings. A strong political persuasion to the left or right (or center) is neither helpful nor unhelpful. It just isn’t relevant.

So are we all a bunch of environmentalists? A lot of us are, but this is happenstance. To be aware of Climate Change, Peak Oil and Transition normally requires that you had a pre-interest in environmental matters. That is how you discovered it. However, Transition has a life of its own. It is now entirely possible to enter the Transition fold with no prior involvement in any aspect of the green movement. Several members of TTHW had no prior involvement. It is equally possible to become interested after the events of 9/11 lead you to question the role of oil-politics in the world. Likewise a concern about human population levels or social justice may well have put you on the road to discovering Transition and your place in it. It simply isn’t predicatable. It is a broad church. No stereotypes need apply.

Are we all a bunch of well-heeled four-by-four drivers choosing some kind of retro-hippy lifestyle? Some people genuinely think that Transtioners belong to the upper-classes therefore we are all a bunch of hyprocrites. They expect to come to our meetings and see a row of SUV’s parked outside and a coat rack covered in Barbour Jackets inside. This one makes us chuckle really. It is entirely logical to belief that Transitioners are all former Bankers and City Traders who made their money, moved to a farm in the country and are now into a “green-lifetsyle”. In truth we haven’t met such people. If they exist they are welcome to join but they don’t seem to be involved with Transition Towns. The reason is obvious. Transition does not attract people indulging passing fancies or lifestyle choices. Lifestyles are so ephemeral and the opposite of the commitment required by Transition thinking. A lifestyle is selfish and inward looking. Transition is selfless and outward looking. No members drive four-by-fours (to our knowledge) although it would be a person’s absolute right to drive one. However it would be an odd choice and incompatible with the usual sensitivity members show to the damage large private vehicles do. Transitioners think too much to own an SUV. If they do then they REALLY need one. No one in High Wycombe needs one. This is not the outback of Scotland. If a Transitioner did own a 4X4 no doubt they would live up a mountain and power the beast with chip fat.

So, what have we learnt? Well, you cannot tell this book by the cover. You will have no idea whether someone is in Transition by their appearence. Rather it is in the way they think and what they think about that sets them apart. Maybe a little like Max Headroom they live just a little-bit in the future. The difference between a genius and a madman? A genuis is a year ahead of his time. A madman is two years ahead of his time. It may seem an odd way of thinking to most people today. But tomorrow you will all be doing it and it will be the most natural thing in the world. So give it a go. Today.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

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