Some things make me chuckle. A friend told me that somewhere on the internet, someone claimed that Dave Hampton (aka the Carbon Coach) and I were in “cahoots”. It was a bit like claiming that bears poo in the woods. Of course they do. But “cahoots” is a funny word which lead me to think about the way we abuse the English language in pursuit of dogma….
“Cahoots” implies that there is a dark conspiracy. The ‘evidence’ for this conspiracy need only be a few innocent remarks on an internet forum. Commonsense dictates that global conspiracies are not discussed on public internet forums. If local opinion-formers want a private conversation they can pick up the phone, meet up for a beer or exchange private E:Mails. Making tongue-in-cheek remarks about the numbers of climate change deniers attending a climate change talk doesn’t qualify as a conspiracy. It is called a “conversation”.
Conspiracies tend to be a little more sophisticated too. They tend to involve lots of people in lots of organisations with lots of power. We are just two people with little or no power whatsoever. Much as I would like to take credit for decarbonising High Wycombe, that ain’t about to happen. We’d like to THINK that we are influential but are we? To be honest I struggle to influence my good lady wife. What prayer do I have in influencing YOU lot? It is like herding butterflies.
So the idea of a “conspiracy” is such a useful tool for discrediting people. It invokes mental images of secret cabals meeting up to work out their devious plans. Maybe we all meet at midnight down on the Rye to perform the dark arts? You can imagine groups of cloaked people from various organisations – Friends of the Earth, the Green Party, Transition Town folk, maybe the odd Councillor, maybe the local police force and so on. We all join hands and chant in a language only known to the dark overlords of the post-carbon world.
Now picture reality. I am sitting at my kitchen table with a laptop computer and an internet connection. It is just me folks! Less “Voodoo” and more “Google”.
And WHY does there NEED to be a conspiracy? You can read everything you need to know about Transition Towns on the web. It is all there in glorious detail. We are a group of community volunters for pete’s sake. There are no secrets. No dark arts. No cabals. No secret meetings. No secret agendas. No sacrificing hamsters. No secret handshakes. In fact, in reality, it is all VERY normal, non-glamorous and, basically, boring. It is a bit like the WI. Only with blokes in.
BUT, conspiracy theories are such fun aren’t they? By definition the allegation of conspiracy doesn’t need to be proven. Hence the allegation can serve useful ends. It suggests that folks are untrustworthy or that they are deciding YOUR FATE behind closed doors. If anyone laughs at the very suggestion it is taken as proof of their guilt: “well, you WOULD say that wouldn’t you?”
But it is pretty sad. It is very desperate, like clutching at straws.
So, there you have it. The horrible truth: Dave and I know each other and send each other E:Mails. Now why would we want to communicate? What could we possibly have in common? Maybe a simple and very public passion to modernise our communities with clean energy, local food, local money & warmer homes. It is a very public, non-political and shared ambition. Lots of people have no problem with this whatsoever. It doesn’t require much secrecy. If it was secret we wouldn’t be doing a very good job at promoting it…
Now, where’s my cloak and dagger….