Saturday, 13 November 2010


In the Great Windfarm Debate, it's easy to get bogged down in arguments or discussions concerning background noise levels, bird strikes, shadow flicker or house prices. But what's more interesting, in many ways, is the psychological dimension to the protest movement.

Put it this way - would you be inclined to take the anti-windfarm campaign more or less seriously if you knew that it was based more on personality disorders than on objective science?

In 2007, Oliver James published Affluenza, his international study of the effects of what he calls 'Selfish Capitalism'. According to James, there is a sort of Virus that can all too easily be caught by those who get swept up in the status-seeking world of modern consumer capitalism. The people who are most at risk of succumbing to this Virus are those he calls 'Marketing Characters'. They are susceptible to brainwashing and propaganda.

Those affected by the Virus tend to be aggressive, conformist, acquisitive, self-centred, competitive and, by and large, unhappy - depressed, even. They get little or no enjoyment out of life, relationships, etc., and continue to plough their energies back into the treadmill of getting-and-spending. For them, a house isn't a place to live in - it's a status symbol to be compared with those around it.

In one chapter of his book, James seems to recommend a return to the rural values of community and attachment to the land - the land being thought of as a working landscape attuned to the rhythms of the agricultural year. But this notion of the countryside as an antidote to the worst excesses of the Virus-driven Selfish Capitalist kind of dates the book.

The reality in the Lenches is that a very healthy community did exist, up until just a few years ago. An influx of Marketing Characters, bolstered by the economic boom which collapsed with the banking crisis, turned the rural scene into something between a suburban cul-de-sac and a gated community.

It is these newcomers who have fallen prey so readily to the self-serving and deliberately misleading nonsense published over and over again by the hardcore VVASP membership. By making up stories about property values suffering a calamitous fall when the windfarm arrives, the hoodlums of VVASP have got these people where it hurts. The pressure quickly built for these new arrivals to join the gang, to fit in, to imagine that they have become part of the community by making equally noisy and nonsensical pronouncements about the windfarm.

(The reality is that the community - the real one - is kind of still there, just about hanging on, but on the whole completely marginalised and terrorised into silence by the liars and their followers.)

So, in effect, the countryside has fallen victim to the same kind of acquisitive, aggressive and self-centred individual as the city and the suburbs have. Oliver James was wrong (or soon fell out-of-date) - the countryside is no longer an escape from the twisted values of the Selfish Capitalist, because the Selfish Capitalist saw country living itself as a desirable measure of status and invaded a pleasant community, turning it on its head.

Add to that distasteful brew a large contingent of retired people, conservative in their outlook, who are opposed to anything and everything, and you have a problem. The senior members of the community throw up their hands in horror at the thought of anything happening that hasn't happened already, and the new-comers see the windfarm as a threat to their sense of status (i.e., who wants a clean, green, hippy sort of windy thing nearby - that smacks of socialism - when we can have an exclusive, white middle-class monoculture? The irony being that the protesters have called themselves VVASP, which should stand for White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.)

To be honest, it must be difficult to care about the fact that the community payments which would come with the windfarm might fund extra resources, facilities and even teaching staff for Church Lench primary school if you've packed your kids off to an expensive private school in the cosseted south (or, rather, it's not difficult, but you do have to give some thought to others for a change). If - and we mean IF - these people were remotely interested in the community, the Section 106 payments would be something to think about. But these people have no interest in the community, except as something which should reflect their own values and do their bidding when required. So the simple fact that the communities of the area should benefit very happily from the Lenchwick Windfarm is by-the-by.

Oliver James makes no bones about it - such a mindset, informed by Selfish Capitalism, infected by the Virus, is a social, psychological, emotional disaster. It's an illness, and it is wreaking havoc in our society.

For proof of that, one need only look at the Lenches. Once, not so long ago, they offered up a rural alternative to urban living, with rich characters, ancient families, local events and a profound sense of community. Today, they are a playground for the well-heeled and seriously overdrawn, who police it vigorously, ensuring that no one disagrees with their views. It is an arid, festering, seething cauldron of hatred and jealousy, one-up-manship and bigoted intolerance. It is a place where slogans have overtaken debate, where free speech is banned.

The old order would not have put together such a vile, vicious, vacuous protest. For that, we have to thank the Marketing Characters who have pitched up in the Lenches in their droves in recent years, bringing their own particular brand of selfishness and aggression with them.

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