Thursday, 5 February 2009

Fascists in the Garden

Times have been hard in the garden this winter, and I am finding it difficult to work up any enthusiasm for the jobs that need to be done. But I did get out with a borrowed chain saw yesterday to cut up the Monterey cypress at the bottom of the garden - I still call it Cupressus macrocarpa, though systematic botanists now assign it to the genus Callitropsis. A full force 11 storm out of Scariff had caught it, and the main roots simply sheared through. It’s rather sad because we grew it from seed we collected at Monterey ourselves – planted out seven years ago, it was already 20 foot high with a base as thick as my thigh.

The ground is sodden from the heavy rain we have been having, which is my excuse for not having dug the vegetable ground. And the frosts have killed most of the Puya chilensis plants which have survived and flourished outdoors for 3 years. Somewhat like a Yucca with fierce backward-pointing spines, I saw its extraordinary 10 foot spike of acid lemon flowers on Tresco, where I got the seeds – it is said to be fertilised there by blackbirds, rather than the hummingbirds that do the job in Chile. Happily I still have three plants in the polytunnel, so I may yet be able to shock the neighbours with its phallic magnificence!

Female and male Blackcap warblers (Sylvia atricapilla)
Susannah continues to feed the small birds, but I am rather disturbed at the behaviour of the Blackcap warblers (Sylvia atricapilla). I was delighted to see a single male back in December, and more delighted still when he was joined by two females. They look rather demure and Quakerish dressed in pale grey, with the male sporting a black cap and the female a brown one. But they have now become very aggressive, constantly flying from one feeder to another to drive the other birds away, so much so that they eat very little themselves. No doubt they are selfishly determined to save a stock of food for themselves, but if only they would share there would be plenty for all, as Susannah will replenish whenever necessary.

This reminds me that it is also turning into a hard season for people. We are plainly entering an economic depression, which I fear will be as long and deep as the Great Depression of the 1930s. That released deeply selfish and destructive forces in Germany, the Blackshirts and Brownshirts of the Nazi movement, and the idolatry of leadership. Similar fascist movements sprang up in many other countries, including our own. How like our warblers with their black and brown caps! I detect similar forces on the rise today, even in Ireland, with the growing media clamour for leadership.

The forces of the right are trying to drive a wedge between private and public sector workers. Already the Government has effectively moved to cut public sector pay through the so-called pensions levy (many of those effected aren’t eligible for a pension). Private sector employers will follow this up with demands to cut private sector pay, which workers will find difficult to resist as unemployment grows. Reduced wages and unemployment will bring reduced spending and cuts in essential services and benefits, and a vicious circle of rising unemployment, falling spending and ever deeper cuts. This is what happened in the 1930s when social cohesion collapsed. Have we learned nothing?


Anonymous said...

I believe that memories are short and the lessons learnt seem to soon pass out of memory. The rise of the extreme right in England is very disturbing as are the strikes with regards to foreign workers. i think those with moderate views tend to act in even more moderate ways - to put it politely - and there seems to be little opposition.

On a very different note I really enjoyed reading about the garden and looking at the photos of the birds.

Joc Sanders said...

I share your concerns, Paula. I fear this depression will see the extreme right grow across all Europe, not just in England. We should prepare to resist it wherever we find it. Which brings to mind the old saw wrongly attributed to Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

I'm glad you enjoy my garden musings - I'm afraid I'm not very regular in my blogging!