IV: THE INFRASTRUCTURE

In portentous vein we might say that the core ambition of this College is to translate the perennial wisdom – unchanging ideas about what really matters in life, as discussed in Part VI – into everyday life; and to do so with special reference to food and agriculture, the aspects of everyday life that we really do have to get right. So on the one hand we discuss the minutiae of raising sheep and Brussels sprouts, and on the other the principles of morality and the not-quite inscrutable mysteries of metaphysics.

What in Part IV we are calling “infrastructure” is in the middle: governance, economics, and law, plus all matters of a logistic kind, including management and the particularities of land and housing. For we cannot farm in an enlightened manner unless it is economically and legally possible to do so; and it is very hard to create the kind of economy and laws we need if the government has some other agenda, and is pulling in a quite different direction. Indeed it is hard to do anything primarily for moral or spiritual reasons if the government, economy, and the law require us instead to focus purely on material advantage. So the infrastructure must be fit for purpose – geared to what we really think is worthwhile; and must also have a clear and strong moral base – which is best reinforced by ideas that belong in metaphysics.

But the kind of governments that now dominate the world, and the economy that is now called “global” and now is engulfing us all, and the laws that are meant to protect us from miscreancy, don’t seem fit for purpose, and neither are they rooted in acceptable moral principle. Those who dare to speak of moral matters in political circles are likely to be mocked. Those who suggest that the status quo is less than satisfactory, and needs radical overhaul, are likely to be seen as subversives and hence as public enemies, best put a stop to.

So if we really want a better world we need to rethink all the elements of the infrastructure from first principles, just like everything else. It’s not a matter of party politics. We need to ask what kind of government can provide us with what we need, and what kind of economy; and then ask why the status quo doesn’t seem to be doing what’s needed; and how we can organize our affairs in ways that really do work for the good of humankind and of the biosphere.

Then we need to ask, as ever, how we can get from where we are to where we want to be. We all need to make a living, which requires us in the short time to find accommodation within the status quo. So the task for all radicals is to get by day to day and year by year while laying the foundations for a better future. It’s difficult. But that is the nature of the task.