The countryside is changing. After the endless woodland plains of Aquitania, we are now walking through the sweetly sloping hills of the Charrente. The most we see is vineyards, some corn, some fields of burned flowers, and empty country roads to connect the ailing little villages.
The changeable weather and the cold clouds blowing in from the ocean are behind us for the moment. Our luck continues. And with southern sun in your back, you also realise that this is maybe the perfect season for walking. You can find apples and sometimes pears. The blackberries are almost finished, but there’s figs, and if you’re lucky you can find a tree full of late summer peaches, ripe and juicy. And there’s the grapes of course, red and white. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I have a feeling 2011 is going to be an excellent wine year.
Today as well we’re walking together. We are less than we were in the days before Bordeaux. Maybe sixty, counting everybody. But it gives us the opportunity to regroup. Without holding fruitless internal assemblies we are organising ourselves among each other. The Route commission and the Kitchen commission are working pretty well, and that is what counts at the moment. An Action commission has been formed a couple of days ago, and the Dynamisation commission is trying to find ways to get our internal assembly to work again. All in all, the positive spirit reigns. It’s getting better all the time.
We arrive in Barbezieux, another of France’s sad little villages. This must have been a vital country community once, but those days are long gone. What’s left is the silence and the closed hatches of the houses. There are still people living here, there are the usual shops, and two huge supermarket halls which cater for the hinterland, where many people from Holland, England and Germany have bought a country home.
I have the impression that the villages themselves suffer because they don’t have a real economy any more. They are bypassed by the main roads, there are hardly any artisans or small farmers left, the agriculture in the surroundings supplies only the big distribution. People have emigrated to the city, or if they still live in the village they depend on the city for work.
I think that a village is a perfect size for a community on a human scale. There are many people would like to live a life in closer contact to the land, even though some of them don’t know it yet. The village could return to be the centre of a local economy based on sustainable agriculture, but it has to be as much as possible self sufficient. Freedom is not the possibility to choose between Leclerq and Carrefour to get the same products. Freedom is being independent from the big distribution and eating healthy products from the land where you live.
At this evening’s cosy little assembly in front of the castle of Barbezieux there were once again some local people from various well oranised civic associations. We have a lot in common with them, we are all fighting the same system of wasteful consumption. So other than in Tyrosse, this time we were much more open towards collaborating with them. They need a common demonitator that brings them together, and we need their experience and organisation.
Little by little we’re learning from our errors, and working on our strategy and communication. France is not Spain, and we cannot expect all the world to participate in our assemblies and restart from scratch when many of them have been working on alternatives for years.
The 15M movement is only three and a half months old, and already we did incredible things. But the road to a complete change of our society will be long. We will have to compromise and make maximum use of our ‘liberty of action’, we will have to recognise the people who share our goals, and unify them.