My cold has migrated away from my nose, through my throat and into my ears. And also into my mother - she's not very pleased about that. So I can breathe but mother is complaining - but I can't hear her because my ears are blocked.

Still, on the dubious plus side I weighed 224 lbs before christmas, a few more than that after christmas, and now 223 lbs. And that's why being ill is good for your health.

Maybe I could set up a health farm where the guests pay me to make them too ill to eat. There's got to be people rich and dumb enough to try it.

Actually, the big breakthrough in dieting could be the first lab to concoct a drug with either makes celery taste like sugar, or sugar taste like celery. Anyway...

Last night I was invited out for a few drinks and an informal discussion of political tactics. I was feeling a bit rotten, but went anyway.

Item 1 on the agenda: Pale Greens.

Many people interested in environmental issues are rather muddled about what can and should be done to counter climate change. They talk about "doing their bit" by installing solar panels on their roofs and paying to have their beer cans recycled. Others say cars and plane flights should be made more expensive, to force people who aren't quite as switched on as them to reduce their carbon footprints.

On the surface, it's ironic that people can devote so much energy to saving the whole world don't really grasp how big the world is in comparison to them, or the scale and inefficiency of industry, or the economic forces that make dirty industry cheaper than clean industry.

Of course, on some level they do know how big the world is, and how the real issues are large scale economic and political, and just how enormous the task is to change these things. So, faced with a seemingly impossible global task, they console themselves with minute personal ones.

You can't stop industrial pollution? Nevermind, you can do your bit by putting insulation in your loft, and take comfort in the TV adverts where oil companies tell you they're researching wind turbines. You can even get a warm glow of moral superiority about council estate dwellers too lazy to follow your example.

So, how should we argue with these people? Should we stick to our guns and argue each issue openly, winning over as many as possible?

For example:
* "There's too many people in the world. That's why there's so much starvation."

The planet can support 7 billion people - or even twice that. There's no lack of food, only extremely uneven distribution driven by profit not need.

* "We should make cars more expensive to reduce exhaust emissions."

And make sure only the rich can use a car when they really need to? We should increase and cheapen public transport, reducing emissions and making most car travel unnecessary.

* "Everyone should be issued with a permitted carbon footprint, which if they're poor they can sell to redistribute wealth."

I see. So pretend I'm a businessman buyer and you and your friend are poor sellers. I'll have to buy from your friend because he's undercutting you...unless you want to undercut him? Oh sorry gentlemen, the deal's off - I've found a some carbon credits on the black market. What? You've sold half your credits and you need to buy some more for an unexpected emergency? Well, how much can you pay for mine?

Or should we present them with more clearly thought out versions of their own goals, and trust that in fighting for them they'll learn the nature and scale of the problems and solutions for themselves? For example:

* "We need to persuade local people to recycle more"
We need to pressure the government to make recycling cheap and available to everyone.

* "There should be local green businesses to compete with global nongreen ones."

Good idea, if you're sure you can make it stick. (As opposed to: There's a reason humane businesses like the co-op and the bodyshop either sold out or went bankrupt - the market rewards rapid productivity and cost cutting, not ethics.)

And on to item 2 on the agenda: Big red.

Portsmouth has 150,000 people. It's densely populated, mostly by apathetics. For the biggest of political demonstrations there might be 200 people mobilised, but usually it's around 50. There are various overlapping groups of students, christians, socialists, CND, trade unionists and others, concerned with various overlapping issues like the environment, education, the health service, anti-racism, and the middle east war.

The socialists in Portsmouth are around 50 members of the SWP, a dozen student members of the SP, and around another 50 occasionally seen individuals affiliated to tiny groups or none. Of the 50 SWPers, 30 are frequently active. Of the 30, 15 do the organisational work, arrange public debates, push leaflets through letterboxes, produce and distribute newsletters, speak at debates etc.

Of the 15, one man is involved is heavily involved in all of these. He's also the most important theoretician, though not the only one. My friend John M.

As he's the first to admit, he's approaching retirement age and not in the best of health. There's no individual who's such a linchpin that we couldn't function without him, but he comes close.

So the 15, and indeed the 30, and even the 50, need to redistribute the work more evenly.

I mention this because when I got back home John telephoned me. From hospital. It's a heart condition and we'll know more in a few days.

Typically, he was more concerned with my feeling ill than his, and spent five minutes easily rattling off the answers three of us had worked on so diligently in the pub.

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