Our first garment poses a challenge by combining the timeworn symbol of the crown with the contemporary metaphor of grassroots. The image of crown immediately conjures forth kings and queens and their heavy headgear of gold. Made from the ‘king’ among metals the yellowish sheen of the royal circlet is associated with light. Worn like halos, crowns suggested the wisdom that once-upon-a-time rulers were thought to possess. Gold does not rust, its resistance to corruption and its durability elevated it to the highest rank of adornment, bestowing its qualities on the wearer. Crowns stand for hereditary monarchy, hierarchical top-down rule and conservative governments headed by autocrats. Grassroots point decidedly in another direction.
Grass is as common a plant as it gets. It is the peasant of the plant world. Wherever grasses grow they form tightly knit communities; they stand together and grow together, and together knit the ubiquitous green felt covering the planet. They are nature’s own band-aid covering any patch of bare earth capable of supporting growth. They are uniquely resilient and propagate themselves against all odds. Cut back, they come back with renewed vigour.
Unlike other plants their growing point remains close to the ground, the earth, the roots. That’s why we mow lawns but not gardens. Cultivated, these modest masters of seed manufacture produce flour instead of flowers. Their preferred fashion is the thin blade and stem attire which they endlessly repeat. As above so below. Their roots, given to the seriously unglamourous, underground penetration of soil, are just as tenacious and resilient and densely matted as their green outgrowth.
Movements that call themselves grassroots have chosen an apt metaphor. They are non-hierarchical, bottom up, people based and egalitarian. They stand for the plain speaking, no-nonsense, down to earth and back to basic approaches to politics often associated with direct democracy. Typically, they are just as vigorous, resilient and ready to take root as their namesake. They too propagate themselves against all odds and come back quickly when they are cut back or trod upon by authorities. And just like grasses and their roots, they form tightly woven, mutually supportive communities.
Crowns and grassroots seem to cancel each other out. Monarchy usually ends when democracy begins. Kings and queens disappear as soon as commoners take over. Surprisingly, our meme does not suggest that we do away with monarchs. Instead, it suggests we do away with commoners and boldly proposes a society of sovereigns.
This thought takes a moment to get used to. Perhaps this is the time to ask you a question: are you willing, by way of experiment, to think outside the box and not inside another? Are you prepared to entertain not only new thoughts but a new thinking, one that gives agency to image and metaphor? Are you, in other words, ready to allow imaginations to take root in your thoughts and grow them further? What matters is that the question is asked, for it will help you to remember that you are in a change room trying on new attires.
Take the parliamentary democracies of today; they typically come about when monarchs or their equivalents are removed. Everyone becomes a commoner. But it is not long before some commoners rise to the rank of temporary kings or queens. It matters little what they are called. What matters is the model that they are styled on. Though hereditary monarchy is gone, a temporary monarchy is instituted in its state. While the newly elected rulers may only last for a few years, the new constituted subjects last for a lifetime. Expert rulers inevitably produce experts in being ruled. The result is the political apathy of millions ready to accept the tokenistic ticking of a box as a sign of genuine choice. The result is a democracy that remains unrealised and a society lacking its benefits.
Here our crown can help. By doing away with commoners and proclaiming everyone a sovereign it radically changes the way we think and feel about politics. Altering our attitude it reinstates the real rulers, which is each one of us.
Imagine a society of sovereigns. (Don’t think of typical despots but of the archetypal notion of kings or queens as embodiments of collective care). A society of such sovereigns will differ greatly from one composed of commoners. The latter are traditionally focused on their own cares. Voting in their self-interest they inevitably vote against that of others. And particularly against those who have no vote: all the entities that comprise the planet earth.
Wearing the Crown of Grassroots alters this. As sovereign among sovereigns, we vote with the whole of society in mind, balancing our own needs with the needs of everyone else. Voting with others for others we create what self-centered elections cannot: real community.
Such community cannot come about through competing self-interests. It can only come about by means of mutual care. Today this care must extend to all life forms and the planet as a whole: the Crown of Grassroots is, after all, the Earth’s own attire, worn everywhere where there is life. Wearing it ourselves we accept her invitation to grow up together.