It has been some time since the last meeting of the Bleeding Thumb Whittling Club, and it no meeting is planned for the future. We have received emails from prospective members, and hope that the more-or-less indefinite dissolution of our organisation will be no discouragement to their taking up knife and wood. We thank all of the past members for their company.
Lately, an interesting article has come to our attention. The young Karl Marx in 1842 wrote for the Rheinische Zeitung about the theft of wood. During that period, five-sixths of all prosecutions in Prussia were related to wood; in Rhineland, even more. Marx noted well the changing attitude to usufruct gathering of fallen wood: it was to be prosecuted on a par with the felling and theft of living trees. The customary rights of peasants were eroded, the commons property of the forest privatised and put to work.
Wood, of course, does not feature on the horizon of our consciousness as it did then, a free source of energy and building material. Yet today we might find ourselves less put upon than ever if we gather a small joint of birch felled in a mouldy cemetery, or a branch of sycamore removed from a railway embankment as a nuisance.
First as tragedy, then as farce: Wood is once again commons property.