Monday, 22 August 2011

What is Heritage?

One of the first readings for one of my history subjects at University this semester was Graeme Davison’s “A Heritage Handbook”, pages 1-13. The chapter is entitled ‘The Meanings of ‘Heritage’’ and I found it filled its implied function rather well. Its focus is mostly on the modern Australian interpretation of the word as of its publication date – 1991 – and as such, suffers a certain Eurocentrism. That kind of thinking was much more prevalent back then – I was five years old at that time…twenty years is rather a long time. Much has changed, and so this narrowed and harrowed aspect of the focus in the article should be noted.
After this I noticed this article was chock full of unnecessarily pedantic hair splitting. At least to my raw senses it appeared so. About once a paragraph I felt a small bucket of rage inside me get rattled. It didn’t spill or explode, though – because I drew something awesome from it.
Plug the idea of heritage into the empathic model of the human narrative (championed by Jeremy Rifkin, as first, in my mind, among others), and what do you get? Empathy is the core driver of this narrative, and all of macrohistory’s big ideas weave into it. Humankind is transcending all the previous boundaries to communicating and empathising with one another. What about if we saw heritage, then, as empathy across not only tribal (local), religious (regional), nation-states (national), but even *temporal* borders? Heritage is an expression of globalised empathy, that transcends the temporal border, allowing us to empathise with our ancestors in a way that brings me a mental image of the hand of heritage to reach out and hold the hand of history as they walk off together into the sunset. Or is it the sunrise? J
So that’s a great idea. But it leads us straight back to the question “What IS heritage?”
The closest stab we can take at an answer is that it is an attempt to achieve an accurate representation, appreciation, and understanding of the cultural, traditional, and spiritual people, places, events and things that have shaped who we are today.
The operative word, there, is ‘accurate.’ The buildings that look clean and cool – er, I mean, are aesthetically and / or architecturally appealing – and the places where things happened in the light of day – ie. The things about ourselves that we are absolutely desperate to convince everybody around us that this is what we are. So my question is, why aren’t the brothels, the bars, the houses of drink and the houses of worship, ever on the heritage lists? Because I tell you, dear sojourner, that you will learn more about what it is that defines who we are than you will anywhere else.
Why do people, even the leaders of our politics, culture, science, emotion and thought, work so bloody hard to perpetuate all the farces about ourselves and each other?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

On Today's Flawed Ideology of Ecology

On Today’s Flawed Ideology of Ecology

This is where we should start feeling at home. Part of our daily perception of reality is that this disappears from our world. When you go to the toilet, shit disappears. You flush it, and it goes away. Part of you logically understands that it’s still there, in the sewer system, processing, and so on. But at your most elementary level of experience, it disappears from your world.
The problem is that shit never disappears when you look the other way. The ideology of ecology is the problem. Or rather, the way we approach it as the defining ideology of our day. I use the term ideology in the traditional sense of a collective way of thinking and perceiving reality. So why is it the problem? Ideology is not about dreaming of – or worse, hoping for – false ideas and even more false tomorrows and so on. Ideology addresses very real problems by mystifying them.
One of the elementary mechanisms of ideology is known as the ‘temptation of meaning.’ When something horrible happens, our spontaneous reaction is to search for a meaning. “It *must* mean something.” Take AIDS for example. It was, and is, a horrible trauma. Then the conservatives stepped in and decided that it is punishment for our sinful ways of life. When we interpret a catastrophe as a divine punishment, it makes it easier, because we know that it is not just some terrifying blind has a meaning. When you are in the middle of such force, it is better to feel that God punished you than to feel that it just happened. If God punished you, then it is still a universe of meaning. This is currently where the ideology of ecology ends.
 It is really the implicit premise of ecology that the existing world is the best possible world. In the sense that it is a balanced world that is disturbed through human hubris. I think this is problematic because the notion of ‘nature’ as harmonious, organic, balanced, reproducing – a living organism of its own – is disturbed, perturbed, derailed, through human hubris, and technological exploitation and so on. I see it as a secular version of the religious story of the Fall. The answer should be not that there is no fall, that we are part of nature, but on the contrary that there is no nature. Nature is not a balanced, sublime system which humans have disturbed. Nature is one big series of unimaginable catastrophes. We profit from them. Oil is our main source of energy today. Oil reserves in the earth are the remainders of an unimaginable catastrophe – it is composed of the remainders of plant and animal life. What kind of unthinkable catastrophe had to occur on earth to give us this oil?
Ecology will slowly turn into a new opium of the masses. What we expect from religion is some kind of unquestionable, highest, absolute authority. It’s true because God says it is, end of discussion. Today, ecology is more and more taking over this role. Whenever there is a new scientific breakthrough, it is as if the voice that warns us not to violate a certain limit is the voice of ecology. “Don’t mess with DNA, don’t mess with nature.” This is today’s ecology. An ideological mistrust of change.
Another myth that is popular about ecology – as a spontaneous mythology – is the idea that we of the west, in our technological, artificial, sterile environments are alienated from the immediate natural environment. But we should not forget that we humans  are a part of the living, breathing earth. We are not abstract veneers or theorists that merely exploit nature, but rather, nature is our impenetrable, unfathomable home. It’s the greatest danger not to see it as such. Think, for example, of a dreadful paradox – climate change. Whatever else you think of it, we all know what danger we are in, the effect we are having on the planet, so why don’t we do anything about it? It is an example of what is termed in psychoanalysis as disavowal. “I know that very well, BUT, I act as if I don’t know.” So you know about climate change, maybe you read a treatise on it, but when you go outside you don’t see the nice piles of human waste and garbage. You see nice trees, birds singing, whatever. So even if you know rationally what’s going on, what do you really do about it? Go to the site of a real ecological and human horror, such as Chernobyl, and see what you take home with you. How wired are we to actually allow such an experience to change the way we live?
What we should do to confront the threat of ecological catastrophe is not some wannabe new age druidism, back to nature roots and all society, but on the contrary to cut off those roots even more; more alienation from our spontaneous nature. We should develop a much more abstract sensibility and terrifying materialism, where we see the universe as a string of scientific formulae, mathematical , and yes, the occasional catastrophes that just happen, and finding our poetry and spirituality in that. If not to create beauty in that, then an aesthetic dimension in things like rubbish, catastrophe, and pain, because that is how to truly love our world.
What is love? It is not idealisation. Everyone who has truly loved anybody knows that you don’t idealise them. Love means you accept them and all their failures, stupidities, ugliness; nonetheless the person is the world to you, and makes your life worth living. You see perfection in imperfection itself, and that’s how we should learn to love the world. True ecology loves all of this:


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Importance of Being Human

My favourite author - and guiding light - is a fellow by the name of Jeremy Rifkin.

This is the RSAnimate short clip based on his latest (and greatest) book, The Empathic Civilisation: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis.

This book is my guiding star. I can't do it justice today as I should already have dinner on the table and be in front of the TV enjoying a White Collar Season 1 marathon. But just watch this clip, and let it sink'll need a little while to do this anyway, and so I, my TV, and my golden curry, am pleased to be able to give you this time.

Until next time, fellow sojourners!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Be your part.

I dredged this out of an old journal of mine from a little over a year ago. I know I'm only really displaying the personal, emotional, underbelly of World History, but I've just started the new semester at University and so need to re-discover the pulse of the scholarly / academic side of it. I've a stack of readings and videos and essays to trundle through, so expect to see that side of things very soon. Enjoy!

I’ve been doing a fair amount of thinking lately. Well…more so than usual, and also a great deal healthier than usual. Basically I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I know exactly what *I* want and exactly what I’m going to do to get it.

See when you spend more time than you feel you *want* to on other people, helping them, investing in them, whatever it happens to be…that’s not healthy. It’s unbalanced. And pointless, and hypocritical. At the end of the day there is a line in the sand where you must realise that people are the way they are out of choice. There are acute circumstances and situations that are exceptions to this, but think of people who are struggling – the single mothers, the friend who’s dating a filthy piece of refuse, the uni student over their head, the broken hearted friend, the grandparent that is drowning in their own complacency, waiting to die… how many of those actually take the hand offered them? Not many, right? That’s because they are exactly as they feel they wish to be. They choose their reality, just as you must choose yours.

So, if all your time is spent churning over everyone else’s “issues”, it suggests subconscious hypocrisy. Such ‘idealistic’ ‘care’ is often tinged with a sense of the frantic, of urgency. It smells unnecessary. And it’s certainly not healthy. What is it in yourself that you’re either deflecting or projecting? All this obsession with other people… are you not at least as valuable as them (as far as your own efforts are concerned)?

When asked in that light, it becomes quite difficult to argue against by any measure.

You’re the centre of your world. That’s how God, the Creator, Divine Spirit, anything and everything (or nothing) you know him / her / it to be, designed things. You are here, so you may as well be as amazing and beautiful as you can be. Enjoy your time and create the kind of life and existence that you want. Be your part of all that is, in all the ways you wish to be.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Exactly where we are supposed to be.

Alright, it is a little old; this was before the two weeks of bus strikes that prevented me from getting to University at all...and prior also to my moving house the week before that. It's been frenetic to say the least, a Macro-minded (can I even say that?) whinge is probably coming soon.

But I wrote this for you. You need to read it. Enjoy (:

I am sitting here in my University’s brasserie, eating a delicious half-price burrito. They are freaking amazing – packed lunches, lamb shanks, and even free student guild BBQ’s are immediately forgotten if it’s Burrito Day at the Brasserie. Blaring obnoxiously behind my left ear is an American female newscaster on the TV. I have to catch the bus in fifteen minutes.
I have just come from an appointment with the campus’ resident philosopher. They pay him as a counsellor, but mainly we have conceptual discussions – sociological trends, enlightenment and how to get there, mindfulness, the how and the why of the stupid things we do. It connects with me (I’m not there to discuss anyone else am I?) and my life when I connect the dots and figure out “hey, this applies to my situation like <so>.”
Today I realised something profound. Yes, it does have to do with Macrohistory – there are no rules in the big picture about which part of the picture you paint, and that’s what I love about it.
I am in a situation that has enough in common – circumstance, gravity, emotions  - with much of my past to trigger a reaction in which I lurch out of the moment and bring the sadness of the past and the fear of the future crashing together. When I am not in that state I can look at the situation and think “Well, yeah, it’s awful, but I know what I am doing, and why, and I know I can handle it.”
So why do I freak out? I know I can’t change anyone who doesn’t have the will to change themselves. I know that my voice is important, even / especially when raised in justifiable anger – the person does a lot to piss me off! I understand what is going on and I know I am strong enough to do what I need to do, to be there, and stay there, and not play the game this person doesn’t even realise they’re playing.
So, why, indeed? I talked and thought and pondered and we came to this conclusion – sadness and depression exist only in the past. You can’t be sad about something that’s happening right now unless you attach right now to an object of sadness in the past. In the same way, fear and anxiety only exist in the future. The only way a person can occupy any of those states of being is if they are not in the moment – if they, as I do when I freak out about this thing, thrust themselves into the past and / or the future.
As Yoda said “Never his mind on where he was, hm? Never his mind on what he was doing. Hm.”
Our little green, surprisingly lithe, friend, had a point, you know. Whatever we are here and now, is what we are, and it’s got to be enough. If it can’t be joyful and positive, it has to at least be enough. You are there because it’s where you want to be, and that’s all. There’s tremendous power in being able to take a deep breath and whisper to yourself “I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”
So keep your mind on where you are, and what you are doing. Your heart will follow, in time – everything worth doing takes practice. And your life is definitely worth it.
There’s far too much to do and see and think and taste and touch and feel and smell and love in life, to waste time fighting the demons inside your head. They’ll never go away, and so the trick is to acknowledge them, to sit with them, to just let them be. Don’t rail and push against them. Render unto you what belongs to you, and unto the devil what belongs to the devil.

You are exactly where you are supposed to be.