Friday, October 1, 2010

A Stroll through the Shopping Center...

"Idolatry" is going to have to wait for me to calm down after sounding off...
This morning I was driving along the road to our local shopping center to go stick gas in the car. (We don't use the car A LOT, but we DO use it, and when we use it, it's nice to have GAS in it.)
I passed by the stretch of land where our local government is building an extension of what we call a "zone industrielle" here. An INDUSTRIAL ZONE. Aptly named, I think. And even more aptly named when you consider that in France, the expression "la zone" refers to a lawless no man's land. Universes away from.. a country, right ?
The local government tore up an expanse of relatively undisturbed nature to roll out its little ticky tacky boxes, with office space, and space for new... STORES for us to CONSUME from, little boxes that resemble.. ALL THE OTHER LITTLE BOXES in the already existing ZONE.
And while driving past it, I felt a... GREAT TEAR in my soul, in my heart for this thoughtless destruction that MANY will justify in the name of jobs (who are we kidding now ??) for people to put meat and potatoes on the table...
Continuing on further, I entered the shopping mall, and passed by a newly opened restaurant for businesspeople on site. I passed, and did a double take, with a very strange feeling, the foreboding feeling that I got while back in the mother country U.S. three years ago.
Everything was smooth, humming, that black plastic, metal, those cool tones of gray and white that caracterize SO WELL the MECHANICAL UNIVERSE that we have erected TO COMPETE WITH what MOTHER NATURE already does so well. IDENTICAL MASS PRODUCED OBJECTS : chairs, tables, etc. Food.. that comes out of boxes, and is already prepared SO YOU CAN FORGET WHERE IT COMES FROM. So you can forget that.. THERE IS AN OUTSIDE to all this inside.
Don't tell me that I'm imagining this, because I'm not.
It's there for EVERYBODY TO SEE, who WANTS TO SEE IT. This colossal and stupendous.. HUBRIS.
On the radio this morning, our national editorialist made the comment that people in Stuttgart were rioting over the local plan to cut down trees in their park. She said... "why should people get so upset about just cutting down SOME TREES ?? There must be something behind this..." Something like.. economics, right ?
Shall I remind you that last time I checked, "economics" meant the LIFE OF THE HOUSE.
NOT.. the life of the shopping mall...
I think she is just plain wrong to imagine that there is anything behind people's being upset about chopping down those trees.
I am getting more and more radical all the time, as I feel more and more like I am.. holed up in a bunker WHERE I DON'T WANT TO BE, but where I take refuge against the bulldozer that is mindlessly mowing down... our souls, and our civilization with it.


Rupert said...

I've been thinking about revolution. Is it a safety mechanism? The part of a system that is there to save us all from monopolistic ideologies and dogma? I wonder how placated we have become. I want to revolt, and in some ways I guess I do. I no longer borrow money nor do I purchase unnecessary tat. I 'bank' as ethically as I can, I only eat food with provenance. I'm still angry though because the change is so slow. Does a revolution need to be violent and up heaving? Rivers of blood? The most frustrating part of being human is having this ability to imagine a world, an existence so different from the one we have today. To see what we can do, to have reason for compassion and grace at the canter of ourselves and yet to have arrived at this place in time beggars belief. I weep for lost opportunity. In the face of such wanton ignorance is there any hope?

Toby said...

If you haven't read it already, maybe Lewis Mumford's "The Myth of the Machine" (it's on my reading list) my fan those flames a little higher.

I wouldn't mind mass produced things that were completely biodegradable (like leaves) and only functional (not aesthetic), so that even (currently) poor people can afford tables and chairs. Perhaps one day we can grow such items the way trees grow leaves. We are blase about leaves as we are about sand, and I don't see anything wrong with that. We only have to make sure we live sustainably, and that that which we bring into existence is as non-toxic as we are able to make it, which when thrown away is food for something somewhere.

As to the blandness and machine processes of modern life our failure is one of blindness. We have not noticed sufficiently that we are being eaten (or blanched) alive as a sacrifice to efficiency, leisure, growth, PROGRESS, and other such modern Gods. Numbers of us are waking to this because it is very close its zenith, if not then past it already. This phase can only end soon.

The question is, dear Rupert, "will there be blood?" If history is anything to go by, then, yes. Humans are both flexible and unbelievably STUBBORN.

(I'm sure you clocked the caps there Debbie! ;-) And I'm with you on the revulsion. Sadly, there seems nowhere left to go where we can escape the bland monotony of the machine. Ah, us!)

Debra said...

Toby.. you know what I think is the most amazing, what I noticed as a shrink, is that it is not at all easy for us to make CONNEXIONS between our thoughts.
I said way back there, and did an excellent demonstration in my book, that it all hangs together because the underlying structure of it corresponds to the structure of our language.
I said this morning to the people on my loony forum... the name of the game these days is exclusion.
But exclusion is NOT JUST parking people or animals in little boxes, or shutting them away out of sight in ghettos.
Exclusion is.. a MODE OF RELATION, a way of looking at the world, and us in it.
Exclusion translates into.. ALL OR NOTHING.
Pretty obvious, huh ?
But... when I say or think that in order to be strong IN MY OWN EYES, AND IN THE EYES OF SOCIETY, that means that I have to find somebody else who I am going to stick into the "weak" box, then I am practicing exclusion, and it is a linguistic phenomenon, or way of allowing me to construct my identity.
Because... exclusion in our society has brought us to the point that we are having more and more difficulty seeing ourselves as.. STRONG AND WEAK. We are becoming... BINARY CREATURES ? LIKE THE MACHINES ??
I think.. that we are very very influenceable animals. We have VERY VERY plastic brains.
And I think that our thoughts... the CONTENT of our thoughts STRUCTURES our minds, and the WAY we think.
This is why I am very hostile towards vulgarized Darwinism at this time...
I resist revolution.
Because, as I say to people sometimes... way back when a man was crucified for RESISTING the idea that we would bring the Kingdom of God (a new way of being in, and seeing the world...) into the world IN A POLITICAL AND SOCIETAL PROGRAM.
I don't believe for one minute that this is possible, and I think that the belief that this is possible has indeed been responsible for much of our current suffering.
I believe in the quiet revolution of the individual heart and mind.

Toby said...

Very Charles Eisenstein Debra, a neat paraphrasing of his book, a book I recommend most every chance I get. ;-) And yes, the binarization you mention (new word there) is troubling. Being a pseudo Jungian it is the melding of the opposites as part of the path towards (paradoxically) individuation that interests and excites me. Revolution in the brute sense when the pressure cooker blows has thus far always been, 'hello new boss, just like the old boss.' All that blood and suffering just for a new suit for Big Man.

So VERY yes: "I believe in the quiet revolution of the individual heart and mind."

But this notion must be gently communicated too (remembering there's really no such thing as the individual), then willingly and wisely chosen as one's own path. Then and only then can something like The Venus Project begin to unfold. Sadly I think more violence must needlessly be done before we 'get' this culturally. So much dumbing down has been done...

Debra said...

I don't agree with the melding of the opposites, because I think that here even Jung was being reductionist.
One of the major problems is linguistic.
It is the elimination of polysemy in our language. The idea that we must take our language and make it into signs, along the lines of "this means that and ONLY THAT". The machine functions this way, because it is the only way it can function, and we have not yet found a way to do good translation by machine.
But... the problem with the machines is that we are tending.. TO REDUCE OUR LANGUAGE to make it into something that the machines can translate.
This is a metaphysical CATASTROPHY, Toby.
I have no words to say how much of a catastrophy this is. Because, "nature" has a very big plan for us in the polysemy area. Polysemy goes along with diversity, and richness. Nature made richness, and ARTISTIC man made richness, maybe, but not mass produced stuff WITH NO SOUL.
Does Eisenstein talk about polysemy, Toby, and the linguistic aspect of the problem ?

Debra said...

And today I demonstrated along with thousands of other people in France.
On the bus ride to demonstrate, I got talking to some people..
I mentioned the fact that I think that we are dumber than the ducks.
People looked at me in a really puzzled manner.
And I said.. you won't see a duck slaving away from dawn to dusk to put meat and potatoes on the table, will you ?
People.. didn't really get that point.
I have been thinking outside of the boxes for such a long time that I sometimes have a hard time understanding how far away some others can be...

Debra said...

Toby... I don't understand how a leaf is mass produced ??
Are YOU mass produced ?
What is the difference between you and a leaf ??
From... THE LEAF'S point of view. OBVIOUSLY.

Toby said...

Good question.

First 'mass' means masses, not identically produced. And when you really look, just like all leaves are unique and the same too, so are plastic toys and Fiat Puntos unique in some tiny detail and yet the same too.

So leaves are mass produced, as are humans (though humans take a little longer to make and each one is very complex indeed). Rather than comparing each individual leaf to each human, let's see leaves as part of the breathing apparatus of trees, as skin is on humans. Then you could say skin cells are mass-produced; they certainly are discarded without any emotion at their loss, as leaves are in autumn.

The two big differences are waste as food for something else, and the chance for organic variation. Plastic toys and Fiat Puntos are supposed to be identical, but fail to be so for one reason or another. And while skin cells are supposed to be identical, the chance for variation is a necessary part of nature and evolution. Strictly speaking leaves aren't supposed to be identical, but they are all supposed to do the same job, and the variation is something only humans can enjoy -- it's irrelevant to the trees I suspect...

Be careful to whom you show your genius! Most won't get it, especially the sadly bland. It's very easy indeed to forget just how much thought and learning it took to brew those perspectives of yours. They are potent, heady, and take some getting used to.

Debra said...

Toby.. I think that in some subtle way you are under a UTILITARIAN bias in your analysis.
I am not sure at all that those skin cells are even SUPPOSED TO BE identical.
They ARE... GATHERED TOGETHER in a COMMUNITY designed to perform a COMMON (like community...) FUNCTION. Which in turn forms part of a larger community, etc.
In a really exciting way..OUR BODY ITSELF incarnates or represents ?? the very ORGANIZATION we are trying to bring about IN SOCIETY.
I think it is a mistake to imagine that just because we cannot SEE the differences in EACH INDIVIDUAL CELL in our body, that those differences DO NOT EXIST.
As a matter of fact.. I find it indispensable that we POSIT THOSE DIFFERENCES. At base level.
On another level.. I think that it is fair to say that WE, as human beings START OUT WITH THE DESIRE to create IDENTICAL MASS PRODUCED objects, and that that is probably NOT nature's plan. (I feel no need to define "nature" at this point...)
This ENORMOUS difference of PURPOSE is very significant in my book, REGARDLESS of the outcome in both cases.
And I am not sure that there is no "emotion" at the loss of skin cells, or leaves in autumn. I have even found, as a shrink that our ENLARGED consciousness is very very tuned to what is going on in our body, even though we often cannot verbalize the physical processes, and our UNENLARGED consciousness seems unaware.
We are much more complicated than we think, and it is very dangerous to take a mechanistic or utilitarian view of all of this.

Debra said...

And once again, unfortunately, this difference of purpose (creating IDENTICAL mass produced objects) arises out of a linguistic OPPOSITION between... nature and society.
Tonight I listened to a Mozartian masonic hymn from the Magic Flute in which a certain Masonic ideal of.. men becoming gods appeared..
You see what I mean ??

Toby said...

Things have their uses, that is how stuff 'works' and there's really no getting around it. Skins cells are indeed supposed to be more or less identical because of the narrow role they fulfil in the organism, and yet variation is necessarily in there too, as I said. And be careful of the 'human society is like the body' analogy. Fascists used it to justify subjugation. (Though I do agree with you on this point; and see more cooperation than hierarchy.)

I agree with you generally. My so-called utilitarian position does not in any way preclude or exclude your more Lamarckian view (this is all in The Ascent of Humanity), and we've kinda been over this already (I forget where). I like the idea that every sub-atomic particle is unique, a wee minutely-conscious bit of life. Therefore EVERYTHING is unique, even every single little cheaply produced plastic piece of crap out there. Without exception. Hence my insistence that the real difference is that the waste of our mass-produced crap is food for nothing and poison for plenty, as well as that the manufacturing process fights against the upset of variation/deviation. (The Mumfordian Machine.)

As to emotions aroused by the death of skin cells, who knows? I don't, that's for sure. Never say never, but on that argument we may pine too for the decay of anything and everything. But that is too maudlin for me. As Steve Jobs said, "Death is nature's best invention." We must embrace its necessity to be 'free'. In the end, death is but change within the cycle of variation. Let's not get upset about that.

Debra said...

I tell my friends on my loony forum that I think we have drawn back from feeling our emotions TOTALLY because we are so afraid of being hurt.
People dying HURTS. It hurts like hell. Because they are totally irreplaceable.
So, I see no problem whatsoever about getting maudlin and sentimental about dying. I even see it as.. GOOD.
On fascist arguments... you know Toby, I WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED if the fascists had NO argument that was valid.. That would be a rather good example of OUR totalitarian bias on the question...