My secret black economy is collapsing since your white words have not arrived yet. (I left the road behind and walked by the stream). A Freudian self-centred view, a stage in the process of development for Melanie Klein.
…as some of my friends call it, or ‘Unity Day’ if you prefer its official name, is an annual event taking place in Hyde Park, Leeds. According to the organisers’ website, it is “a day of celebration for the local community to show the best of whom we are. The community had lost a local Pub, the ‘Newlands’ through riots in 1995, which attracted intense national media coverage and this led to a negative portrayal of the area which we as a community had to come to terms with ourselves. Hyde Park Unity Day is an association of individuals who give their time and talents freely to create a day celebrating our area and our diversity.”
We know all about terror in the West. It is imprinted well deep in our bones and histories.
We have inflicted it to all the ‘new’ lands, to the people we named Indians, all around the African coasts with their free slaves. We instilled it all the way down to our own soul and our own populations; then we re-discovered it in the external enemy.
Couple of months ago a friend asked me, what is culture?
Few days later on, he offered a cold beer and asked me again. I hesitated to reply both times. I think that he was wondering about those early humans in caves drawing hunting scenes on the walls. Of course, I thought, this was culture. All systems of ideas and practices; all different beliefs and norms are culture(s), like any school text writes… Now, however, if someone attempts to make distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, as if some type of culture is not really culture, things start to look tricky. But honestly, this distinction is no more than a cultural imposition itself. Incidentally, but not surprisingly, one kind of distinction which is traditionally loved by both conservative and left speakers…
Culture is nevertheless relational. I wanted to point out this. It makes sense in relation to something else and other… thus, we may need to talk about cultures rather than culture… But then I forgot all about his question, lost – as usually – in the multiple threads starting out of another little and ‘simple’ question… I am simply not sure what culture is…
Only recently, I came across a published editorial by Ivan Mecl, which made me think about it again and which I want to share here. It was published in the latest issue of Umelec, an international art and culture magazine (English version, Vol. 12, 1-2008, published by Divus.cz)
All photographs accompanying this article are taken during one of my recent ‘cultural’ trips to London.
“We work like old people, yet we behave like children more than ever before. We surround ourselves with mobile miracles, and therefore we have no idea what we are dealing with. We try to live in safety, and yet we do not know what it means to be safe. Many of us have lost time, but acquired “things.” We love “things” and their names sound nice to us. We love them, but they do not love us. We are impressed by their being changed, and unhappy by their loss. We are unhappy and with no time to spare from unrequited love, and always on the move.”
A photograph of a fork by Andre Kertesz (Paris, 1928). A fork and a plate are transformed, from two simple and overlooked items of everyday life into a new reality – a mysterious experience, a formal poetry.
An image that easily captures attention and stays long in memory. Maybe because we didn’t expect such a performance from the mundane and the taken for granted around us. Kertesz has masterly simplified here into an abstraction that take us by surprise. Maybe because we sense – reluctantly – that the fork hides so much about us. Things which reflect forms of social life and ways of individual self-discipline, entailed in the development of modern manners.
“My wife remembers vividly her first encounter with Norbert in Cambridge when he talked about the history of the fork and used this simple clue to analyse the process of civilization” wrote A. Glucksmann in an introduction to Norbert Elias’s work.
A news photograph of F.D. Roosevelt, circulated in 1928, four years before he was first elected as a president, shows a well-dressed man in a confident posture. It is visually demonstrating his ‘good standing’ to the electorate. But otherwise, it could easily pass as an unremarkable photograph among many other official photos of politicians. ‘Candidate with a cane’ could be the generic title as Sally Stein remarks in a recent article (2006).
But on closer inspection, the viewer might discover a well hidden second cane which provides support to Roosevelt’s impaired body. Since 1922, he was not able to stand or walk without external form of help.
There is one video – linked in my last post – that keeps coming back in my mind. I am talking about that tv clip showing how the sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro got attacked by a representative of a religious group, who in the name of their version of Catholicism and rigid moral order, launched a series of bullying tactics and threatening acts against everyone associated with Cavallaro’s work: a statue of Jesus made by chocolate.
The scandalous point for that religious group was not its chocolate nature of course. It was its anatomically correct representation.
I’m glad that Cosimo Cavallaro has eloquently exposed the morally and conceptually empty stance of his attacker during the TV interview. Yet, if the latter believes that this is “one of the worst assaults against Christian sensibilities ever”, (as reported in the news), an assumption which he then conveniently uses as a pretext in order to justify a wave of violent reactions; should we overlook with disdain his behaviour for obviously manipulating reality and ends, or start worrying about the state of our political thought and the undermined role of art?
I am wondering how to perceive this whole incidence. For example, as evidence of some remaining parochial figures which keep providing a source of identification for easily-led authoritarian personalities? Or, given their apparent capacity to terrorise, to threaten with violence or enforce economic boycotts, is this evidence of the continuing political power and effectiveness of extreme right-wing groups and their discourses?
For many, this represents a kind of anachronism within modern society. Certainly, an example of its current contradictions. Many sociologists, such as Giddens, have viewed these groups in terms of modern fundamentalisms. They try to defend tradition but in such a rigid way that they refuse public dialogue and examination of their ‘truths’. Nevertheless, as it is asserted, we live in times and places where truths have to be decided. Consequently, these fundamentalist movements, following religious, national or other traditional discourses, could often lead to violence, as in our example here.
Violence is in the air, no doubt about it. Although, I would say that this violence arises, not only from the non-dialogic position of such traditional groups (of religion, nation, sexuality, gender, etc), but also from the emotion-based and non-rationally understood reactions of the threatened individuals which comprise them. (In other words, their intolerance might not be responsive to rational approaches, and it seems to me this is the case here too).
Now, whether these individuals of fundamentalist groups face real or actually imaginary threats to their beliefs and identities, which they seem capable to push them into insular and defensive positions, could be the next big question. In other words, is there really any threat to Christian religion by a chocolate statue made of the anatomically correct features? Or, some groups and individuals use such instances as a pretext to cover up their psychological inability to face bigger destabilising questions and their social difficulty to coexist with others in a democratic society? I leave it to everyone to think about it, whether being one of those individuals or not.