Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Manufacturing a criterion of judgement

Almost anyone who has viewed images such as those, for example, presented by Edward Burtynsky would probably feel a high degree of anxiety.  For surely, the implications behind the emergence of giant urban-industrial wastelands are staggering.  Nature has been "pronounced dead" and is "desacrilised".  Writer Theodore Roszak noted this observation 40 years ago in 1972.  

Roszak warned then that "as time goes on, the technocracy is bound to grow exquisitely adept at distracting protest and tranquilising anxiety.  He prophesied that "the bulk of our brainpower and governmental energy will one day be employed concocting cover stories, propagating ingenious alibis, and applying public relations" with a "vast mandarin establishment of professional obfuscators" "at the top of our society"[1].  

And so it passed.  
The vital questions of our time were kept from public perusal in a corporate/government media skilled up in the art of lying with (mostly) true assertions.

Half a century ago, one might ask, who in the world knew that climate change, global financial crises, resource depletion and peak oil were coming?  Well, plenty of people did! There were countless prophets of the historical horizon.  Individuals - isolated but ubiquitous - employed personal strategies to scale down, drop excess power and create a physically liveable and sustainable environment where they could.  Remnants of protected nature and human scale production are still evident.  They are hard to locate, being often well outside the down-to-earth and "tough-minded dollars-and-cents realism" of our towns and cities.

As the world entered a global food crisis earlier this decade it seems wise for one to be cautious when talking about life as being more than simply living by bread alone. It is apt, I believe, to point to a "wasteland of the spirit" in this "fully developed society" that Roszak so skilfully vilified some time ago:
"...dignity begins to mean something besides (though not instead of) a full stomach....and certainly something very different from equal access to an air-conditioned nightmare."
Last month in the Calder valley of Tasmania currants and berries were harvested. Figs will ripen in February, pears in April.  This small farming venture is incomplete and poorly co-ordinated.  Technical intelligence is not in evidence.  

Discontent led me to this place but I feel that my reality has expanded.  Perhaps there is an escape from an urban-industrial imperative. 


[1] Edward Burtynsky's 'Manufactured Landscapes' presentation 2012:

[1]  'Where the Wasteland Ends - Politics and Transcendence in Post Industrial Society' Theodore Roszak.  Faber and Faber 1972.  ISBN 0 571 10581 5

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