Approximately a year ago I was invited to present the outcome of my honours dissertation at a conference down in Wellington. For whatever reason (shyness?) I managed to write a number of posts summarising the conference but never published my own talk. It feels like a lot has changed since then – National crushed a divided left and John charges on, ponytail pulling and apology wine aside – but the need for a point of unity remains as strong as ever. It’s my own position that a new flag won’t cut it, so here’s another suggestion: The Aotearoa Sustainability Charter – I’d love to hear your feedback.
“The brushwood we gather – stack it together, it makes a hut; pull it apart, a field once more. Such is our way of thinking – we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the pattern of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates…”
- Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows.
October 16th is Blog Action Day, an annual event designed to stimulate dialogue around a set issue. This year’s topic is inequality – which is now as high as it was in the Gilded Age. Food for thought? Here’s my go:
Imagine you are buying a fridge. It’s a tough decision: you don’t have much money, and there are lots of other things you’d like to spend it on… buut you do need a fridge. Food is important, right, and no-one wants to schlep to the shop every time they want cereal. So – which one to get?
It is a rare thing to be prescient of history as it happens: confronting, frightening even. No longer distinct from time or the decisions that shape our reality, we are forced to concede our agency. History, like all other culture, is a product of us. It doesn’t happen to people; it is something people make happen – and in this is incredible power. Our power.
The worm is turning. The revelations over the last few days feel like a crescendo, the crystallisation of what many of us have felt, but been unable to articulate. The centre cannot hold. We have grown too removed, our existence too precarious for the house of cards to maintain its shape. There is disturbance; collapse beckons. Not a Hollywood implosion, but a slower, more insidious decay… social unrest, unravelling lies; climate change, energy scarcity and a weakening centralised infrastructure. How tight the fingers that grip onto the last vestiges of power.
International sensation Humans of New York has spawned a number of imitators, including Humans of K Road here in Auckland. Chris, who runs the blog in NZ, has recently started a similar project called Humans for the Future, trying to capture some of the positivity around change on the ground. He asked a number of people: what’s your vision for the future?
Here’s my answer.
“Our world is changing rapidly. I think we’ve collectively hit the point where we feel like something with the existing system isn’t working, and people are now actively looking for solutions. There is a push away from the homogenisation of centralised society: people want to be empowered to have a say in their future, and want to do so in a way that expresses them and their values, their culture. You can’t be sure exactly what the future will look like, but you get a sense of its flavour: more collaborative, more equal, and more local – with the reduced impact and increased time for leisure and relationship building that this provides. It’s an exciting time.”
“The reigning economic system is a vicious cycle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender “lonely crowds.” With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions.”
– Guy Debord (1967), The Society of the Spectacle
Last Wednesday I attended the second in a series of three lectures by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, the authors of The Spirit Level, hosted at the University of Auckland as part of the annual Sir Robert Douglas lecture series.
For those that haven’t read The Spirit Level, its central thesis is very simple. As income disparity increases, so do a wide range of health and social problems: violence, suicide, child abuse, obesity, depression – the list of negative outcomes associated with the degree of economic inequality is staggering, and as the lecture on Wednesday established, far more than just conjecture. Continue reading