“The plight of elderhood is one of the human echoes of the ecological dilemma.
If elderhood is an identity and swept up with all the other identity clamor of our time then what you’d go about doing is looking for people with that quote personality type or that kind of wrinkle.
I’m gonna suggest to you that elderhood is not a figment of personality. It’s not an aspect of identity. It has nothing to do with the particular qualities of individuals.
Elderhood is first, foremost, and will always be a cultural function and in that understanding an elder is a culture worker and as such not inherently inevitably or mandatorily an old person.
Having said that I’ll acknowledge something that it would appear to me to be a truism that while all elders tend to be older not all older people are elders and so there’s something that works in that arrangement.
This means elders themselves must be on the steep learning curve and they must be deep running students of their times and their responsiveness to their times is what qualifies them. So the word response ability really works here.
You know it’s not a sense of burden the way people usually use the word, the sense of responsibility means simply the capacity to respond maybe to distinguish that from react. Maybe react, we could use that word to describe certain responses you have that attempt to satisfy you or assuage you or reassure you, whereas the capacity to respond might have nothing to do with you trying to feel better about anything – it might have to do with your sense of a kind of moral political cultural spiritual obligation to fully inhabit the conditions of citizenship if you will. But your citizenry is not to a particular geopolitical identity. Your deep citizenship is a devotional one, not an affiliation one and in in that sense you know the work that you join yourself to is dictated by your times’ troubles, and that’s what you’re a citizen of – you’re a citizen of a troubled time not Canada or the United States, or any other you know freewheeling entity today.
So if that’s possible then it means that elders are not in the business of getting themselves recognized, they’re in the business of recognizing. So you could say in a time when elderhood has gone into terrible abeyance, which is certainly our time now, then it becomes the eldering responsibilities of elders to function at the level of recognizing incipient elderhood in their midst and proceeding accordingly by acknowledging it, recognizing it, corroborating it, living as if it’s true, authorizing it without ever trying to be included in it or to benefit directly from it. You follow what I’m saying, okay? It’s a radical reading of what it means to be an elder and it’s not a club you get to join. It’s the ending of all clubs in a time like ours that no elder in a time like this, if I may sound programmatic about it, no elder at a time like this would ever call themselves an elder ever okay? Why not? Because this is the responsibility of the people around them – to recognize elderhood in their midst, to corroborate it and everything I just said. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s because there’s no elders to do so and because the appetite for elderhood has gone missing in the way we talked earlier about if kids or young people are not exposed to it then their appetite for it begins to atrophy and they trade it in for self-reliance or for a kind of principled anxiety that masquerades as having a conscience but it’s more at the level of just a chronic free-floating anxiety where you care about everything but only enough to paralyze you or to animate you with extraordinary levels of kind of sulfuric anger, an incandescent rage that doesn’t know how to proceed. This kind of thing, which is a kind of narcissism frankly.
So this is an awful lot to say in response to a short question but if at the risk of sounding like I’m giving a a formula of how to pull this off. I would simply say in a time like ours now, it might be the fundamental responsibility of people who may yet come to inhabit the elder function, that they must do so minus acknowledgement, minus recognition. And the way they do it is by corroborating the presence of elders around them. So a very quick way of saying it, it would come down to this – the greater elderhood skill now is the skill of having, of knowing how to have elders in your midst. It is not the skill of knowing how to be one.”
“In a 2010 essay published on Adbusters, Hedges caught the eye of filmmaker Amanda Zackem, when he succinctly spelled out the problems with totalitarian capitalism and corporate power. Those ideas deeply resonated with Zackem and caused her to reach out to Hedges about bringing his essay into the cinematic realm in order to expose them to a larger audience.”
““American Psychosis” serves as a vital entry point to critically observing, thinking, and acting on the imbalances one sees in society. “I learned long ago that you can’t change anybody unless they want to change themselves. With this in mind, my intention when making this film was to encourage people to begin to think critically about the world we live in as opposed to just going through our daily motions. Most of us aren’t even aware of the oppressive, inequitable systems we are a part of, or if we are, we choose not to look, or not to talk about it, because it is uncomfortable. I want people to question the world we live in, the systems we’ve set up.”
“The United States is a very strange place when you really think about it. We celebrate freedom and yet we live in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. We have tons of money, but people go bankrupt and/or die because they can’t afford healthcare. We have an abundance of food, much of which ends up in the trash, yet so many children and families are going hungry. Our education system is a mess. Teachers aren’t paid properly, nor do they have enough funding or resources to do their job. Our universities are putting our youth into massive debt. Women are still not paid as much as men; the list goes on and on. And yet in the United States productivity has never been higher but average wages have been virtually stagnant since the 1970’s. Corporations pay hardly any taxes and hide their money abroad and our governmental system somehow allows this to continue? All of this, as Chris highlights, is totally insane.”
“The humanities in the United States have been getting beaten down for a while now. The digital age has created impatience and dissolution of substance. We live in the land of fast paced, pop culture. Everything is created to sell to the consumer who at best has to somehow sift through layers of corporate manipulation in search of inner truth, or at worst doesn’t even recognize or question their actions in the world. Our current culture leaves no time for emotional processing or reflection, instead we simply move on to the next headline or viral video. We live in a culture of distraction.”
“The humanities reason for existence is to stimulate critical thought. Once critical thought is replaced by overt and subliminal consumer messaging there are no more humanities, and even more sadly, we begin to lose our own humanity.”
“If they have not yet been outright defunded or cast aside in place of more “productive” STEM initiatives, many pursuits of the humanities have themselves been co-opted by market forces. Pieces of art sell for many millions of dollars at auctions as they’re not valued for their cultural impact and aesthetic beauty, but rather, as an investment opportunity sure to yield high gains.”
“An inspired collaboration between filmmakers Peter Mettler (The End of Time) and Emma Davie (I Am Breathing) and radical writer and philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous), Becoming Animal is an urgent and immersive audiovisual quest, forging a path into the places where humans and animals meet, where we pique our senses to witness the so-called natural world—which in turn witnesses us, prompting us to reflect on the very essence of what it means to inhabit our animal bodies.”
Excerpts from an interview with the filmmakers,
“David’s writing is very poetic and descriptive, but in the cinema it is the images and sounds that do most of the work.”
…we describe “nature” as something fundamentally apart from ourselves. This is a central paradox that we were always aware of and engaged with throughout the process of making Becoming Animal. Although the film is partially about our urge to exist beyond our limited notion of self and other – to claim a more expanded sense of being that connects us sensorially to everything – there is also an additional aspect that even to think this realization is to already be one step removed from the immediacy of experience. So the perennial question of how the mind both liberates and limits is also present, and film, with its endless hall of mirrors, can reflect this. We hope the film exists in a space in which the cumulative effect of David’s ideas, woven into a cinematic journey, will start to create new links in the minds of the audience, resonating with their own deep questions about these themes.”
“It is a paradox to make a film about our senses and the connection to our surroundings, while also addressing how these technologies have changed our relationships to our surroundings. But that is exactly what we wanted to embrace, so that as one watches the film there is an awareness of the mediated nature of the experience of cinema itself. This is why at times you will hear the rustling, breathing animal (Peter) that holds the camera as he makes his way through the brush, and why you see the crew, cameras, and David – our “guide” – intermittently throughout. This layer provides a way to better understand what we are all going through, whether as filmmakers, tourists, or as a cultural audience.”
“We hope that the film addresses in some way what we have been calling a crisis of perception, exemplified by the fact that while our culture possesses more tools and knowledge than ever before, our understanding and awareness of the world remains quite limited. It seems that, in looking into the root of our problems, it’s also important to address how we actually see.”
“Empathy, awareness and reciprocity are qualities we hope Becoming Animal may evoke, to better understand our position as living beings in a living world.”
“While persons brought up within literate culture often speak about the natural world, indigenous, oral peoples sometimes speak directly to that world, acknowledging certain animals, plants, and even landforms as expressive subjects with whom they might find themselves in conversation.”
“Today we have an Easter treat for you: a new episode of The Hedge School Podcast. In this episode, Hedge School founder Dr Sharon Blackie interviews teacher and creator of the Orphan Wisdom School, Stephen Jenkinson (https://orphanwisdom.com/). The conversation is focused on what it is to be an elder in today’s world…”
Reposting this podcast of a conversation between two people I greatly admire, this serves as a reminder that there is great and urgent work still to be done. Both Sharon Blackie and Stephen Jenkinson bring a unique perspective to what the western world lacks in terms of a mythological connection to the land as well as a truly mature human outlook on the predicament of the contemporary catastrophe we find ourselves in.
Here is an excerpt from Jenkinson’s forthcoming book, ‘Come of Age’
“It used to be that age was held in some esteem, considerable esteem even, as the concentration of life experience. Life experience and its many lessons were once the fundament of personal and cultural wisdom. It stands to reason, then, that with this many old people around we should be awash in the authentic, time-tested, grey wisdom that should emanate from them. And there should be cultural initiatives that expose the general population to this wisdom. And this should deepen this culture’s sanity and capacity for sustainable decision making. And that should make us all ancestors worth claiming by a future time, now that we’ve come to our elder-prompted senses and begun to proceed as if unborn future generations deserve to drink the distillate of our wisdom and our sustainable example. At the very least, the distillate of aged wisdom should balance the burden and the books, and old people should have worth as they once might have done, and the culture should break even on the deal. You’d think that this is an inevitable result of an aging population in a civilized place. We should be smarter, deeper, wiser. Especially wiser.
Well, here’s what is becoming glaringly obvious: there is nothing inherently ennobling about aging. Nothing. There’s no sign that anything lends old people steadiness or wisdom or magic from on high or from down below, just because they get old. If we don’t train young people and middle aged people in elder hood we will have no elderhood. There is no such training.
It isn’t any longer a matter of inviting elders, those of them left, back into the fold. They aren’t out there , waiting on our invitation. They aren’t out there. Elders are a sentinel species for humanness, and like other forms of life in our corner of the world they’ve mysteriously gone missing. Young people are, often involuntarily, looking for them, and they can’t find them. How about this: old people are looking for them too. The retreat centres attest to it. If you’re looking for signs of the end times, that alone might do.
I am making the case for elderhood, not for easy agedness. I’m doing so mostly by wondering what happened. Because something happened. Something happened to ancestors and elders and honour. There’s work to be done, and there’s an old wisdom to be learned where there used to be the wisdom of old, and you can’t fix what you don’t understand. That’s where we’re headed: to grievous wisdom. Let us see if we can bear the sound, the particular sound, of no hand clapping.
This is a plea and a plot for elders in training.”
‘Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble’ should be available beginning in July of 2018.
Charlotte Du Cann, writing for The Dark Mountain blog, attempts to put the recent events of 2016 into a wider and deeper perspective. Here is a short excerpt. The entire post can be found here.
“In 2016 a lot of those ’90s words like transformation and chaos became a way to look at the string of political events that had crashed the world views of the privileged. The shadow had reeled into the open. Nigredo is the first stage of alchemy, bringing to light the dark materia that needs to be transformed. The nigredo is a scary moment. You have to know how to negotiate it. When the hidden rage of millions is unleashed – generations of people humiliated, derided, told they are worthless and have no future – you have to hold fast to your humanity. Here be dragons. You can’t be righteous and float above this scary territory, because that fury is in you and me. No-one in the system escapes its hostility. You can refuse to carry the shadow of your culture, only if you have dealt with it yourself, only if you are not still blaming mummy and daddy and your first boyfriend and that prick in HR who doesn’t recognise your true value. Only the system wins in the system.
Nigredo is all about the reveal. When the US election result is announced it feels less scary than 2008 when everyone was whooping with joy and hope about the future. Trump entered stage right, the pantomime villain, the bad cop, to loud hisses from the gallery, but the exiting good cop with his suave saviour style had been less easy to discern. However, as the Glasshouse reminds us, all cops are cops when it comes to ‘full spectrum dominance’. The Empire is the Empire whatever country you now live in. We are all Romans and all slaves.
This alchemical moment has nothing to do with social justice, or environmentalism or any of the grassrootsy stuff I have found myself advocating during last decade. There are initiatives and networks around the world focusing on these worthy things, but none of this transforms anything if we are the same people inside, if we haven’t dealt with our stuff – as we used to say in the ’90s – if we haven’t uncivilised ourselves, made contact with the layers of dead under our feet, in the sky, in the rivers. If we haven’t stood with the Lakota, or with the yew trees, with the rainbow serpent, with the glacier, with the tawny owl. If we haven’t found a way to dismantle the belief systems that keep us trapped in the cycles of history, if we haven’t dealt with our insatiable desire for power and attention and found ways to live more lightly on the planet, we are not going to make it through this stage.”
WE LIVE IN A STRANGE WORLD
OF DREAMS WIRES AND LIES
IT WAS BUILT TO PROTECT US
AND KEEP EVERYTHING STABLE
BUT NOW WE DO NOT KNOW
WHAT IS TRUE OR WHAT IS FALSE
WE HAVE BECOME LOST IN A FAKE WORLD
AND CANNOT SEE THE REALITY OUTSIDE
Adam Curtis has released a new documentary, HyperNormalisation. This is how he describes its basic premise –
We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do.
This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening – but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.
It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.
In an interview promoting the release of his new film, he discusses how the idea of ‘self expression’ especially radical self expression feeds into the illusion of bringing about change while in fact it only perpetuates the status quo as it becomes an empty symbolic perhaps beautiful yet powerless gesture to bring about change.
“I think one of the most fascinating giant shifts that’s happened in recent history started in the late 1960’s and really took off in the 70’s which was the rise of a sort of powerful individualism, a feeling throughout western society… that I as an individual [am] the most important thing and what I feel, what I want is the most truthful authentic and right thing. And the idea that you should be told what to do by politicians, by those in power over you is wrong. Its inauthentic … [and] that you should be true to yourself.
That became a very powerful thing … It was good in many ways. It liberated people and stopped us from being told what to do by corrupt elites … But it had a very strange effect on politics … If you’ve got a society of millions of individuals who all have their own desires, their own truth, their own idea of what is true then it is very difficult to craft a collective movement together … If you then get individualism rising up what you don’t want to do is give yourself up to [a commitment of] years, to a movement that you subsume yourself into. You want to express yourself. And why I think Patti Smith is interesting is that she is one of the first people you see making a shift from the idea that radicalism is giving yourself up to a group and becoming a part of something bigger to an idea that no, to be radical is to be a self expressive individual and the way to do it is through art. And what you can use art for is as an imaginative expression of your radicalism …
[The question is] How much power [do] you have as a radical expressive artist?
What was happening was that modern consumer capitalism was looking at this ‘me’ generation and these individuals and going, ‘We can help you express yourself’ and suddenly instead of giving you the same car, the same coat, the same clothes, you can have a whole range of different ones so that you can all be self expressive in your different ways. And there is an argument that … modern consumerism was rescued by the ‘me’ generation because it suddenly allowed you to sell lots and lots of different things to lots of different people who wanted to express themselves in different ways. Which means that the idea of self expression becomes absolutely central to the power of modern capitalism … So then if you have a radical art which is based on the idea of self expression … then however radical your message is and however powerful what you are saying is, the fact that you are doing it through self expression means that actually what you are doing is feeding the underlying ideology of modern consumer capitalism because it depends on the whole idea of you as a self expressive individual.”
According to Curtis, radical gestures are just that – gestures, and are absorbed into the dominant culture and are even, along with some movements, manipulated and in some cases created by powerful behind the scene forces so that the question of what is true or false has no clear answer. This is one of the dilemmas of living in a Hypernormal world. That we are being manipulated and are buying into the manipulation ourselves is just one aspect of the challenges we face at the end of an era. It remains to be seen how to break out of this illusion and see the world for what it really is. Perhaps as the film suggests it is not how we break out of the illusion but that reality will literally come smashing in. It already has begun to do so.
Please see his new film embedded below.
October 30, 2016 | Categories: artists, music, politics, social criticism | Tags: 911, Adam Curtis, America, Arab Spring, art and artifice, Assad, authenticity, Brexit, capitalism, consumer capitalism, cyberspace, documentary, Donald Trump, facebook, Henry Kissinger, Hezbollah, HyperNormalisation, Intelligent agents, Iraq, Israel, John Perry Barlow, Khomeini, Lebanon, Libya, me generation, Muammar Gaddafi, occupy, Palestinians, politics, Putin, Ronald Reagan, self expression, social media, Soviet Union, Suicide bombers, surveillance, Syria, terrorism, Timothy Leary, UFO | 3 Comments