Friday, 2 September 2011

Short History of Nothing

 History really starts with language and painting. Language provides the common ground for compromises and communication. Sharing was already done materially, but it could not be organized in time. The point of painting is that it provides lasting symbolism. With lasting symbolism set within a ground of compromises we can see slowly the 'real' disappearing. The real is here defined as the organic existence of one human, his tribe and nature. It is the present, but language has introduced the possibilities, hence the future, and painting has introduced the past. At this point did the present and everything that goes with it started it slow death. Here in time, at the end of prehistory, we can find the beginning of a super-structure, the ideologies of humanity, set in rituals explained by language and pictorial representation of the ideas.

 The second changing process of humanity has been the settlement. Settlement was consequentially the creation of an order different than our primate order, though we did not see the eradication of primate power-relations, we saw growing a different orders in parallel defined by possession, not affected by the physical appearance of the person. Agrarian modes of production meant that there was no need anymore, needs used to be the foundation for the daily problematic of survival. It was not an entirely prosper society as nature would always have its way to annoy humanity, but it was not either a period where someone would tell someone else to do their own job. Everybody had something to do.

  In parallel with the development of agrarian society still existed hunters-gatherers societies that would help the legitimization of stronger and bigger countries. The Chinese empire could not exist if it was not for the Mongolian invasions. Same goes for the Greeks cities and the roman empire. No empire existed without its counter nomads society, liberty grew in parallel with necessity. With the prosperity of agrarian societies, humanity also saw its rate of survival rising, meaning a rise in population, then a human surplus that meant that all societies would find the need to expand.

 Consequentially, surplus of production appeared. Surplus of production is an unintended consequence of our life-style that we have not really managed to control. We produce more than what we need, meaning a few things. First of all, it legitimizes not working for some. Secondly, it legitimizes exchange and gives a new form of power to the one who owes more of what is less, or harder to produce. Necessity of the product disappeared behind the rarity of the product.

  As any form of power needs language to save itself as well as material power, super-structure really developed with production surplus. The symbolic legitimization too different forms through time and the most famous one is probably religion. The questions of religious rules and how it legitimizes power are different from region to region, but some are possible to be generalized. Religion created a notion of group beyond the one of the family. Something important as in-group/out-group generalizations would expand in their complexity in time. It could be said that you could include someone in your group or not through language but important language did spread at some point of the other. Religion was rarely something taken for the sake of communication. Religion grew in most civilizations as a leverage to power. It was a branch of power that would try to control abuses of power, when it was not abusing of its power itself.

Religion has managed also to legitimize the present, through its interpretations on institutional scales. Religious messages were not always messages of conservation of the present order, but most of the time were. It might have been the revolution of Christianity if it would not have been institutionalize by Constantin. Of course, there is no difference between philosophies and religions except the question of institutionalization and the degree of adoption by populations.

Largely adopted philosophies or religion were also the way to show dissent to the order of power at a given time. They were always based on a shared belief asked to be the new traditions, though most of the time not yet transformed into cyclic rituals. Rituals are the transformation of the belief into mechanic repetition as a reminder of the foundation of the believes.

Believes, as zeitgeist, are understood in history through art and changes in art forms. The obvious example of an early change in art form demonstrating a change in belief is the art under Akhenaten. As much as art is nowadays considered independent from any religion, belief or philosophies, it is just the proof of the diversity of believes in the masses legitimizing the incapacity for change. As such, we can observe that as much as social movements in the twentieth century appeared to be important and changed slightly society, they never had the expected impact, if any impact at all. The civil right movement was just the process of introducing already established social norms from the north of the United States to the south, the sixties did not create the expected society.

Print created the change in taste and the spread of different philosophies. Taste is an important factor as it is linked to art's form. Reading is though an activity that requires times, and writing even more so. It is the only place where the worlds of possibilities fight each other to represents the truths and future truths of the world. ( nothing is false as we understand it, but only not true in our world at a given time). It has though been hard to understand the effect of reading unto our world, and fortunately, the Lumière Brothers and Edison appeared and got championed to develop their inventions as they lead to television, cinema and radio: ways to distract like reading can but without training our capacity for attention ( hence making our brain more flexible to new ideas).

As taste got widespread, ideas conflicted, we managed to spread ideas further and came our capacity to keep big accounts, create big economies and industrialization made its way. The most important factor for industrialization was the development of cities. Cities represented the destruction of local cultures, myths, stories and musics. It imposed a top down approached to art ( and art is the form of the ideology of a moment) so was destroyed anything local that was brought and only the owner of shops who had history within the town got to make the rules of the city. ( the first cities in the renaissance and middle-age where the first places that fought off feudalism through signed charters).

They were the places where only shops existed and consumption as a sign of a well-lived life became the way to live for everybody. It was not directly a need for industrialization, it was a consequence of the expansions of cities. New traditions were consumption and as such taste became the tool of domination. Attention, private taste was different from exposed taste. As such, the high-class maintained tastes for old music when any new money tried to impose its style which was since always changed. Taste became an ephemeral tool of domination as if you 
dress like yesterday, or tomorrow for that matter, you still do not dress right.

Of course, upcoming bourgeoisies tend to always think that slow change is for the best and always believe that they are good to everybody. This has been the form
of 'liberalism' since 18th century. It maintains though the need for conformity, and this can be seen through the use of badly drawn humor making fun of anything out of fashion. This desperate need for conformity actually reflects every position of insecurity, as you can see in every countries in a conflict people tend to be more conservative you can see that most of the newly bourgeois get scared of their conception of the ridicule.

 As taste has its constant war, humour starts to be a shared space. This is why we can see that the most successful forum on the internet is 4chan, as it is the place where everybody exchanges their funny pictures. No content is needed, except a demand for freedom to make fun of everything without any necessity. It is of course the strange foundation for a new belief, something for the future where knowledge economy ( the jokingly given name to our 'service-based economy' - as service use to be something helpful and given, and the only knowledge needed is to know how to present oneself). This subject requires quite an extended skill in social forecasting....

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