Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The depression cul-de-sac

              They want production to be limited to useful things but they forget that the
              production of too many useful things results in too many useless people - Marx

             Creators...infuse the colours and music of their souls into the structures of
             existence  - Tagore

We all know it’s depressing to live in a society that enshrines excess, expenditure and  material possession, where the ubiquitous lure of commodities  replaces the call to matins and vespers, and where ‘enough’ has almost lost all meaning. We know ‘progress’ just means more and more things and that consumerism derails a host of human qualities, a very important one being creativity.

But if we assign creativity only to artists whose work is enshrined in exhibition spaces or played out on stages, we’re missing the point.  All you have to do is observe a child at play to know that human beings are naturally creative, curious, intellectually playful, and complex. And seen through a Schumacher lens, the loss may lie in small acts of creativity which we seem to express less and less in our homes, in our daily lives; diminished creativity on an intimate level.

In short, we no longer make many things for our personal use. If you knit, crochet, sew, bake, make pottery or do carpentry these days you’re not someone simply going about your daily life and you're not like everybody else; you may even have a shop or a website, or are at least be contracted to a home industry. My readymade, about-to-break, soon-to-be-replaced item looks exactly like yours; the best I can do is put a spin on the selections I make. Less originating involvement in what we’re surrounded by and live with means fewer opportunities to imbue our lives with personal meaning and joy derived from the tactile engagement with handmade products.

Contrast the palpable joy felt by those who do attend classes like pottery, carpentry, decoupage, cooking. The point is, there’s little left for us to do in our homes: everything we eat, wear and use is a dollar away. Is it surprising that global depression levels are high? What satisfaction is there in being a consumer first and foremost, for a creature who is a maker of things? How do you derive self-worth from a cul-de-sac of  repetitive consumption?

I watched my grandmother  make, mend and cherish things. I learnt from her that we love what we labour for and labour for what we love. I understand that Marx’s loss of savoir-faire leads to  loss of   savoir-vivre.  Bronowski pins the ascent of man on the first handmade flint axes. We may be paying dearly for passive hands.


                                                           Source: Needlenthread


1 comment:

  1. From: "The philosophy of Andy Warhol: from A to B and back again" (p. 101 - I think):
    "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it."

    Make of that what you will.