I am currently reading Naomi Klein’s No is not enough, and, thanks to her brilliant exposition, I’ve finally understood why some apparently intelligent, powerful people persist, at least in public, in denying what we/they are doing to the planet and carry on acting in ways that exacerbate the crisis. I now realise that it isn’t that they are too blinkered or isolated to see what is happening or that they believe their wealth will protect them from the unfortunate (but unavoidable because the neoliberal show must go on) effects of disrupting ecosystems and society. It’s that they welcome the coming crises because they are set to profit from them. Wars and catastrophes are just business opportunities if you are in the right line of work. And social disruption just frees up the 1% from the irritating hindrances of democracy, regulation and all that.
I’m hoping the last part of the book will give me more reason for optimism.
Here’s a snippet.
Yesterday evening some of us turned off the lights to mark Earth Hour. To briefly, symbolically, pay attention to the harm we are doing every day by the way we live on the planet. A feeble gesture no doubt. Can a drip, drip of small individual acts eventually add up to a system change? Probably not. But system change is what is needed and sooner than eventually…
Drawn during Earth Hour by candlelight.
The songs of some birds belong to their species, inherited, shared. The wood pigeons sing the same five-note phrase today as their long-gone cousins did when I was on my way to school. The yellowhammer still tweets its nursery rhyme: ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’. The buzzards still shed their thin calls from thermal heights, like dropped needles. We know them by their calls as much as by their flight or feathers, more perhaps, like the small birds in the hedge which are heard and not seen.
How strange … What mechanisms lead them to utter only those shared songs? What constrains their muscles and their breath to such specific performances? A shape of the larynx or a pattern in the brain?
We, on the other hand, proud individuals, each produce our own assemblages of sound, in different tongues and tones. What would it be like if every time you opened your mouth to speak the same thing came out? And even more strange, if the same thing came out of every other human mouth too. Every utterance as unmodulated as the noises off emitted by our guts, as unvarying as the chime of a bell. Would we find ways to express our separate selves – by timing perhaps, a Morse code of calls?
But maybe the apparent sameness of some birds’ calls is only a symptom of our unsubtle hearing. Maybe every pigeon’s coo is as finely crafted and as variable to their ears as are our infinitely productive tongues.
Or perhaps, to those single-tongued creatures, our constantly inconstant speech sounds like a Babel, a cacophony, the chaotic clamour of a flock of lost souls, flailing and flapping with a thesaurus, who have forgotten, or never found, their ur-syllable, their logos, their essential, final, perfect word.
They are cutting down trees again, not here, but in another village on the way home from town. I saw the tractor with its trailer-load of amputated trunks; it was waiting to join the traffic on the main road at that junction where you always have to wait a very long time.
Someone must have thought that scruffy scrap of woodland would be better bare and treeless; that tangle of trees, mirrored in an obscure pool, would be better ‘developed’ into housing to meet the need for more rungs on the property ladder.
Will the houses they build stand around that pool too, looking into its dark stillness? Or will it be filled up with who knows what? It’s deep, they say. How much debris will it hold? And where will all that black water go instead? Not to mention all the previous residents of wood and pool. (That’s apophasis, by the way – a rhetorical term I learnt today, for talking about something by saying you won’t talk about it, or a theological one for speaking of what can’t be spoken of.)
But the market gets what the market wants, and never mind those costs that can’t be written in a ledger or summed up in a spreadsheet.
The ineffable can eff off, as long as there’s profit to be made.
(Pictures like this are called black and white but they are really many shades of grey.)List of terms:
Colonists Crusaders Discoverers Displaced persons Emigrants Expats Explorers Foreigners Frontiersmen Illegals Immigrants Invaders Migrants Missionaries Nomads Pioneers Refugees Settlers Thieves Tourists Travellers …
Who makes the labels? Us or them?
I’ve been playing with my phone’s drawing app again. Also using up a free trial on Netflix, where I found a film about Giacometti, Final Portrait. It felt like a visit to his studio.
I assume some of the dialogue was authentic:
‘a portrait is never finished…’
‘to paint you how I see you is impossible…’
Not cheery, but inspiring.
Hence, this drawing.
(I have also ventured on to Instagram. I knew getting a smartphone would be dangerous.)
Note to self, on rubbing out:
As a child, you want to rub it all out ‘cos it’s all wrong! Start again from scratch or screw it up and throw it away in a fit of temper.
Later, when drawing from life, you think: don’t rub everything out; the ‘wrongness’ can only be in the relationships between marks, so you need to choose which of them to adjust. And don’t rub out before you have corrected the error, because it is a marker to work from. If you take it away you may just repeat the error, i. e. redraw the line in the same place.
Ideally, you think, never rub anything out – each mark should be a considered mark of observation worth keeping (this is a vain pose).
Then (lastly?) you recognise that the eraser is a positive tool – creating light, adjusting a line, balancing tone, making more precise etc. Taking away can be just as creative and selective and considered as adding a mark (this would be obvious if you started from the position of a carver).
And singular precision of line (as opposed to multiple exploratory wanderings) can also be worth pursuing. It’s all a matter of choice and awareness, of not automatically following a knee jerk reaction but being able to recognise that reaction and choose whether to go with it or not.