Monday, 1 September 2008

We have always been Global

It’s happened: I knew it would happen, but what’s taken me by surprise is that it happened whilst I was watching and I didn’t see it happen. I pride myself on being aware, conscious of the flow of things in the world - it’s a lesson in itself that the need to define oneself as self-aware does not actually produce self-awareness - or world-awareness.

What’s happened is this: the connections across cultures have been made. If you were a Japanese you too would have heard a famous English tune, as Haruki Murakami speaks of the Beatles song in his novel “Norwegian Wood”.

I thought at the time, that this song, this reference was too specifically English to spread. Yes it was famous, yes it crossed barriers, yes it was popular - yes ‘the Brits were coming’ etc. So I imagined that we in the West, or in the dominion of the West, really would be familiar with the song - and not all of us would know it well either, just the cognoscenti.

Yet the notion of the ‘West’ has spread, even the ‘East’ is now the West, even though the governments of the East mistakenly believe they should preserve the notion of the East. The West as a notion carries certain meanings around politics and culture: the interests of the West for instance, energy, cheap clothes foodstuffs and so on - around culture as well - short skirts, a lax attitude to the culture of the country the notion resides in (where has the English folksong gone unless it as a notion can be harnessed to further extend the very idea of the West as in recent years) - and so on. But the ‘West’ and more specifically ‘The American Dream’ is the dream of the species for itself as it sheds the clothes of a former existence.

I don’t want to detour into the problems of America, or more the problems of the country that is the key exporter of the baser levels of the idea of the West, it is after all, simply the baton carrier after the UK, France, Spain, Holland and Portugal and to a far lesser extent Belgium, Switzerland and a few other countries, as the reins of empire were handed over after the second world war. The Japanese though coy at first took up European dress and ideas, as did Korea and now, massively, China, with its censored internet, itself a contradiction which will be the motive power for its own change, then there’s the rest of Asia, South America, India and so on - finally we are in a global village where unlike the global concept of the 60’s where small cultures exchanged cultural values, now the digital is in fact the currency of exchange as grinning children adopt faux Hollywood posses the world over to seem to themselves more than any other that they too are the heroes and heroines of their own lives.

The pictures and soundtracks they carry on their data sticks, pads, panels, wrist gadgets and pods are the motive soundtracks of their own lives displaced, so that they are themselves the audience for things-that-happen to them and the beat goes on trying to convince them that they are in fact the experience in a consumption pattern which itself denies the idea of the experiencer, for it in effect supplies a notion of an active consumer rather than experiencer.

All of us are now bi-directional, multi-directional in fact. We are polymaths going into the net and coming back like raiders who have a swag bag of assets as if they were un-cut jewels that we had to polish through using them with other raided assets: pictures, sounds, moving-images, whatever - next to each other in the form Herman Hesse described in his book The Glass Bead Game. By placing them next to each other we imagine we are creatively involving ourselves in the world by using the rotting bones of others creativity. Yet as we all say to each other, those of us truly engaged in creating work “nothing is new, it’s all been done before” and so on. Yet if we are true 'creatives' we don’t believe that stance as we say it, because the search for the new - the philosophers stone - is what drives us. The newly created is transformative of the one that is the vehicle for the manifestation of the new thing - that is what we are searching for - not a set of assets, old rags that can be bumped up against each other so that the seams and divisions are obscured in a blur so that the middle-adopters can’t tell the difference. They never could, they never will until humanity has gotten over placing itself anywhere along any kind of curve - bell, octagonal, straight line - or whatever.

As I grew up I was an early adopter and therefore amongst the leaders of the bell curve to take the new things up as they appeared, I didn’t need to be told things by others; I found them myself and swapped directions with the other explorers to the new incoming esoteric places within culture that validated my sense of self which hinged upon being different.

I remember later though being told by the middle adopters, those people in the very middle of the Bell curve about a music group who for me, by now, were old and tired. I remember the very same person had called me weird when I had tried to tell him about this very same music early on whilst in the early adopter phase. He mocked me and exposed me to his fellow latecomers and they mocked me too. This however is now the past. We are all early adopters now because the notion of the bell curve is now at least truncated, if not redundant.

Something appears and commodity fetishism is the dominant value to receive it: “In the Kingdom of Consumption the Consumer is King” (this is my paraphrase of a series of ideas outlined in 1967 by Guy De Board in the Society of the Spectacle and not forgetting in the same year Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday life - two texts that a friend of mine was raided for and arrested in the seventies - now the authorities celebrate this text as it is the bible of late capitalism, and not its critique - C’est la Guerre).

A few years ago, at the beginning of the new digital age everyone who had adopted a stance to the Net had a webpage and the page told the world, telematically, of the likes and dislikes of that person - ‘what I like, what I don’t like, what identifies me to you’ and asked the question, ‘are there others of you, like me, out there?’ But this was a simple extension of the late twentieth century self that had become porous, where it’s boundaries both external and internal were far further, yet far closer than they had been in previous centuries. Also these likes and dislikes were a simple collection of commodity values. “I like this group, this colour, this wallpaper. I decorate my soul in this way”. But what was that soul? Just another middle adopter with a taste derived from the commodities that make up the taste of the general mass of humanity? And even if you were an early or even a late adopter (and those were formed from a need to be different by not following the mass which in itself seems good if you look with an attitude formed by the criteria of the old paradigm - that to be a middle ranking soul was good, a high ranking soul even better, and a low ranking soul not good at all), even if you were one out of the ordinary, were you not also just a ragbag collection of details?

I’m railing here about the dominance of commodity fetishism, which seems so fluidly connected with the tsunami of innovation of wavelet digitality*.

Now though, whether you’re a young Turkish person going to a coca cola backed music and light festival in Istanbul which seeks to evoke the original festivals of the ‘West’, or a young Nicaraguan, or a Thai fisherman’s son you will be connected to the waves and pulses that pass through culture as they happen with a set of references that grow out of the Aquarian digital explosion of meaning of the sixties.

It happened back then and I was there all the time saying, “I wonder where it’s happening - I can’t find it”. The magic of course was that it’s always happening and never detectable by those present - except for the mad man and it wasn’t my place to be mad. A reading I had from a 5000-year-old ‘book’ told me that I was placed close to the centre of a vortex to observe. Should I become too involved the vortex would suck me in and I would become the vortex itself and therefore become unconscious - which in my world is the only crime. Well, not a crime, there are no crimes in a universe where there is no good or evil of course.

So what does it mean? It means that the human race is flourishing and growing out of its state where it’s emotion is too connected to mind - or rather, the evolutionary stage of needing cold-mind to be tempered by hot-emotions is passing with mind made a little more compassionate. And when we get over this stage we’ll all become creative beings because we’ll no longer be acquisitive of others ideas, thinking that if we possess them they’ll ennoble us, make us better in some way. The only thing that’ll do that of course is when we get over the desire or need to demonstrate to all the others that we have the right badge to join their club - to be looked up to because of what we have. The only determinant in the end is of course what we are - and - of course, unsurprisingly, we are all the same when we stop thinking of self and just become channels for the creative energies that surround us from our birth. The stuff that comes through is devoid of self, it just naturally ‘is’. I speak from the perspective of someone who is familiarising themselves with the creative act and the creative space one has to maintain to make the creative act.

But: more than two million years ago before the first migrations, when we still sat in our shaded and dusty places after first venturing from the tree canopy, with our nearby water, covered from the sun, defensible from wild animals that might see us as lunch, or other family groupings that might want something from us (for free) - as we sat around at that moment free from worry, free from labour, free from care, we might tell another person about something we’d seen or found. We might tell them of a place we had found that we might re-visit because its memory had stayed with us for some reason, yet we did not populate that dream ourselves. It had stayed with us dreamtime-like as a symbol of something that meant something more than the ordinary things around us, than the flints we used, the skins we tanned, the sex we had, the warm cuddles that protected us from the cold that surrounded us. This memory was the echo that would stay with us for two million years or more. It is the memory of the connection of the singular to the many; of the wholeness felt by the yogi as she enters a union with the only narrative we have, of flowing back to the one that we are derived from. I do not mean this spiritually; I mean this simply, logically, without sentiment. I mean this as a statement of fact, that we have always been global in thought and mind and soul - the very root of us as the one and the many at our root.

So in talking of an historical moment when the ‘digital’ might register as a significant moment, this somewhat misses the point. We are encouraging ourselves to become more self-reflective, more analytical, more conscious of what is happening as it is happening, so that the world we make is as good as it can be. But it is becoming apparent that simply to look does not mean that we shall see. As Heisenberg pointed out we might know something about a particle, but we may not know all about a particle. It is in the looking, in the condition of the act of looking that we create a tunnel through which to look - a telescope that isolates the thing that is looked at so that we may see it more clearly. ‘Clearly’ in the terms of a telescope means brighter and sharper because the form of ‘looking’ is of an optical nature.

So the form of the looking, the state of the enquirer, the state of mind, the values, the quotient for the sensibilities that the looker is composed of is the determining factor about what will eventually be seen at the end of the act of looking.

So it would seem that the concepts that underlie an idea, which precede it’s manifestation come long before the thing itself and that is what is almost impossible to note when they actually occur - at least in terms of the language that might be formulated later when due time has passed for the moment to ‘come into focus.

So by now I can see that the thing that I’ve been alertly looking for has happened and yes it took me by surprise: the connections across cultures have been made. The issue now is - what are those connections in their deepest form. They seem on the surface to this writer to be simply signs of a growing fetishisation - and in the previous paradigm to festishise was to displace, by simple definition. One was left with a purist reading which says: if you have the thing itself why would you have a symbol that same thing as having greater power than the thing itself? But then this idea comes from a world where authenticity was the dominant concept within the paradigm. But with the digital comes the telematic and the telematic of itself brings the necessity of the representative to conduct the actual business - in past ages did not the powerful potentate send his or her ambassador to affect treaties and conduct new business?

The Situationists held that 'In the Kingdom of Consumption the Consumer is King' and a contemporary reading of that might be: In the Age of Digitality the Avatar is king.

*Wavelet digitality is a phrase which seems apposite in its description of this phase of the advance of digital technology in that it is in my estimation the very thing that has superseded the old analogue paradigm that was being applied to early digital technologies vis a vis: Joseph Baptiste Fourier invented some maths, the Discrete Cosine Transform in 1800 which served us well until around 1990 but was damaging of data compression especially when applied to images, whereas Fourier’s 1807 invention, Wavelet Transforms was the very piece of mathematics more perfectly rendered around 1990 that intelligently’ dealt with data compression, but not only this it is far more efficient in that it’s internal Mathematical Algorithms respond to the data in a more sympathetic order and also with greater effect in terms of reducing the information that has to flow between the devices those that have entered into the world of the commodity fetishised require in their depicting of their own lives as a Hollywood story - to themselves and others. My only problem of glamorising a life is that you may no longer be attached to the authenticity of that life - though I do know there are pitfalls in having allegiance to this notion - it’s part of an older paradigm for a start - but authenticity seems to me to be necessary for an authentic unit to uphold. Mind you, we are all genetic copies so this may also be an outdated median to follow.