Friday, May 08, 2009

What are you thinking?

"what are you thinking?"...
The car zoomed down country lanes last sunday. I looked out of the window as a gated estate was flung behind us, a quick glance at an advert - 'new development exclusively for over-55's only!' - and thought how the self-imposed ghettoization of a group, in this case of a specific age group rather than an ethnic, religious or cultural group, while seemingly desirable at first glance, is actually more likely to foment more overarching cultural problems. for the subgroup in question, of course sticking together seems to be ideal - any given community that shares a relatively common set of ideals tends to be healthier and longer-lived, according to several statistical studies - yet this leads to the identification of any other given subgroup within society as a whole as 'the other', as Sinfield sublimely investigated in his exploration of Shakespeare's plays, following on from other studies. In other words, these putative 55+ - year-olds would typify anyone below the age of twenty as aggressive little thugs, and the same under-20s would typify them as doddery old fools, feebly waving sticks from behind the compound gates.
This lead on to consideration of how we tend to identify various social groups as 'the other' , and ascribe all our social ills to them, and then to how it is that true evil begins when we see our fellow humans as nothing more than numbers or units or selling markets. This in turn made me consider the unit cost for a pair of jeans in Primark, and wondering how much of that final retail cost actually reaches the person who made the things - considering that a pair of jeans there costs about £7, it's highly likely that virtually bugger all gets to the person in whose sweat they were made. In other words, I perpetuate what is effectively a slave system whenever I buy cheap clothes.
Zooming down the road, impatiently overtaking a Rover (how do I know it's a Rover?) I remark upon the wonderful fresh green of the trees, a miracle of chlorophyll, and think how they will become a darker green thanks to a pigmement that renders the wonderful reds and ambers of autumn; then I consider the fact that, before the advent of the high-speed steam engine, somewhere in the middle of the Victorian period, no-one had ever travelled faster than 25 miles per hour, apart from those unfortunate few who'd managed to fall off a sufficiently high cliff, and even then they wouldn't have been able to reach the average terminal velocity for a falling human body. A couple of phrases from Milton then intruded, then, for no discernible reason, Andrew Marvell's 'the garden', followed by a snatch of The Ancient Mariner...
...and my answer?
'Oh, nothing'.

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