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robertogreco : separateness   2

6, 3: Seasteading
"So Jim is a blacksmith – a word I mostly hear these days in jokes about obsolescence. He lives on a small, rural island where he has the time and quiet to think and work very hard on small things that most people have not imagined. He is also one of the most globalized people I know. I’m counting people who had “major liquidity events” and whose Twitter profiles say their location is SoMa/SoHo or whatevs. Jim is narrowly specialized labor, enabled by things like oligopolistic global shipping companies.

And likewise, my family’s off-the-grid setup – solar panels, their own well, their own garden – relies on solar panel manufacturers, modern well-drilling rigs, and the internet.

Many visitors are offended by this. They have a rhetoric of simplicity that feels that e.g. buying gasoline to run a generator to have electric lights in winter is failing to live up to the promise of living in the woods. But for my family and others, that promise was never made. It’s a projection, an assumption, an outsider’s stereotype. They are not claiming or trying to be out of the world.

What do you get from living on a natural seastead oops I mean small island? Well, you get a different kind of time – a different set of distractions. Not simplicity, but a reallocation of complexity that suits some people. You get too many things to list here. The one I want to talk about is that you see your material dependencies more clearly. That is, you have to carry the gas that you buy. You know where your water comes from, even if it’s just as technologically mediated as a Brooklynite’s water – maybe more – because you have to replace the pump from time to time. It’s not that you have less of a supply chain, it’s that you pay more attention to it because you’re the last link in it. You unload your kit, your cargo, your stuff, from a literal-ass boat that goes across the water."

So here is what I can tell you: our material culture is vast. The substrate of comfortable, middle-class-as-portrayed-in-primetime American life is ginormous, far beyond anyone’s understanding in any depth. Years ago there was a Neal Stephenson Wired story called In the Kingdom of Mao Bell, from which I often think of the line (phrased in terms of Western culture, but mutatis mutandis):
For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.

Which is only to make a point that is easy to make but very hard to appreciate, and I have to practice making to myself in new ways all the time, re-estranging it to re-familiarize it: what we have going here, this system by which roads are paved, you can appeal a court ruling, you can just assume you got the right change back at Whole Foods, Whole Foods exists, etc., is so big and complicated that you can’t appreciate it. At best you can call upon cognitive intercessors, like thinky magazine features on the cold chain or whatever, to mediate between your grasp of the size of the culture and its reality. I say this as someone whose job is partly to look at enormous depictions of material culture – I mean staring at the Port of Tokyo–Yokohama, or Magnitogorsk, is kind of what I do all day, and I still take it for granted.

And the system has tremendous momentum. I am no historian, but my vague sense is that in recognizable form in the Euramerican sphere it goes back to things like the New Model Army and the aftermath of the French Revolution: the establishment of a bureauracy, i.e. a system of applied governance with accountability built in as paperwork and defined responsibilities, as opposed to something at best hollowed out like a nest of sticks inside feudalism.

And when I see bureaucracy around me doing things like getting all fetishistic about a piece of paper, I have to remind myself that yes, this is imperfect, but the point is that we enshrine the word, something roughly permanent and widely legible, as opposed to worshipping the squire, i.e., whatever he feels like today, that we can’t even examine directly to mutually identify and begin to debate whether it’s good. A whig history but I’m a whig."

[Related: http://masochuticon.com/2006/05/24/
via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484597685396045824
in this thread: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/484483973767110656
follow-up http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-16-america-again ]
complexity  canon  interconnectedness  seasteading  frontier  waldronisland  bureaucracy  2014  charlieloyd  slow  change  purpose  purposefulness  civilization  interdependence  seeing  noticing  separateness  libertarianism  capitalism  globalization  materials  systems  systemsthinking  siliconvalley  laws  governance  government  society  nealstephenson  simplicity  distractions  bighere  dependencies  supplychains  legibility  illegibility  coffee  waldron  interconnected  interconnectivity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
NPR Code Switch | When Our Kids Own America
"It’s much harder now to patrol the ramparts of our cultures, to distinguish between the appreciators and appropriators. Just who gets to play in which cultural sandboxes? Who gets to be the bouncer at the velvet rope?"



"If something is everywhere and everyone trafficks in it, who gets to decide when it’s real or not? What happens when hip-hop stops being black culture and becomes simply youth culture?"



"So once some piece of black American culture slips outside that culture, when does it stop being black and just become this new thing? Where do the borders of one culture end and another begin?"



"When young people inherit the new America, this reconfigured hip-hop will be part of their birthright: the code-switching, style-shifting, and swagger-jacking that’s always been there, mashed up with stories about thrift-shopping, border-crossing and rich South Koreans. Lest anyone get it twisted and think this new America will be some kind of Benetton ad, be forewarned: it’s going to be confusing and it’s going to be messy."



"My generation started writing our chapters on race during the Crack Era — the time of of Rodney King, The Cosby Show, and Menace II Society. But that was 20-something years ago, and we’re still applying the templates that we created in 1992 and 1963 to the chapters that are being scripted now. Those old stories reflect a starkly different demographic reality than the one we now inhabit. It’s not that those stories are wrong, it’s that they’re incomplete. And so we find ourselves having to assimilate into these places we thought we knew and that we thought were ours.

The Afropunk skater in Philly, the Korean b-boy graffiti artist in Los Angeles, the bluegrass-loving Latino hipster in Austin — they’re all inheriting an America in which they’ll have access to even more hyphens in their self-definitions. That’s undoubtedly a good thing. But it’s important that those stories be complete as well. If you’re in Maricopa County, Ariz., and brown, the sheriff’s deputies won’t care whether you’re bumping Little Dragon in your ride when they pull you over. The way each of us experiences culture each day may be increasingly unmoored from genre, from geography, and yes, even from race, but America will not be easily untethered from the anchor of its history. We may be more equal, but mostly in our iPods.

How the country fares in the next century will depend in part on how it deals with these dissonances. It will be determined by whether we grapple with the complications of some basic assumptions about our spaces — who gets to play and work and live in them and how they get to do that.

And so, the “Harlem Shake” kerfuffle isn’t just about some hip-hop dance, but about these anxieties of ownership of the past and future, about generational tensions around acknowledgement, respect and reverence, about the understandable if futile impulse to want culture to retain something like purity, about disparities in power both real and perceived, about land and property, about realness and authenticity and race and history.

For good or ill, the country our kids are creating will work by new, confounding rules.

It’s the rest of us, those of us who’ve been here for awhile and who still find comfort with these old modes of viewing the world, who will start to face the discomfort of assimilating. A Minnesota suburb that looks more like a Brooklyn ‘hood. A “Harlem Shake” that looks nothing like Harlem."
codeswitch  codeswitching  2013  culture  appropriation  us  appreciation  gentrification  diversity  race  ethnicity  harlemshake  genedemby  rafaelcastillo  laurenrock  npr  harlem  nyc  oakland  brooklynpark  minnesota  discrimination  sterotypes  popularculture  hiphop  marginalization  teens  youth  youthculture  ebonics  ceciliacutler  civilrightsmovement  blackpanthers  joshkun  signaling  separateness  hsamyalim  language  communication  english  wealth  power  access  borders  repurposing  shereenmarisolmeraji  chantalgarcia  music  remixing  sampling  dumbfounded  jonathanpark  losangeles  biboying  breakdancing  messiness  stevesaldivar  hansilowang  karengrigsbybates  assimilation  generation  demographics  evolution  change  canon  remixculture  blackpantherparty 
april 2013 by robertogreco

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