My trip to Canada to date has comprised a number of journey’s – or journey’s within journey’s – and I have learnt a great deal from these. It might be more accurate to reflect that alongside learning per se, thoughts once had have re-surfaced and perspectives once grasped (however loosely) have again provided for a renewed contempt for many aspects of our so-called ‘modern’ society.
I want to wholeheartedly thank those whom experiences with are where these resurfaced and renewed thoughts and perspectives arose. The first I met whilst attending a movement against war and occupation rally in downtown Vancouver. At the regular post-rally gathering of the facilitators/organisers, we chatted about things general and specific – after I think I joined in a conversation they were having with someone else. An obvious connection – on many levels – was apparent quite quickly. We were both travellers – myself obviously from out of the country, they were from the east coast – and we arranged to meet at a ferry terminus on Vancouver Island four days later at a specified time. In contrast to factors beyond both of our control, we still managed to meet at the terminus from where we began what turned out to be a journey that I will remember – for many reasons – for the rest of my life.
But I digress. The journey I wish to focus on here – and the one from which I have taken from an immense and profound re-focus in how I act and exist in this world – centred around five days in which I camped with this person and a number of others adjacent to Cathedral Grove/MacMillian Provincial Park about 10km east of Port Alberni. It is the way these people exist – and it is a way of life specifically chosen – and experiencing this with them (albeit for only 5 days) that has led to these profound mind shifts.
They exist outside of and in direct contrast to the exploitative, wasteful, consumptive and ludicrous ‘thing’ we consider modern society to be. It has impacted on me on multitude levels – and as I was and have since listened to the new Propaghandi album Potemkin City Limits, I have pondered over this a significant level. To what extent – in contrast to my critical and anarchist outlooks – have I become subsumed within the redicularity of the multi-faceted, systematic and pervasive operating system we have constructed and/or have allowed to be imposed on us. How much has my wanting to live my ideology been mediated and shaped so as to conform – at least partly – to the status quo, the hegemony of the current forms of capitalism that bleeds from the walls of what we consider ‘developments’.
I recall a friends’ leaflet (if it could be called that) which essentially forms the first blog I read with interest (and awareness) albeit in paper form (it was not a ‘zine’ as it was only I page) – well before I think blogs actually existed. This reflected very personally on the mediation of ones existence despite well-defined ideals. They recalled the surprise noted when they found themself humming along to pacifying supermarket music one day. This may seem trivial to some, yet it was also profound to me and clearly illustrates the pervasiveness and effectiveness of this multi-faceted construction that tends to envelop us.
To return to existing outside, I have taken some solace from the experiences I had ‘living’ with this small group of people. You can live outside the system and do it well. It is what is ‘well’ that one needs to confront. Most of our perceptions are so shaped and mediated that we can imagine nothing else but what we have allowed be imposed on us (and that which we have perpetuated). I think this is easier to do on a number of levels in Canada than Australia and this is based on small but significant cultural differences based on experiences since the first attempts at colonisation.
I have found myself, given my being in a position of having a stable and guaranteed ‘income’, questioning how to house myself given both my detest at paying ‘rent’ to a ‘landlord’ and having contempt for the institution of the bank. This coupled with my rejection of private property is a conundrum I have grappled with for some time. Whilst I still do not have the answer for this, I now at least have a more optimistic outlook on how I can reconcile this.
My new-found psuedo-middle-classness has also somewhat unconsciously (and consciously) shaped my purchasing habits. I have found myself – on small number of occasion – becoming less opposed to buying ‘brand’ clothing, even to the point of seeking specific ones out for what I consider (even though I am aware that some thought had gone into it) little more than mediated false reasoning’s (albeit I do try to but non-sweatshop produced items). Many of these reasoning’s, and the outcomes clearly, contrasting with my ideological perspectives. At least on this level I can rectify this…
My presence at a seminar about the performance of Aboriginality in a globalising world – and sharing of my own research on how this is affected by us whities – has also helped with this. I was asked by a friend in Australia to send them back something ‘cheesy’. All I have seen when entering a number of stores – of which I did not really want to for reasons that will become clear – was essentially the commodification of Aboriginality and I staunchly refuse to participate in this grossly offensive practice. This, however, led to more pondering of broader issues. To enable survival within this construct we exist within, where does the ownership of artworks lie? What about Aboriginal artworks. I recall a poem recited by Aunty Barbara (an Wadi Wadi person) that reflects on a flower she came across – this was her first visit to Canada. She new little of it, yet she found no need to ‘capture’ it on film or in any other way. Its existence alone was enough. To what extent has art itself, its ownership not creation, become what it is via the mediated pervasiveness of the construct?
[to be continued…]