Processes of circularity

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Below is the introductory quote, premise and first paragraph to an essay I have written for the forthcoming ReGenerating Community conference at RMIT (September 2-4) in Melbourne. The essay's title is Processes of Circularity: Permapoesis and the Shed of Interrelation.

In Western thinking, in contrast [to Aboriginal thinking], the human is set apart from nature as radically other. Religions like Christianity must then seek narrative continuity for the individual in the idea of an authentic self that belongs to an imperishable realm above the lower sphere of nature and animal life. The eternal soul is the real, enduring, and identifying part of the human self, while the body is animal and corrupting. But transcending death this way exacts a great price; it treats the earth as a lower, fallen realm, true human identity as outside nature, and it provides narrative continuity for the individual only in isolation from the cultural and ecological community and in opposition to a person's perishable body. 
Val Plumwood, Being Prey.

Premise: If regeneration is embedded in processes of ecological circularity – the sharing of resources at a local level – it is not possible for communities to regenerate when based upon an exclusively linear, competitive, broken-cycle, aggregated and centrist socio-economic system. When you have an economic system based on growth any positive initiative to repair local ecologies and communities is merely bandaid work. Growth economics, to expand Dennis Potter’s quip about religion, is the wound not the bandage. Regenerating communities requires remodelling with steady-state systems, where growth becomes an integral, but not dominant, part of an open-cycle.

The construction of ecologically disembodied culture, where desire and hope are among the abstractions that predominate, has been greatly assisted by the introduction of clock time or what Guy Debord called ‘psuedo-cyclical time’. In this work I will argue that industrial culture’s subversion of the cyclical limits the possibilities for social and ecological regeneration. In previous writing I have articulated industrial culture as a succession of ‘broken-cycle toxicologies’ where exploiting finite non-renewable resources for short-term economic gain, over-extending the capacity of the landbase to regenerate, compressing time and space to enable monological schooling, wage-slavery and other forms of social bondage, generating toxicological waste aggregately and applying and entrenching an anthropocentric worldview are all corollaries. Traditional communities live according to ecological principals – processes of circularity – where by observing cyclical time and space enables life to be more easily lived in what Gertrude Stein termed ‘the continuous present’. This work will first assess how industrial culture continues to negate the capacity for ecological and social communities to regenerate, and second offer context for counter-participation away from dominant industrial-centrist modalities, and towards distributed social-ecologies; towards a free-poor, time-expanded relocalisation.
Many thanks to Hepburn Shire Council who gave financial support to assist with the writing of this work, with special thanks to Sue Jones, the arts officer. Many thanks to Peter O'Mara, Jeff Stewart, Meg Ulman, Su Dennett, David Holmgren, Hamish Morgan and Prof Stuart Hill for their valuable thoughts to help enable this work, which currently remains a working document. Once completed it will be made freely available to read online.


Anonymous said...

free-poor, i like that. The issue of time is an interesting one. Aboriginal culture (at least in the forms i have experienced) is not one of accumulation/waste - but of, as you say, the continuous present. Stannner called the "The Dreaming" an 'everywhen', which is sort of a continuous present. But there is also a good deal of patience - a kind of being prepared to wait, perhaps even to outlive whitefellas. An elder who i have the pleasure of traveling with throughout the Murchison calls the station owners 'squatters' - temporary, they'll move in. And many of them are as climate change and economic collapse of the pastoral industry take hold. But then DEC just buy them up, shut down the windmills and shoot the roos and goats and donkeys and leave it for the grey nomads to visit in their massive rigs. But back to the present, there is also great depth in terms of the past, but also great sense of patience for the future, which makes a funny kind of present -being both before itself and after itself at the same time. Hamish.
Courier is such a past, post, present typeface.

Permapoesis said...

so great to have these comments hamish, thanks.

that's really interesting about retired wage-slaves in big-rigs, i wonder if anyone has done any interesting scholarly work on the phenomenon of grey nomadism. seems so strange to live a life of suburban social bondage and then in your final years go looking for decompression and adventure in wild country. i guess energy descent will soon knock dead this lil' linear big-rig fantasy. yes, and peak oil and climate change will probably cleanse whitefella anthropocentrism, and not before time – blackfella patience is a virtue.

we've got Buckley's chance and i'm rolling with it, courier style!

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