I am fortunate. This is a mantra.
I still want to be comforted, mantra or not. I can know I am relatively safe from most bad things happening to me. I am not a black man at the mercy of a racist Neo-Nazi police officers and vigilantes. I am not forced into working in a slaughter-house and flesh-packing plant to have money because of my ethnicity and SEC. Neither is my house burning. My grand kids are in distance schooling in upstate York, and not in cages at the border. No one I love has been intubated. I am lucky, but I worry about my world, what it tolerates, and what it pretends to not know. I cannot find comfort from the knowledge that creates this worry.
I live with a brilliant man. Repetition creeps into conversation even with the most witty and erudite of people after 30 years of discussion. When I was young and fully juiced with biological potential nothing was as sexy as an intelligent man who knew how to converse. “There, there little lady,” sort of banter did not enter into the mix: I did not think to include the primacy of consumer comforts into my pair-bonding constraints.
So we most often speak of serious matters, science, politics, human greed, and the like, between crafting biweekly shopping lists for our occasional exit from our home and lawn.
Lately, these conversations in isolation have turned to appreciation of what it really means for people to speak of a pandemic that began 673 years ago. For the culture to remember the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague, over half a millennium later speaks to its status as one of the most significant actors in human culture.
At the time of The Plague a concept of the common good had begun to develop:
- In the 1200s: The Commons
- In the 1300s: The Plague
Covid-19 is, most likely, such an actor.
Biology Wins Out Over Belief
I don’t mean to be moribund, but I have been expecting this all my adult life. You see, way back in the mid- late 1970s when I first discovered that I had been born to anthropological thinking and might as well study anthropology, the professors I was fortunate enough to fall in with discussed global warming, climate change, deforestation, the sixth extinction, and the pandemics likely to emerge from places these trajectories meet and vortices of rapid global change spin out to alter all living systems in a short time period.
Al Gore and I must have had teachers from the same schools of thought.
My poor babies. My daughter on the west coast and my husband’s daughter on the east coast with her two pre-teen daughters. I cry for them. This is the future I was afraid might happen. This is the future that informed my belief that I should never be married nor have children. But my fully juiced biological potential won out. Belief flew out the window when my husband, and shortly thereafter, daughter, flew in on the wings of biological drives.
Belief Wins Out over Biology
I refuse to believe in human extinction. But we humans certainly have the influence and the stupidity to act in ways that promote extinction.
Instead of falling into despair, I am trying to advance a teeny, tiny plan of action that is just as likely as any thing else to help a few women, a few disseminators of culture to new generations, determine what is important and in need of preservation. I am in the middle of building a business platform around The Women’s Legacy Project. This seems steadfastly optimistic, so, although I speak of extinction vortices, I think about a vast number of alternative futures including ones where we are using the disruption of our 20th Century Culture in the early 21st Century to build a better world.
Culture is like a gardener. It snips the good bits and eats them, incorporating them into her body of culture. It weeds out bits too. We don’t really know how it all works, but there is relatively new level of information, evolutionarily speaking, that humans have cultivated and propagated. We call it culture. It is information that is not encoded in our genetic code nor in the arrangement of the bits of that code, at least as best we know. It is what we transmit on into a future in which we individuals alive right now have no material presence.
Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habit acquired by a human as a member of society.E. B. Tyler
Winning is Over-rated
What we say and do, collectively, is what is passed on. What we say and do, individually, is rife for distortion. Moonwalk Memories beautifully illustrates distortion in individual memory. By the way, on of the contributors (Myrdene Anderson) was my mentor in graduate school. Individual memory is a neuro- and electro-chemical process. Collective memory is a story-mediated process that exists between and beyond humans. Collective memory is what survives.
Culture exists intertextually, and I would argue, as an intersectional process. I have to say here, that I do not believe in intersectionality as defined by disability or confrontational difference. Intersectionality is where we meet, it is the cultural commons.
The original meaning of the term ‘commons’ comes from the way communities managed land that was held ‘in common’ in medieval Europe. Along with this shared land a clear set of rules was developed by the community about how it was to be used. Over time, the term ‘commons’ has taken on several meanings. Most generally, it can be used to refer to a broad set of resources, natural and cultural, that are shared by many people.https://iasc-commons.org/about-commons/ retrieved May 28, 2020
Any discussion of this requires some knowledge of The Magna Carta and a a related charter, the Charter of the Forest.
What all this means is that the Feudal System gave way in bits and pieces to the rule of law over even the sovereign rulers. One of the major death knells of the caste system in the medieval came about through the cultural reorganization brought about by the Plague. The Enlightenment and the falling away of the complete authority of the Roman Catholic Church as well as Gutenberg’s development of printed books and materials which allowed information flow to escalate. Trade, finance, and culltural exchange all accelerated. And *poof* the ideas of democracy exploded on to the scene. (Historical poofs can take decades to explode.)
And Now For Something Completely Different… POOF
A similar configuration may well be brewing today. The equivalent of what took three to four hundred years to play out as our modern world system developed might transpire within a few months today with our rapid, near instantaneous transmission of data and reconfiguration of information that is co-occurrent.
Yes, I think there will be changes in religious, governmental, and legal-judicial systems, and emphasis on scientific understanding. What we, you and I, do will drive most of those changes, just as our behaviors have driven climate change. Our light-infused souls must continue to be and do. It is for the children, it is for the future.