Saturday, October 04, 2014

Saturday Morning Musings - Art, nostalgia & memories of time past

In a comment on Train reading – Vivien Gaston, Julia Griffin & Rain on the Uralla Road, kvd wrote:
Scarecrow on a wooden cross Blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did My grandpa cleared this land
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand

Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow
This land fed a nation This land made me proud
And Son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow
Dunno why, but 'Rain On The Uralla Road' reminded me of that song.
This is the song as recorded.:

During the week I received this message on Facebook from an Aboriginal artist::
I'm researching my cultural heritage and would like to have a conversation about Armidale peoples if you have the time I look forward to hearing from u soon.
Still on Facebook, old friend and colleague Noric Dilanchian writes on aspects connected with the Armenian past as he tries to discover his roots and present the remarkable stories of the Armenian people. 

I was going to to use the word nostalgia in connection with Noric, but it is more a connection with the past in an uncertain world, a desire to maintain continuity and links. It is also a memory of things past.

The underlying theme in the Mellencamp song, the loss or threat of loss of the family farm, the destruction of things worked for, of personal continuity, is a theme in Australian history. It was a familiar theme once, something that resonated even in the city because so many city people still had country connections.

In the Victorian melodramas, we hissed the villain who was about to seize the heroine's assets using the forces of law. Today we objectify this, we call it economic forces, structural change, the operations of the market economy. We then wonder why people oppose change; we have in fact taken the emotion out of the equation and therefore fail to recognise its importance. .

Looking back over the historical changes that have taken place over the last three hundred years, major change periods are normally followed by periods of nostalgia for things lost. The continuity has been broken. Nostalgia can drive resistance to further change. Equally often it acts as a trigger for further change, for it plays out in new ideas and cultural and political movements who draw their power in part from the desire to recover and re-present. Here art and literature become powerful allies, crystallizing feelings and requiring response.

Individual human memories may be short indeed, but cultural and societal memories are long. We saw this over the the last part of the twentieth century and the first part of this century. To my mind, the most distinctive feature of this period has been the resurgence of the past, the desire to reach back, to re-establish.

This has come as a nasty shock to those in Western society embedded in current orthodoxy and ideas such the dominance of the national state, the irrelevance and indeed dangers of religious belief, the liberal democratic paradigm. 

Mind you, we have to be careful in talking about the liberal democratic paradigm. Many of those who expose the liberal democratic paradigm are in fact statists, believing in the need for the state to protect itself first and then safety and rights (this last is very much a second order thing) of its citizens.They use the language of liberal democracy to support attacks on the very things they apparently espouse. The current Australian security legislation is a case in point.

By its nature, liberal democracy is messy and inconsistent, riven with tensions. Consider a basic premise of that democracy. I will defend you right to disagree even when I think that you are profoundly wrong, your views repugnant. How, on earth, do you maintain that position in face of certain of the views expressed? The most liberal person will suddenly demand controls even though those controls are a fundamental breech of other views he or she espouses. 

There is no answer, only constant vigilance and a willingness to adopt and support unpopular positions in the face of the possible use of preemptive state power.  

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