Disclaimer..this section is in process..it’s a living art thinking art work..my references need to be added in full etc. and the thinking and writing to be streamlined and less clunky..I’m trying to join my own dots here..make my own red thread..it’s a work in process…
Red thread is a term that the late polemiscist Christopher Hitchens (and others!) used to describe those thinkers such as Rosa Luxembourg, Marx, Trotsky, Orwell who fought against all forms of tyranny..Hitchens writes sublimely about this lineage and rightly says, in my view, ‘the personal is political’..
The red thread can take us back, like a trail of bread crumbs. It is such a huge subject and thought about by so many great thinkers…artists, scientists, historians for so long. It’s understood in different ways too, linear, circular…so yeh such a vast subject I don’t pretend to understand or grasp..from my artist’s gaze..I cherry pick what seems to speak loudest to me..and it seems that if you go back far enough..time has always been a battle ground…between who owns it..who knows it..who can predict it..
Hitchens says that currently a war is being waged over Bronze age stories in bitter civil/internal wars within the Muslim world..battle lines are drawn..they are good, we are bad and vice versa..critical free thinking with enough height and room to play has been collapsed into dire concrete, flat thinking..me vs you..good vs bad..
Of course nothing is black white..despite what we’re told..we live in a mostly grey world of the…and ideally..Klein’s depressive position…where there is an understanding of this rather sophisicated idea that both the good and bad, the loved and hated feelings towards that which provides for us are somehow integrated…not split off..separated. Stereotypes such as all immigrants are all bad, stealing our jobs..etc. y’know…well the world aint perfect and Klein says we should reach the depressive position at around 6 months old and go back and forth as we develop..but when looking round I think most of civilisation most of the time has never quite got there…we’re still firmly stuck in the paranoid-schizoid position , . I can hardly argue against why this may or not be or what happened in the past. I can only wish it had developed in a more equal way…I benefit from the developments of the industrial revolution..from the products of war and slavery and oil and the culture that has come from this (see Adorno and HorkHeimer’s chapter “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’) I was born white and western and though I don’t apologise for my individual part in this…I reflect and recognise that I was, by happenstance, born into a state of privilege and I continue to benefit from this privleged position, most were not and can not do this..and I though full of contradictions and conflicts though I am, I try to be part of solutions promoting equality and think about what I sign up to and why..it’s a struggle..
Where do you draw your line in history? your home town? your country, your religion? your football team? (but surely they’re international now? even Everton has international players.!) .so are you northern..southern? scouse? Scottish? African American? Siberian? Jewish? Irish desecent? German? English? European? Western? Black? White? Working class? I tried lots of these but none of them stuck..maybe because they stopped being useful categories for me to identify with..with such a known mixed heritage anyway (Irish, English, Welsh & Spanish) and the fact we moved so often as children..we weren’t really home anywhere…
So what story do you tell yourself..do you subscribe to? where do you draw your line? Where do your customs and culture originate? your parents? grandparents..?
The pre-eminent anthropologist Clifford Geertz said culture is. ‘the story we tell ourselves about ourselves’ This is important as well we know..that chattering inner out outer narratives do not stop and we may try to quell it with wishful thinking, rituals, prayers etc. that may work quite well most of the time but there must always be the unknown and uncertainty and ultimately face our mortality. I was brought up catholic and our main wish is that we don’t actually die….I was indoctrinated and followed but finally I decided to read and follow a different story free from all religious thinking infact..and the story I chose to tell myself is based on the most recent evidence..it’s a movable feast…paradigms change..new evidence sheds new light..as Christopher Hitchens says
Though like Hitichens I don’t dismiss the numinous and spiritual..I like to stay grounded but looking up…
The latest evolutionary theory on our origins suggest we, homo sapiens still all came from Africa in migrations in the Palaeolithic, responding to great breathing climatic changes, moving ice sheets advancing and receding pushing us backwards yet we carried on moving along coast lines, northward, mixing with those we met..but ultimately becoming the foremost and most successful hominid. In short it’s pretty amazing we are here..what we overcame and how we overcame it..our faculties built out of those harsh selective pressures are still present today..
How we developed from our nearest and dearest cousings the great apes..with theory of mind is also as avidly hypothesised and our thinking on that has changed as we realise just how close animals are to us and the great myths of how we are the sole harbingers of civilisation are being eroded by such wonderful folk as Frans De Waal, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Volker Sommer
One such hypothesis that continues to resonate with me and as I mention above is one of my main sources of inspiration..is a still just a story though one backed up by all kinds of evidence, qualitative and quantative, can be traced through myth..(yes myth..and myth is still relevant..as Neil Gaiman states in his superb rendering of how myth is the most efficient carrier of information over time..Listen to Neil describe this in the superb BrainPickings‘s soundcloud post how stories last )
This story links and hypothesises in a most coherent and elegant way and is the brain child of the British Anthropologist, Chris Knight. His books on the origins of culture and language go way way back..where I like to keep one foot..constantly..I can’t see forward without taking stock of what may..or what current evidence suggests, has happened before..His first book Blood Relation; Menstruation and the origin of culture and language brings together beautifully a vast amount of scientific evidence and ethnography that suggests to get to this stage..the talking walking stage, the birthing of large brained off-spring, reciprocal, house-building, food sharing, marrying, animal and plant domesticating stage..we had to overcome what seem like insurmountable odds…nevermind the fact we’re standing on a planet that’s evolving and revolving at 900 miles an hour.. 😉
His story starts in the Palaeolithic..the stone age..when homo habilis started making tools…some 2.6 million years ago and he ends his story in the neolithic..when Chris Knight’ hands over to his colleague, Dr Lionel Sims who takes forward the baton..or carries the red thread…into modern day..
References: (to be fully written soon..)
Hitchens, C (200?) Hitch 22
Adorno Theodore & HorkHeimer
Knight, C (1999) Blood Relations