Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Image of a Blast Furnace

Brigitte made me aware of an article Common reproduced from by Chris Hedges entitled “After Religion Fizzles, We’re Stuck with Nietzsche.” I read the article (it’s here) and then sampled some of the 260-plus comments (and counting) that this article produced. Cultural change is a subject I mostly deal with on Ghulf Genes, but I thought I’d record some reactions to this phenomenon here. It’s my conviction that we are slowly leaving the materialistic culture behind us; I date this trend from the early nineteenth century; I think it’s real and, in way, counter-intuitive, indeed barely credible. That is because cultural change is vast and slow. You barely see the new because the all highly visible aspects of culture stem from the last four hundred years or so and overwhelm the new. Occasionally good eyes can glimpse the upwelling of change; Brigitte saw this in Hedges' article and, more to the point, in the rather large reaction to it. There is a great passion and energy here, and also what strikes me as a great mixing of relevant and irrelevant matters.

This bit of public speech—some would call it a “conversation”—reminds me of the seemingly equally chaotic processes that take place inside a blast furnace. There ore is mixed with limestone flux and coke to produce pig iron. At this stage in our culture, we’re still in the early stages of smelting the raw materials from which the bright sword of a new order will be forged. The other stages still lie ahead—and will require much more heat and sophistication: the Bessemer furnace to make steel of the iron, further refinement of the steel, let’s call it the making of stainless. And it is with this very advanced material that the Japanese samurai sword-maker will set to work, beating the steel, bending it, reheating it, hammering it again—and many times over—in ever more careful processes of hardening, and sharpening. And at last a new culture will be formed.

However mixed and chaotic the current discussion is—and in circles that, thirty, forty years ago would not have been interested at all—it is good to see that the process has begun and that it’s drawing people who actually participate. At each stage the passion will be transformed into knowledge, the turbulence into concentration. And thus society will be transformed. A great deal of the heat and energy required for this process will come, alas, from the breakdown of the current order. Fortunately chaos hides order within it (we know this from chaos theory). I assert this of the big collective out there; that's what the exchange I cite represents, a public phenomenon. What happens at the individual level is something quite different; sometimes it is influenced by, but often it is entirely independent of, these cultural transformations. The old order has not died everywhere. The nutrients have always been there, even if hidden beneath vast layers of sediment.

1 comment:

  1. 原來這世上能跟你共同領略一個笑話的人竟如此難得........................................