online: 30 june 2005
modified: 1 july 2005

30 june 2005 heron and hierarchy

12:49 The Serpentine, London - lake and gallery

I stopped by the lake to look at a heron that was standing motionless on a post only 3 or 4 metres from the railings behind which people were walking. I decided to stand there, as still as i could, for as long as the heron did (for i'd never before been able to look at one so close, and in its resting posture with its long neck retracted and its head and beak appearing to be attached to its shoulders).

One or two people moved to get closer to it but the heron didn't fly away. Occasionally it turned its head so as to look directly (or sideways with one eye) at something or someone... and each time it kept its head fixed in the new direction, perhaps for a minute.

I looked at my watch - i must have been standing there for 10 minutes or more. Someone silently took its photograph but the heron didn't move and a few people stopped to look at it... Eventually a passing vehicle disturbed it and the heron slowly turned to face the lake so that it could launch itself into flight low over the water before it slowly gained height and flew over the surrounding trees with its huge square wings beating about once a second.

At the Serpentine Gallery i was prevented from entering even the garden by a young man who told me that it was being prepared for a party this evening. There were screens all round. The gallery is public so I assumed that the party would be open to everyone. Oh no, he said, each ticket would cost £1000.

I turned away in sudden anger, feeling that i'd never visit the Serpentine again. I suppose the party is to raise money for the gallery but to do that by an event from which all but the richest people are excluded is to me completely wrong. It sickens me - and even puts me off art (but not for long!).

A few minutes later i spoke to two men who were helping to erect barriers to exclude people from the rock concert that is to happen in Hyde Park in two days time. Apparently access is by free ticket and its purpose is to persuade the leaders of the 8 richest countries to do more for Africa and the environment... But here again i feel more angry than pleased to see the wealth and hierarchy of a few being used to exclude many in the supposed interests of all of us... a huge and costly event for the very poorest people on earth and also for our forgotten selves as global citizens, everyone... Rich and famous people attempting to do good by prostituting art, music and nature - there must be a better way!

Yes, i feel deeply about all things public... to me they are sacred, in the modern sense.

Later, when i walked round the vast enclosure of about a third of the park for a political rock concert (with free tickets you have to win by spending money for inflated phone charges said the man i spoke to in the box office) i again felt angry and saddened. The high walls and fencing, and the unopposed power of the people who were paid to exclude us, the public, left me feeling like a spectator or a victim of something Nazi.

But these things will disappear, the good intentions may remain... and the people in poor countries, and ourselves in the rich ones, we will all suffer, i fear, from technologies misused by subjection to the power structure of hierarchy... To oppose it we must not become like it for it is the cause of what is wrong... which i think of other places in softopia where my thoughts about hierarchy, its brief advantages and its extensive limitations, are described and explored...

...for instance in daffodil 23: a theory of industrial living or in a digital diary entry called 'creative disobedience').

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