online 25 march 2004
modified: 2 september 2003, 25 march 2004, 10 june 2005

26 march 2003 inside history
Everything made now is either a replica or a variant of something made a little time ago and so on back without break to the first morning of human time.
George Kubler, The Shape of Time, New Haven, 1963 2nd edition. With thanks to Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Felipe Solis Olguin for beginning their introduction to the catalogue of the Aztecs exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2003 with this comforting quotation.

The following text was found at the end of the exhibition of the Aztecs, now called Mexica - after the visitors had vanished - no one emerged from the exit, which was walled up with large stones set in quick-setting literary concrete while the visitors were inside - or so it is said. This document, written in pencil, was found inside the deserted exhibition close to the walled-up exit. It is thought to have been written (in the manner of the writer*) by one of the visitors who vanished. No one knows who digitised the text or why it differs from the handwritten original.

*for instance it reproduces the writer's characteristic (if not obsessional and erroneous) use of three dots... or ellipsis... to soften the spaces between sentences... for softness is the nature of the emerging reality... as he perceives it...

The Mexica

What I recall most is their appropriation of previous cultures and their making of a noticeably more artificial one.

I also recall that the Mexica wandered over North America before settling in a volcanic lake on which they made an artificial island connected to the land by causeways and an aqueduct for fresh water.

I recall also that Spanish people, appropriated much of the culture of the Mexica, incorporating it into their Catholic Christianity, and then conquering all of the Americas except for the north - which was colonised by a non-catholic protestant culture, that itself assimilated nothing. It destroyed all or most of the native cultures, directly or indirectly... And within this North American culture is conflict between the Quakerish north, devoted to hard work and self-help, and the slave-owning south, more inclined to wealth, evangelism, and intolerance. And within that southern culture are ex-African ex-slaves whose own culture and language was destroyed, not assimilated - except for African music and rhythm, the ghost of which became the basis of popular music the world over - with the help of media which can store both sounds and images and transmit them anywhere...

...I could go on but I won't... there isn't time.

...for I must pause (in some astonishment or culture shock) to realise that this vision of synthetic cultures, arising out of colonial conquest, is perhaps a challenge to our inherited world-view, or to my own at least... the world-view of a British empire, and now a North American one, based on the cultures of European asylum seekers and economic immigrants with their doctrines of political and economic freedom and what else?...

...and behind these, at least in Britain, is Anglo-Saxon or Norman rejection of the language and culture of Celtic and pre-Celtic Welsh people, and their appropriation of part of it in the synthetic legend of King Arthur, coming after the ancient Roman empire, or Pax Romana, and its appropriation of a segment of the Jewish scriptures as the basis of what became world-wide Christianity in Roman and European colonies.

[But now, as my thoughts keep jumping to more distant times and places, I ask myself where in this is India, where is China?... and where are the thousands of non-colonising tribal cultures of which the Mexica, while they were nomadic, were perhaps the most astonishing in their sudden settling to become both farmers and city-dwellers simultaneously...]

...whooo! ... this is indeed a door-opening - I can feel my previous thoughts extinguishing as the mental vacuum of 'cultural appropriation' sucks up thoughts and memories (half-known and perhaps half-wrong) that comprise this record of these thoughts imperial before we failed to emerge from the exhibition...

But as yet these thoughts have almost no links to 'modern technology as the basis of world-culture', a view not yet quite blown away, and which is non-geographic... or so I thought.

And where in this is Islam, and the oil states, and Israel (perhaps the only example, besides the Mexica, of itinerant people seeking and then finding a promised land - but then they became a vast persecuted diaspora for millennia before returning to that promised land and becoming threatened by the Palestinians whom they recently displaced)? And where in this changing picture is the present war against Iraq and the spread of automatic weapons accessible to all and the two world wars in which such weapons were developed and first used against civilians as well as military?...

...I know that this is far from accurate knowledge but I feel that it has some of the inner fire such as was sought by Giovanni Battista Vico (1668-1774) and Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) in their supposition and questioning of applied, singular, and positive rational explanations for everything and their preferring what is popular, and local, and unique, and individual... and also of the supposed supremacy of the romantic individual (becoming neurotic and sometimes suicidal) and the accompanying protests against the inhumanity of imposed reason, and in favour of freedom and diversity, democracy and anarchism or anarkia as the writer prefers to call it, as the new culture of creative democracy, as yet a dream...

[...this is certainly flowing - at a moment when I felt unable to write anything of a vast mythic fiction or fantasy that I feel is gestating, and surely this is part of it... It's not a fiction at all, or even a myth of the old kind - the myths of nomadic tribes and pre-agricultural cultures that we are now learning to revalue for their possession of virtues lost to farmers and to the city life that agriculture provokes and supports...]

I pause again just to breathe, to rest my aching hand, as I write this as rapidly as I can in pencil, losing legibility, not digitising it till later, not even realising as I wrote that, yes, it is my new way (or its disguised beginning) - the start of something that I hope will never stop as I write what seems like the connecting of previous learnings and ideas of more than fifty years, now to be linked by and to and in and of this somewhat terrifying frame, if that is what it is... I abhor intellectual frameworks...

And what is it called, this frame, this text, this everything?

No, I feel that it is not to be named, but what does it feel like from within - for it has no outside?... that question too brings me to a stop so I ignore it!

[25 march 2004: eventually I called it 'inside history', I waited a year, still nervous of what I'd written].

and where in this is socialism, communism, or revolution? And capitalism also - and class war? And the alienation of machine life?... as soon as I ask these questions I see that these things are inherent, or integral - and yes so are the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung - and the role of dreams, as of science and technology - the dream collective - and yes this text in its raggedness and it intended all-inclusive grasp of linkage real, not imagined nor contained in rational box or explanation while it lives, and it does live, for the moment!

And now, having read this document, the writer disowns it. He is outside the exhibition and there is no one to be seen - the city is deserted, there is only the sound of the wind and of birds, all traffic is halted and the city is empty, there are electric motors still running, and fans, and occasional metallic sounds from cooling engines, and lights still on, but this description becomes unreal as the writer removes his spectavle ad and tries to typoe without binng able to see the letters omn the keys....

this is the end of something, he thinks with some delief, the end of trying to make sende of everything,,, let us enjoy for once the alternative, wjat is it what is it? it hasd no nme no name no name

excuse me while I replace my glasses and decline to use the spell checker... for the night is young and dreams are imminent.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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