It seems like everytime I ask someone how they are, I get the reply “you know, busy busy busy”, as if any other reply would smack of lack of success, or of, God forbid, laziness Like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland we are all doomed to rush around for the rest of our lives saying “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” There is not time even for a heart attack. Nurses in emergency wards would tell you tales of patients waiting in trolleys who would writhe about wanting their mobile phones saying in the words of the white rabbit “I’m late! For a very important date!”.
So how did we come to be in this position? In the latter part of the 19th century they abolished slavery. In the golden fifties we were promised a dreamtime time when the machines would take over the all work and allow us to enjoy leisure and the good things of life. Even now we are constantly promised that if we buy this latest plastic and metal frippery we would lead a more organised life and have more time for ourselves. And time and time again we fall for that old hogwash. But we do not have even the time to stand back and look at what is happening to us. The corporate structure is based on pyramid selling which implies it has to suck in more and more workforce into its maw just to be able to stand still. So we have youngsters starting out in life working 14 hour days with not even time to fall in love or build up a family unit; we have 70 year olds doing proof reading and editing at home before going out to volunteer at the local care home; we have 80 year olds distributing leaflets and doing volunteer dog walking. Where does it all stop? I am afraid it gets worse. This week has been full of news of modern day slavery. Boat loads of human cargo are heading to us from their destroyed lands in search of work and most of them would end up feeding the bottom end of the maw, working for very little or no pay.
Is work or being busy an end in itself? Most of us would agree that the human being is at a higher scale of evolution than a draught horse or a mule. But oh! The irony of ironies. Both the draught horse and the mule in the western world are pampered animals. They do not have to haul their traditional loads which are now done by machines. Some of those that remain, are cared for in colonies staffed by volunteers. We, the humans are privileged to take over the jobs that these animals did in days past. How the world tumbles! Still, we have not woken up to out plight. We rush around like the white rabbit saying ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’
But what about all those things that make us human beings? Those qualities that push us into a higher plane than the animals? Things like culture and spirituality and philosophy and art. Just buying the latest iphone does not necessarily fulfill our cultural and spiritual needs. Talking of spirituality, we have very conveniently discarded religion. That saves a lot more time to devote to our corporate god. Just because you devote every Sunday to working on your house do not be deceived that you are doing this for your own good. You are just adding to the capital value of your house which would be worth more in a hundred years time. In other words you are just a cog in the wheel maintaining the future of the corporate structure. Just give a thought to this very possible scenario: your daughter inherits the house you have worked on so lovingly; she has to sell it as part of her divorce settlement; a property developer buys it and adds it to his portfolio of one thousand houses. He may or may not absentmindedly thank you for maintaining that house in good condition.
Alright, we have not come any further than the ant on that level of busy busy busy. But culturally we end up in a wasteland. The notion of cultural wasteland is nothing new. A hundred years ago T.S.Eliot wrote the poem The Wasteland. In it he wrote these prophetic words:
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Yes, there is the fear, the fear of nothingness; the fear that leads us to rush around saying “I’m late”. If we are to make the twenty first century an era of noble deeds and memorable heritage we have to move away from the culture of mind numbing busy busy busy and stop awhile to consider our place in this space of ours. There are more important things we as humans can do than fighting wars and driving cars. Art for instance has been reduced to mere scribbles of three year olds, and to performance art such as the young lady I saw in a Paris museum squatting on the floor and holding open her vagina in front of the painting of a nude. Banality can reach no further. It is time to stop.
I am glad to say the youth of the western world are not waiting for the present corporate culture to change any time soon. They are already migrating in their thousands to lands where they can live a simple lifestyle on meager means. They are volunteering to work with animals or humans in lands where life does not revolve round a plastic and metal slab. They are being replaced in the west by the boatloads of humans displaced by corporate wars. And so the circle of life goes on.
The above picture is an example of what has happened to art. The watchers of art have not even the time to watch. They rush by in their life of busy busy busy.
Stay chilled folks!