Tuesday, January 11, 2005

When things are too close and too far away

The astronaut William Anders once commented on his view from space:

"The ancestral home of mankind did not appear vast, unlimited and indestructible ... It seemed much more like a delicate and fragile ornament ... Looking back, I saw no national boundaries, no dividing the earth into separate states, each with a different colour as you see on a globe in a classroom, a globe divided by man but obviously not by nature."

Canadians congregated Saturday to observe a national day of mourning for victims of the tsunami.

"'We in developed nations are looking out on the world and our people are coming to grips, some for the first time, with the true disparity of wealth, of promise and, all too often, of fortune and providence,' Prime Minister Martin said. 'We have a window on the precarious nature of so many lives. We have a window, and it can be unsettling to look through it.'"

In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag writes:

"No 'we' should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people's pain. Who are the 'we' to which such shock-pictures are aimed? ... The photographs are a means of making 'real' (or more 'real') matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore."

Zygmunt Bauman, in Liquid Modernity, writes:

"The meeting of strangers is an event without a past. More often than not, it is also an event without a future ... We may say that 'community' is a short-cut to togetherness, and to a kind of togetherness which hardly ever occurs in 'real life': a togetherness of sheer likeness, of the 'us who are all the same' kind; a togetherness which for this reason is unproblematic, calling for no effort and no vigilance, truly pre-ordained..."

In Imagined Communities Benedict Anderson writes:

"Communities are to be distinguished not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined."

***

Ogrish.com - "Can you handle life?" - Tsunami videos & pictures

Asian Tsunami Videos - "Running for their lives!!!" - Amateur Asian Tsunami Video Footage

Waxy.org - "We broke Archive.org! The largest repository of public-domain audio, video, and text in the world couldn't handle the demand for these videos" - Amateur Tsunami Video Footage

***

In Sociology Beyond Societies, John Urry writes:

"Images play a central role because many sources of cognitive information are not trusted ... [and] 'seeing is believing,' especially when those images are repeated time and time again ... It also seems that images are important because, according to Ramonet: 'the objective is not to make us understand a situation, but to make us take part in an event'"

Guy Debord, in The Society of the Spectacle, writes:

"In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation. The images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream in which the unity of that life can no longer be recovered. Fragmented views of reality regroup themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudoworld that can only be looked at. The specialization of images of the world evolves into a world of autonomized images where even the deceivers are deceived. The spectacle is a concrete inversion of life, an autonomous movement of the nonliving. The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as society itself, as a part of society, and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is the focal point of all vision and all consciousness. But due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is in reality the domain of delusion and false consciousness: the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of universal separation."

Update:

Amadeo Bordiga, in Murdering the Dead: On Capitalism and Other Disasters, writes:

"When the catastrophe destroys houses, fields and factories, throwing the active population out of work, it undoubtedly destroys wealth. But this cannot be remedied by a transfusion of wealth from elsewhere, as with the miserable operation of rummaging around for old jumble, where the advertising, collection and transport cost far more than the value of the worn out clothes. The wealth that disappeared was that of past, ages-old labour. To eliminate the effect of the catastrophe, a huge mass of present- day, living labour is required..."

(via)

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