RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Category: Society

Heirloom Bouquet

Bouquet of Heirlooms

Heirloom Bouquet Rebecca Pells 2015

Never have so many owned so much as we do in the 21st century.  Consumerism is spreading like a virulent disease infecting huge numbers of people.  Far from fleeing and looking for an antidote it’s welcomed by many who seek to catch the bug and embrace it.

From where does our love affair with the inanimate come?  The first objects were practical and necessary – clothes, tools and utensils and then excess commodities which could be traded in exchange for ‘foreign’ goods brought wealth and the ability to purchase more. But from earliest times we have evidence of purely decorative items such as jewellery and ornaments, artifacts which quickly became an indication of status or something cherished.  Items became integrated and entwined in our personal history handed down from generation to generation, a familial wave passing through our lives.

 Although many of us today continue to judge our success and that of others by what we own, abundance seems to have changed this relationship – things are replaced with an up to date version or simply because we have become bored and enjoy the fleeting satisfaction of acquiring the new. Many of us seek an identity  – or perhaps seek to escape from ourselves  – through the things we clutter our lives with.  Barely grasped and with little time for emotional attachment, we no longer truly inhabit the gift of inheritance. Perhaps that is the way it should be, the inanimate remaining transient, pleasing one moment and forgotten the next.

  However, there is a comfort in the familiar, in the multilayered existence of inheritance; a stabilizing, grounding sense of belonging which comes from things with which we grew up, the landmarks by which we navigated our early years.  They are the threshold between our history and the present, between what has been, what is and what is yet to come.  A kind of immortality we cannot ourselves achieve.  Often they are not of much monetary worth, but offer the far greater value of connection.

In the above painting the jugs are from a collection of my mother’s, the string of pearls my grandmother’s and the oak cabinet on which they rest from my great grandparents home.  By contrast, the flowers arranged in a mass produced vase offer a metaphor of contemporary ownership, admired for a short time before fading and being discarded to make way for the fresh.

My Great Grandfather Arthur Pells  1851-1927

My Great Grandfather Arthur Pells 1851-1927

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Why I look forward to living in a tolerant free society

Tolerant.

A word which has become so commonplace in western society that if the Oxford English Dictionary were listed in order of ubiquity it would appear near the beginning.  It is viewed as something good, worthy, virtuous even – the hallmark of a progressive society.  There is an air of self-congratulation about it because we have managed to suppress something we instinctively feel, in order to promote an outer acceptance.  Politicians and other leaders announce that we live in a tolerant society as if we have arrived at some kind of cultural ideal.

But is it really this simple? To feel tolerant of something you first have to perceive it as different from you in some shape or form, most often the opinion or behaviour of another individual or group.  The term has become synonymous with accepting people from other countries and cultures into the place in which we live and work.  But the very act of tolerating keeps us separate from those we wish to integrate with.  If you feel the need to tolerate, then you are still experiencing a difference from yourself which you feel some discomfort about.  It suggests an element of effort, a ‘putting up with’ for the benefit of the greater good.

Perhaps this doesn’t matter if it enables people to live together in a friendly and cordial manner.  However, the wall of tolerance often serves only to restrain the frustration at having to accept that which our instincts tell us to be wary of.  Under pressure from external stress such as unemployment or lack of resources, these repressed feelings break forth in the form of blame or anger directed at those we previously accepted.  From early humans to modern man instinct has provided a warning to be cautious of strangers and tolerance is merely a sticking plaster covering this innate response and does little to negate it completely.

Genetic Ancestry Tree

Genetic Ancestry Tree

But overcome it we can, as living alongside those from other parts of the globe becomes the norm and over time differences will cease to both us, there will be no tolerance required, no pre-judgement or labelling as to who is friend and who is foe. Historically migration took centuries, the mixing of cultures happened slowly with integration following initial resistance.  My own DNA can be traced back centuries to the North Caucasus region on my maternal side and Germanic roots on my father’s.  At the time of testing in 2009 the closest match on record to my genetic profile was that of a Turkish individual and an Iranian.  It’s not so much that we will end up in one homogenous melting pot but rather than eyed with suspicion, our differences will be embraced.

Already the 21st century has seen a rapid increase in relocation but our instincts, slow to change their habitual response, have yet to catch up.  One day the word ‘tolerant’ maybe obsolete and dropped entirely from the Oxford English Dictionary  . . .  only then will we live in a truly free society.

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