Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Objectification, Land and Freedom

"Technology: ....the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it."
-Max Frisch, quoted in Daniel J. Boorstin's "The Image" 1963

'A woman as she aught to be', 'a garden as it aught to be', 'love as it ought to be', do these words not strike you as an oppressive and insipid injunction toward enforced uniformity?
Are we aware of the ways these concepts are formed by the dominant ideologies of our own and bygone epochs, how much our thinking and action is coloured by the residue, centuries of mystical interpretations have left between the World and our experience of it?

Without regard for the numerous inhabitants, migratory intersections or ecological processes underway in diverse regions of the geological terrain, claims have been conceived, plots hatched, wars fought & boundaries demarcated, in a primitive process of appropriation conducted by the most belligerent exponents of the animalistic practice of domination.
Walls have been raised by armies of slaves and eventually Kingdoms, Fiefs, Nations and Empires established. Everything formerly existing has been stamped with a new character again and again and again, ascribed particular form, content and value accordingly, injected with a new ethos or "spirit" symbolically represented by a flag, anthem culture and state, the ever changing world with it's myriad processes and connections, reified, re-envisioned & replaced.

Within these ideological realms; land, rather than being an arena for the natural development of ecological and biological diversity, gains the static appearance of an object under which; the relations of different cultures, ethnicities, animal species; aswell as the geological and environmental processes underway therein, become confined within a human conception or image applied to them. Life is subsumed beneath the appearance of a fixed, fetishized ideal, "it" becomes an object, something easily grasped, endowed with various properties not at all analogous to it's actuality, it was in our territory so it belongs to us.

Borders being rigorously maintained and violently enforced become an obstacle to cultural exchange, cooperation, transmission of knowledge and natural development. All confined within are constrained by use of laws incumbent upon the captive residents to uphold, shaping the world or at least their part of it through the empowerment of a managerial caste, formed in the image of their King, this Feudal 'Elohim' playing the role of Lord and Vassal, the owner of numerous estates wherein an atrophied and servile subject population could be cultivated.

In the period immediately following the Norman Conquest of England the King through the assertion of his fictitious "alloidal rights"; claimed possession of all land in England as his private dominion. Upon this forceful assertion of his "absolute right", the King immediately granted large swathes of land to his closest allies in the form of feudal baronies, these Barons became Tenants in Chief obligated to serve the Monarch in his military endeavours (referred to as servitium debitum in Latin), by pledging a set quota of Knights who would fight for the King, a symbol of the Baron's loyalty to King and Country. Loyal Barons were granted the right to sit in parliament and empowered to distribute further feudal tenures in order to secure the services of these Knights, creating a pyramidal power structure of land ownership beneath the Monarch, in a process known as "subinfeudation". Beneath the "tenant's in chief" were appointed feudal Lords as intermediary tenants, who in turn infeudated lands to Vassals instituting a further class distinction beneath them; of Freemen who were essentially rent paying farmers enjoying far more independence and security of tenure than those beneath them; Villeins; Bordars or Cottagers; and beneath them Slaves.

A 7th-century Anglo Saxon "Oath of Fealty" , neatly encapsulates the servility and cowering servitude expected of the lower classes during the Feudal age, stating: "By the Lord before whom this sanctuary is holy, I will to be true and faithful, and love all which he loves and shun all which he shuns, according to the laws of God and the order of the world. Nor will I ever with will or action, through word or deed, do anything which is unpleasing to him, on condition that he will hold to me as I shall deserve it, and that he will perform everything as it was in our agreement when I submitted myself to him and chose his will." -parroting the imperatives towards mental and physical slavery continually asserted throughout the "Holy Bible", but most unequivocally expressed here in Collosians 3.22, where we are commanded: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord."

The fluctuating number of inhabitants or travellers through a particular region, formerly interpreting, interacting with and constantly developing their immediate environment independently, are recreated as a homogenized subject population, now dependent on an alienated caste of owners for the basic elements of their subsistence, following their enforced compliance with numerous Inclosure Acts conceived through the centuries by their would be exploiters.

Land itself assumes the appearance of a graspable static object, endowed with extraneous properties independent of the range of ecological forces or processes ongoing within it; the actuality becomes of secondary importance to the idealized representation, the conceptualized image of a Nation, Empire, County or Garden, hierarchically ascribed to it. The grass, water, soil and trees within this factitious representation no longer exist as part of the land, but as the properties of a superimposed concept.

Assuming this apparently concrete objectified form; numerous fetishized properties are ascribed to all within, helping to distinguish and divide a 'dominion' and it's inhabitants from 'outsiders'; people perhaps formerly frequented in a spirit of communion, encountered as equals, engaging in cultural or material exchange; begin to be portrayed as seeking to corrupt, dismantle, infiltrate or invade the 'motherland', undermine the established rituals or subvert a Nations 'sovereignty', in so far as their presence is perceived as a threat to the established powers residing there.

This is not naivety, one does not neglect the existence of hostile forces, but intentions are judged most effectively by the actions they provoke which we encounter, by our experience, not by the stereotypical images ascribed to a different culture, nation, race or creed; appearances of capitalist creation, often obfuscating the actual antagonistic relations, and sometimes seeking to justify them with factitiously constructed prejudices.

The result of this tribal mode of organization, of which nationalism is an increasingly irrelevant development of the Patriarchal family, is the inequality created globally and locally by competing, antagonistic selfish interests, inhibiting cooperation, inevitably leading to territorial disagreements which often escalate into devastating globally fought conflicts over resources. As Adam Smith wrote somewhat disparagingly, about the system of Land management in place under the Plantagenet dynasty during the Feudal age in Europe, unpredictable fluctuations in the price of basic commodities, want and lack are the inevitable results; 
"The price of corn, though at all times liable to variation varies most in those turbulent and disorderly societies, in which the interruption of all commerce and communication hinders the plenty of one part of the country from relieving the scarcity of another....one district might be in plenty, while another, at no great distance, by having its crop destroyed, either by some accident of the seasons, or by the incursion of some neighbouring baron, might be suffering all the horrors of a famine; and yet if the lands of some hostile lord were interposed between them, the one might not be able to give the least assistance to the other."
Reading on we see the implicit suggestion that tyranny is the only solution to such a divided and antagonist form of social order, authoritarian control by a strong man willing to subdue all inevitably emerging conflicts and class antagonisms:
"Under the vigorous administration of the Tudors, who governedEngland during the latter part of the fifteenth, and through the whole of the sixteenth century, no baron was powerful enough to dare to disturb the public security."[1]
Rather than being a logical framework within which numerous separate, competing interests can interact on the basis of equality before certain fundamental principles, through the fusion of State and Capital, Law becomes a public force predominantly used to maintain social subservience, the embodiment and violent assertion of mystical forms of order within a hierarchical framework of racial, national, cultural forms of fetishism.

[1]  The Wealth of Nations pg157-8

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