Saturday, May 15, 2021

Culture of the Ordinary

Dear Reader, please permit me to step on a landmine and pose questions such as; ‘What is the meaning life?’ ‘What is going on?’, ‘Where is the money?’, ‘What is wrong with the world?’, ‘What does it mean to be responsible?’ ‘What do you mean when you say you know something?’, ‘Where on earth does one buy tools of introspection?’, ‘How come appearances do not match reality?’, ‘Where do we begin?’ and ‘What is to be done?’. We live in a world in which everything seems to be up for grabs and yet infuriatingly elusive. No question is ever wrapped up and the proverbial Pandora box is always open for the curious to inspect. 

So Dear Reader, let us keep showing up. Our project is pressing. We live in unsafe times. We have to navigate treacherous terrains. We are already embarked, Dear Reader. The battle rages on. We can’t stand still and fold our arms.

The problems are legion and intricate. What with a lethal pandemic snatching so many lives, curfews, lockdowns, states of emergency, hasty burials, awful governments, economies in free-fall, new normalisation of a crisis and disaster-ridden system, thoughtless bluster and dodgy money in politics, left, centre and right, and the swelling stress of social suffering?  The conditions are dynamic and variable. Distressingly so, for most people.

So Dear Reader, the crucial task to find enduring solutions to pressing problems. Our existence is at stake. We have to organise as we mourn. Always, we must get our act together. Overcome we must, not succumb.  We owe obligations to those who came before us and those that will come after us.

The grim situation demands care and concern. We have to be alert and we must learn how to notice what on going on around us. We have to note things and bear witness. Things overlap, the past and the present are interlinked, lives and circumstances intersect. The rapidly changing conditions of life compel us to open our eyes and minds, look deep into our ourselves, identify and define our challenges, inspect our various situations with more accuracy and precision, probe and polish our instruments, examine and revamp our strategies. The ever-changing situation demands that we recognise and rein in our pretensions, conceits, egotisms and hang-ups. We have to do the difficult work of challenging and not flattering our preconceptions and presumptions.

A whole lot of things have to be done at the same time. We have to cast off the debilitating sedimentation of narrow-mindedness, lazy habits of quick thinking, half-truths, short-cuts and easy conclusions. We must strive to find ways of digging deep into our imaginative resources, our collective strength and come up with apt ways of conducting our affairs. Human activity consists of action and reflection. We must find ways of using our imagination in search for openings without which our lives narrow and pathways become cul-de-sacs. It pays to search for life and not flee from it.

The changing conditions posit new complications that in turn define new projects. It is our duty, Dear Reader, to actively participate in the making, orchestration and sharing of new knowledge that speaks to the demands of the current situation. We have to, at once, carry out the work of relief, that of healing, that of projection and fostering hope. We have to help forge new modes of thoughts, reinvent traditions, adopt fresh vocabularies, more melodic and lyrical ways of speaking, more profound ways of thinking and more humane ways of conduct, more spaghetti junctions of communication, more workshops and rehearsals of inventive insights as we reconstruct our structures and relationships.

Please do bear in mind, Dear Reader, that it is the vagaries of everyday life that induce us serve as advocates of a more just and humane social order. We must strive to imagine the world differently. As different individuals and different groups with different interests and outlooks, we must rethink what we might do. What actions do we take? Under what conditions and in whose interests? The work of re-thinking our institutions, belief systems and our strategies must be done, we must identify what works and what does not fly. Our task is to take careful note of the flows and ebbs of everyday life and figure out techniques of paving way for a more aggregable state of affairs around more democratic values.

Dear Reader, the situation demands that we enhance our conceptual capacities and cultivate habits of alertness. We must learn how to read the world around us, read the world in our best interests. Read between the lines and across the grain. Read with our minds switched on. We must learn a great deal of things. We must enhance our capacity to evaluate ideas and information. We must acquire skills and tactics of forming opinions, interpreting things, formulating, expressing views and expounding on issues.

We must train ourselves to explain the intricacies of life with clarity and sensitivity.  We must take time to study the examples and acumens of our forebears. We must figure out ways of applying lessons of experience when addressing novel difficulties.

We must school ourselves in spotting opportunities. As we learn how to make sense of the hazardous situation that we find ourselves in, we must work to cultivate hope and forge new languages of possibility. The purpose of this piece of communication is not to overwhelm the readers with prescriptions, but to remind them to sing their own songs.

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