(con)juncture was lawson fletcher's thought pile. Now blogging at soundofruins.net
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the continuing grip of the lost pastoral

I love how the backyard has become some kind of piss-weak stand-in for the pastoral, a kind of last ditch attempt to recover utopianism in the midst of development and (post)modernity for children. Cf. Adbusters:
In our education-obsessed culture, elite kids play piano and speak three languages by the age of four, but just about every North American kid is deprived. In one of the greatest retreats ever, children are vanishing from a critical piece of territory: their own backyards.

It references the infamous quote from some early twentieth century dictat (good to know childhood 'experts' have been around a few centuries):
Every child ... should have mud pies, grasshoppers, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pinecones, rocks to roll, snakes, huckleberries and hornets. And any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.

Nitsuh Abebe dragged out a great quote from Robert Benchley in 1928 regarding the matter:

I remember once a mother whose three children were being brought up in the country (and very disagreeable and dishonest children they were, too) saying, with infinite pity of the children of a city acquaintance, “Just think, those kiddies have probably never seen a cow!” Just what sanctity or earnest of nobility was supposed to attach itself to the presence of a cow in a child’s life I could never figure out. … Among the major inquiries that will one day have to be made is one into the foundation for the belief that intimacy with cows, horses, and hens or the contemplation, day in and day out, of great stretches of crops exerts a purifying influence on the souls of those lucky enough to be subjected to it.

However, so ingrained is this faith in the efficacy of livestock and open spaces in the elevation of the race, that even to question it is to place oneself under suspicion of being a character who will bear watching by the authorities.

That sums it up perfectly - this notion that the environment has some kind of unmediated influence upon our subjectivity and perhaps even our intelligence is flatly ridiculous. Experiences of the natural and the sublime, if anything, are so significant and seemingly pure because we start from the position of the industrialised, modern subject, looking back to some imagined country from the twelth floor. It reminds me of the continued success of the agricultural pavillion at the Royal Melbourne Show, and an exasperated parent I overhead once talking about why the Show was so necessary for city kids, "because some of them think milk comes from a supermarket!" - lady, I don't know about you, but I certainly don't get my milk from the tits of a bovine.



A scholar I know used this word when giving a critique of a paper, asking whether the paper was all some 'pataphysical joke' and I finally had a chance to ask him what the fuck pataphysics is. Pataphysics, essentially, is the 'science of imaginary solutions', invented in novelistic and theatrical form by 1890s Frenchman Alfred Jarry, who himself was particularly interested in and well-versed in the science of his day, in physics and machines, all that long nineteenth century stuff that academics froth over. Pataphysics inverts social and scientific norms, and Jarry was in many ways the forefather of Absurdist theatre and Surrealism.

I note it here because one could draw (perhaps intentionally prepostrous, in the vein of historiography/archaeology) a connection between pataphysics and science fiction, or sci-fi, which most certainly writes of imaginary solutions to scientific and social problematics. Then there's the famous notion from subcultural studies that young people invent magical or imaginary solutions to political problems, symbolically resolving society's disjunctures, tensions and contradictions. Much to think about.