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You could usefully ask yourself this question: what would happen if you replace the values that appear to lie so on the surface of the ambitions of Jamaican society, such as the trappings of modernity, the search for purposefulness for the sake of being purposeful, with values such as living without a sense of progress, a return to the stability of the eternal return and its endless rehearsal of beginnings, life without history, the immovable hierarchies of small isolated clans and a conservatism of purpose mediated only by the restful contemplation of what passes by.

I imagine that people would become like beasts in the spirit of Borges' Immortals. This could be a good thing, I suppose, although I suspect that the categories of good and bad don't apply in infinity or within a rigid conservatism. Good and bad are subject to scale and perspective. When the scale is set in stone or is removed altogether and when the perspective becomes fixed permanently or indeed unfixable, good and bad lose their frame of reference. In the one case they become false absolutes in the other they become hyper-relative and always elusive.

Modernity is like the cloak of Mary, it gives a protective warmth of belonging to everything it covers. Third World countries and First World countries all love the modern. They fill the concept with divinities, angels and desires. Third World modernism is accused of being an imitation of Western Modernism, and a bad one at that. It is seen by those who disapprove as an absurd and sad luxury in the face of hunger and starvation, which, moreover, is to be blamed for the complete destruction of traditional norms and values.


That is a defensible position, but wrong. Western Modernism is as sad and absurd as Third World Modernism. We are all so desperate to belong to an idea, to a story, to a group assembled under the cloak of some great hierophany. Not to belong is to belong to the autonomous, it shows you are independent, an initiated member of your self. But that is difficult and can go horribly wrong. It turns you into a beast. A body needs its environment.





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