the waste of culture
Watching – while typing this – a film I first saw not long after it came out in 1981: Escape From New York, directed by John Carpenter. It’s set in 1997, but the set designers suffered from a slight lack of imagination when it came to the hardware, shall we say? Even five years ago, a countdown timer on your wrist didn’t weight a pound and feature a bright red LED display, even in the movies. They certainly didn’t anticipate cell phone technology at all – must have seemed too much like science fiction. I haven’t seen the latest James Bond film, but it now features communication gadgets which were once beyond Q’s imagination, even in the 80’s.
Like just about everyone else, I have a theory about culture. Mine will probably sound overly simplistic to any serious culturist, but here goes anyway: for culture to grow and thrive, I think that the main requirement an excess of resources, used inefficiently. Most of the things we associate with culture are wasteful and inefficient.
How many trees are cut down to feed the printing presses for the books and papers I read? How much energy have I wasted in my life so far? I take several flights a year, travel on trains and buses, and little of it is really required. I don’t drive a car, but I enjoy motor sport such as Formula One, which is a complete waste of time, money, and resources. This laptop has more CPU power than all the computers in the world had in 1955, and although it uses almost no power in comparison, that is still coming from a power station powered by peat or coal. This web site, like 99.9% of all web sites, is totally unnecessary and without practical purpose.
And what about people paid money to do things that have no practical use whatsoever? A major reason why Britain has so many rock bands is “the dole”, so young people can be supported while getting their shit together. (I was on the dole for a while, but the taxes I paid when working in London reimbursed the government several times over.) Writers? Put them to work in the fields – people can’t eat books.
At the risk of stating the obvious: if we only did the things that were required, this would not be life, but merely survival.