Do You Really Want to be Homogenous?
It seemed like a good idea for bottled milk but it means we miss out on more than the cream that used to gather at the top of the old-style milk bottle. Being homogenised may be good for mass-market milk, not so good for people. In a globalised world, identity is more important than ever before, to all of us.
We need the joy and stimulation of new experiences just as we need the comfort of belonging. Deep down, we all feel the tug of our birthplace.
We call the sense of identity with our country of origin 'Patriotism.' Carried to extremes, it is one of those Good Intentions that can sometimes lead to disaster. The histories of every nation on the planet are filled with examples. Jingoism is the name we call the cause of this ghastly mistake. How can it be avoided in the future?
For what it may be worth, my answer is Regionality. No place on Earth is so bland as to be without plenty of material waiting to be worked over by the local artists and historians.
Travellers take the journey in order to experience the new and the different in scenery, customs, ways of thinking and doing. But increasingly, the tourist leaves the airport at any foreign city and finds more of whatever s/he left at home and less to be discovered. This is the sadly inevitable result of well-intentioned communities trying to make the tourist comfortable at the expense of the unique qualities of their own local identity.
Famous battlefields like Agincourt in France, Waterloo in Belgium, Hastings in England, or the Fort Sumner monument in the USA are tended devotedly by modern-day inhabitants. Why not join your local historical society and do your bit to gather and disseminate the old records of your town?
Can you imagine the Vatican City without the dome of St. Peter, Venice without its bridges or Paris without the Eiffel Tower? In younger nations it is all too often left to members of a local group to protest against destruction of characteristic old buildings to make way for some generic fast food outlet or international hotel.
Thank goodness for those 'head-bangers and weirdos.' They save some of our local flavour for the rest of us who sit on our hands when developers seek approval for new projects. Membership of your local preservation society does not mean you must wave protest placards in the streets. If you have the energy for it, however, you might just make a lasting difference in your locale.
For as long as there have been landscape painters, there have been 'schools' or groups of artists, photographers and writers who focus on depicting, or on interpreting, the characteristic features of the place they know or love best. This may be the place, urban or rural, where they live, or it may be in a land far from their countries of origin. Their works may take the form of social protest, or of romantic idealism on the other end of the spectrum of expression. Their styles may differ wildly but their artworks are always based on a very particular reality. Unlike the products of Abstract Expressionism, they are always 'about' something or somewhere the artist cares deeply for.
In Australia, after Abstract Expressionism cast its spell over the Art Establishment, a disdainful nickname, 'The Gumtree School,' was used to describe most domestic landscapists. Had the fashion for paintings stripped of meaning and craft happened just a century earlier, we would have lost a treasure of visual records of our nation's development and our cities would now be greyed-out in a sameness of design mis-named 'International.'
Here, I would like to say that I am truly excited by the prospects of advancing technology and its potential to benefit all of humankind, in every field of endeavour. But I hope to see us do it with a sense of style, enlivened by an individual identity.
'Homogenised' means all mixed up. You know what you get if you mix up all the bright colours in your paint tubes or cans: grey. The non-colour of nothingness.
© Dorothy Gauvin