Saturday, 20 April 2013

Collective memory of a village

Am reading a good publication about these four cool bitches that walked into a small French village in the late 6o's to study what time and passage mean to such a remote, almost entirely self-sufficient urban unit. The foreword is nice, they write how the lot of them were young, fresh out of university of Paris, rigid in their textbook scheme, ignorant and slightly naive and how they approached the subjects each found familiar or interesting. One of them was a geographer and people took her most seriously, because they worried she was secretly IRS. The rest... At the time - they caught the 'good old days' just by the tail, and when you told the village hotshots some researchers are coming to conduct a sweep on their folklore, they expected Einstein, not four hippie chicks. The afterword is by some übermenschen anthropologist that I didn't understand a single word of. I can tell the translator did a good job making the book actually Slovenian, whereas the Slovenian anthropologist dean or whatever he was, made sure it sounds so foreign, it feels like he's making himself a golden armour of glorification of his own wit and might. I just didn't read that part. (With study books I normally always read the foreword and afterword first. I am just as interested in the concept and method as I am with the results of the study itself..)
       The book opens some subjects that i am very fascinated by. The collective memory of a village, for example, being one. Like, for example, if someone wronged the village 300 years ago, to this day the grudge will linger in the psyche of every single individual. Or if something was considered sacred a long time ago, it will still be sacred now. That's worrisome in violent regions, especially for archaeologists. Some habits die hard. Some locals get tempted.
        I've so far realised, reading, that people weren't kind and friendly to one another once, because they wanted to be or felt like it, but because they NEEDED to be. People were poor and individuals were not fit to handle absolutely everything. This is a tricky subject matter for me, because I am a loner by design and shy away from situations in which i would have to expect assistance. People like me were shunned for a reason. General's family, on the other hand, they have very friendly (except the proverbial few) neighbourly relations and very often lend each others hands and work tools and whatnot. Still. Ever.
         Communal festivities, also, were far less, it seems, a matter of want but of necessity. It was what people had for entertainment and how they coupled. The other day working on Tiny Karlins I came across an architectural element in a region here, in Slovenia, (though probably not exclusively indigenous), which was this tiny hut for storing grain or tools or in some cases serfs, but it was also often given to newlyweds to offer some privacy and a sense of ... dunno. Having now the right to your own patch of the world or something?
          With the electricity, running water, later radio and TV that of course changed and people were neither as ignorant and entertainment starved as before, nor do I think, deep within them, they still cared to linger in the old ways. Certain customs may have, with the channels on TV, seem shameful and vulgar to they younger generations. The woman who washed the dead, something she probably would have done until it was her turn to meet the angels, had to retire. In the Tiny Karlins research I came across an old house where a woman who would carry water to other houses lived. Can you imagine that? An old woman whose job was to bring fresh water to households. That sounds even more cool than selling buttons door-to-door.
          These are such strange, strange old things. There are times when I actually feel for a thousand years nothing much shifted and then suddenly, 70 years ago, after the Big war 2.0, the world just exploded in change and European communities shed a layer of ... mud?
           But then I ease away into my trust of merchants and entrepreneurs and see that since ever, and for ever, things will slowly and surely shift within a shell and the shell will stay the same. Perhaps things just get a new dress. The local devirginizer is replaced by a night club, aloof village doctor is replaced by the aloof village doctor,  preachers are never weeded out as far as I know and good old days, well... I wonder. Never do we think that the time we live in now is the golden age. Woody Allen's movie "A Midnight in Paris" teaches us that. Only 20 or so years later does it start to become the golden age. I absolutely disdain the times I exist in now, despite having more than I have ever wanted. Will these times be the golden age when I'm fifty, the good old days? Even though we'll all have flying cars and alien pets and will be able to play Warcraft within it?