Reply To: 15. Nov 17th: Entanglement

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Fanny # Posted on January 5, 2016 at 18:42

I went to Ian Hodder’s open lecture the 17th of November expecting some new perspectives and fresh experienced coming out from it. Why? Because Hodder’s article and theory about human and things relation was new to me. Okey, there is nothing new and fresh with the fact that humans and things have relations. There is also nothing new with the statement that humans and societies are depending on things. The “aha-moment” for me was the mapping out how trapped we humans are with our relation with thing and how ‘impossible’ it seems for us the get disentangled. (p. 20)

What is Hodder’s theory then? The definition of entanglement does Hodder described with the four different relations humans and things have to each other: 1. humans depend on things (HT), 2. things depend on things (TT), 3. things depend on humans (TH), 4. humans depend on humans (HH). In other words, entanglement is = (HT) + (TT) + (TH) + (HH). (p. 20)

Hodder argues that there are different kind of relationships between things and humans, some of the relations are deliberating for humans and makes it easier for humans to deal with our everyday life and make it more likely to live well and happy. Those kinds of relationships do Hodder call ‘dependence’.

However does dependence often results in the less positive consequences: dependency. Dependency is when humans and societies get stuck in certain systems, ways of living, mindsets or in any other way are really hard to get away from. (p. 23) One other important fact is that we count on many things, their ability and stability when we know that the same things are unstable, limited and in many cases dangerous. (p. 21) The following quote describes it well:

So if humans are to depend on things, they have to get involved in the lives of things, to look after them, repair them, replace them, manage them. But in order to do this, humans need yet more things. And so there is a gradual, relentless inflation, a drive towards more and more stuff and more and more entanglement in stuff. Things made by humans are unstable. If we are to rely on them, we end up responding to them; we are drawn along by them in the direction of greater entanglement with more stuff (Hodder, p.30)

As Hodder argues, many of us do not even realize the effort, from humans and societies, that are working (or I would say many times slaving) for this stability. Nature is at the same time extracted without limitation or long-term sustainable regulation. Fossil fuels, water resources and forests are being extracted, poisoned, burned up without much thought even if we know that those kinds of activities are the opposite to what science and reality shows us to do. Hodder means, and I agree, that one reason to why it is like this is because: “…many of us remain distant from the pollution, low-paid labor, and appalling work conditions”. (p.26)

At the same time when our unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable entrapment and entanglement does not appear for some of us, states, companies and individual are making lots of profits from it. The most people and societies who gets used and hurt in the process are the ones easiest to silence. Nature itselves has under a long time not sending us any bills on the resource extraction, but that seems to be changing since global warming and mass losses of biodiversity starts to be show. Sadly, the already poor and vulnerable and least guilty for this mess are the ones (often) most and first affected.

This seems and feels like a situation extremely difficult to get away from. Is it even possible to get disentangled? The answer from Hodder seems to be yes, no and maybe. It depends. Places and people has been disentangled before, and Hodder refers to the collapse of the Maya or the British Empire, but he continues to say that this kind of local disentanglement can be seens as a change towards entanglements on another (bigger) scale. (p. 32) In the end of the article does Hodder write this: “…as humans we are involved in a dance with things that cannot be stopped, since we are only human through things.” (p.34) and “The moral choice is substantial: to change what it is to be human, to become something other than ourselves.” (p.34)

I both agree and disagree with Hodder and those statements. I do not think that we are only humans through things. Maybe are we thought or learnt or fooled into that narrative. And yes, in some aspects may we need a lot of things to live well, some things more or less necessary (this is not a question of having no things or having everything). When Hodder is making a statement like that, he forgets that many people live on this earth today with almost no material and they are as much humans as we. Hodder has a quite eurocentric perspective in this case I would say.
But yes, in the rich part of the world has consumption for a long time been receipt on wealth, and that is also the image that is symbolized as success towards others. And yes, that is an old and established and huge struggle to overcome. I agree on the statement that moral choice is substantial and that humans and societies all over the world, especially from the over-consuming, rich and developed part need to rewrite and implement a new moral compass.

Is it really one’s right to have/take something just because she/he can? Is it a human’s right to do whatever just because the negative consequences does not show right there, right now? And are we really happy in the part of the world where this is going on? My answer to all this question is no.

Finally, I do not think that we have things in our DNA. BUT I think, that we think that we have. And once again, it is not a matter of having no things or having all things you can imagine.