When I started writing this blog, I had no idea that I would be literally ‘In DE House’ writing this from the confinement of my own house. ‘In DE house’ was one of my working titles for this blog but the use of ‘the house’ has an extra meaning now during these COVID-19 times which other blogs will address in detail.
I’m doing Bridge 47’s wonderful Transformative Learning Journey course this year.
The journey itself is much about how we can work with that feeling of discomfort and pain to make a conscious effort to change our behaviour rather we can push it away and invent reasons why how we’re acting is right in this House of Modernity Built that we are living in - this is the aspect of the course I will hone in on.
It is well documented that educational initiatives that attempt to address global challenges without critically examining historical and systematic patterns of oppression and inequality tend to promote simplistic understandings of global problems and solutions, paternalistic North-South engagements and ethnocentric (believing that the people, customs, and traditions of your own race or nationality are better) views of justice and change. This model helps to look at the complexities of how the world works.
The House that Modernity Built offers us a way to describe our world and what is wrong with it. The House is a social cartography that presents one way of diagnosing current and past crises. The metaphor of the House that Modernity Built shows a shaky house that people inside the house continue to cling to.
I have produced my own version of the cartographies (doodles of the house) to use with different groups and have the nickname of ‘the Stations’ as it reminds me of the stations of the cross (did someone say ethnocentric!!?) and when I am explaining it to others I have put the different stages of the house around the room to visit.
So let the stations of the house begin:
Station 1: How is the House Built?
Welcome to the House! Its walls are made of a dominant culture/universal reason, the idea of nation-state/fortress, it’s roof is global capital and its foundations are separating/disconnecting the house from the earth, the house, in fact, exceeds the limits of the planet.
Universal reason represents a mono way of thinking and being to the exclusion of wisdom of many cultures and ways of being and knowing that exist in the world. It brings to mind also the Danger of the Single Story.
Nation-state represents the negative aspects of nation (fortress building)-the laws and policies that are based on profits at all costs and do not consider the well being and happiness of people.
The foundations are made up of the constant violence in which the house was built upon; colonisation, slavery, extraction, war, trade and tax injustice.
Station 2: This house is subsiding and maintained by violence.
In the house, there is over-consumption and unsustainable growth fueled by ‘Expropriation’ pipe into the house and an equally strong ‘Waste Disposal’ pipe going out of the house which represents all the ‘hidden costs’ of keeping the house in order. I add the fact that there are no skylights in the roof so that people in the house do not see the hidden costs of keeping the house together. Outside the house the consequences of the pipes feeding out of and into the house are destitution and dispossessions; the effects of climate change, war, genocide, hunger.
Station 3: The Floors of the House
To me, this is the most useful of the stations. Where in the world is everyone in this house? Most of the time The Global South and indeed the Global North are described in one big homogenous group. As you can see, the floors show who is where-the higher up you is the lower the intensity of your struggle to survive to access basic needs and rights.
The North of North is in the attic of course and this describes not only the 1% but those who are living in the North and have a low-intensity struggle for survival. On the next floor down is the North of the South, those with a low-intensity struggle living in the Global South that have access to economic, social and cultural capital. In the basement of the house, there is the South of the North, those living in the house, in the North but struggling to maintain their place in the house with a rather high-intensity struggle. The South of the South are outside the house, in the dumping ground and where the pipes are going in and out to maintain the house and clearly have the highest intensity of struggle.
All this in a world of people trying to climb the stairs to the attic, obsessed with social mobility in which our present systems and structures cannot support. The house offers a false promise of a better life especially to those in the South of the South and the South of the North.
Station 4: Structural Damage
So it’s clear at this stage that this house has structural damage and the more cracks that are showing the more fortress-like the house is becoming shutting everyone and the planet out to protect the house. Even blaming anyone who lives outside the house on the structural damage caused. The cracks that are showing in the house are manifested in climate change, economic instability, populism, mental health issues and heightened anxiety, racism.
Of course with those in the house experiencing crises, those outside the house are experiencing life in a much higher intensity struggle than before in the form of mass forced migration and armed violent conflict.
Station 5: Why has the House stayed standing for so long?
In a world of mostly good-natured people-how has this house been maintained for so long?
Human Fears (often spurred on by a good propaganda machine) have led to certain Desires that manifest themselves in certain Entitlements. For example, our fear of scarcity leads to accumulation leads to what we feel our entitlement is property and stuff.
Yes, we are human and of course, there’s no denial of human nature but if our structures and systems are built around these fears, desires and entitlements, we have little chance of fostering the values and attitudes needed for a more just and equal world.
Station 6: The 4 Denials
The House also stays standing by the 4 Denials held by the majority of the people living in the house:
Denial of systematic violence and that we are causing harm
(The fact that our comforts, securities, and enjoyments are subsidised by exploitation and extraction)
Denial of the limits of the planet
(The fact that the planet cannot sustain exponential growth and consumption)
Denial of entanglement
(Seeing ourselves as separate to the land rather than entangled within a wide metabolism)
Denial of the immensity of the problem
(This picture was produced and designed by Aniva Corbett a student of Mitchelstown Presentation)
Getting our house in order-Imagining a New World….
The House shows us what needs to be ‘fixed’ or ‘reimaged’ highlighting the flaws of the deeply unfair embedded systems, structures and narratives that we are surrounded by.
Reading Jason Hickel’s ‘The Divide’ has plastered the walls of this house for me further with good factual information as he brings you through the journey of inequality in its different forms through the centuries.
Really we need to throw this house into a tornado and start imagining nothing like it. As educators/activists, we are always trying to fix the house up so it is fairer, more just but as it’s very foundations are on shaky ground and have a bedrock of violence, we need to unlearn the universal reason that the house has built around us and think outside the house and imagine a new fairer world.
Lizzy Noone works for WorldWise Global Schools a GCE programme for post-primary schools. Lizzy.firstname.lastname@example.org