After breakfast our good man settles down to read the news of the day imprinted in characters invented by the ancient Semite. Upon a material invented in China by a press invented in Germany. As he absorbs the account of foreign troubles he will, if he is a good conservative citizen, thank a Hebrew deity in an Indo-European tongue that he is 100 per cent (decimal system invented by the Greeks) American (from Americus Vespucci, Italian geographer)
(Ralph Linton The American Century, vol. 40, 1936:329)
Recent political changes affect us all, so it is important to consider the role that Garland might play in countering this tide of isolationism.
One of the enduring sentiments in Brexit and the recent Trump victory is the call to “take back our country”. In recent times, capital has been able to move freely to where wages are low, through either off-shoring production or importing cheap migrant labour. This had benefits. Western consumers could buy cheap products and workers in the global South found employment. But long-term costs began to be felt. In the West, the loss of manufacturing jobs has been replaced by an increasingly precarious life, feeding the resentment that appears to have surfaced in our democracies today.
While the craft sector does not have the same number of jobs as manufacturing, it is a relatively accessible field of work which offers a greater sense of achievement than the increasingly mindless forms of labour available today.
If this concerns you, then one of our themes for next year may be of interest. We’re planning to look what some identify as “post-capitalism”, in particular the emergence of the sharing economy and decline of consumerism. In line with our commitment to explore “the story behind”, we want to go beyond theory to develop some practical models: how can a life making objects today be sustained outside the market? We will evaluate alternatives such as craft libraries, social objects, traditional gift exchange and 3D printing. In the end, we hope to share responses to declining employment that are more constructive than building walls or expelling foreigners.
We’ll continue to balance work with pleasure. Our symbol is a floral necklace offered across the Asia Pacific in recognition of something valued beyond ourselves, such as the honoured guest or the temple deity. Underpinning this is the dialogical principle that no culture is complete unto itself. While there are sound ethical reasons for this position, we hope to argue the case artistically through sharing thoughtfully made objects of beauty. As the Serbs say, “Oats pull the cart out of the mud.”
Our forthcoming December issue will journey to Western India and look at how objects tell stories. In March we move to Thailand and consider the role of the village in the 21st century. We come back to Australia in June with an issue in the town of Castlemaine, where we’ll work with thinkers and makers on how to survive in a gift economy. Future horizons include New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Your engagement in these dialogues is most welcome. We’re all in this together.