Monday, July 02, 2012

life's a beach

"If there's one thing practically all futurologists once agreed on, it's that in the 21st century there would be a lot less work..."  Owen H's Guardian piece on how technological progress has not led, as was once expected, to the abolition of work reminded me of  Bow Wow Wow's "W.O.R.K. (N.O. Nah NO! NO! My Daddy Don't)"

If you don't feel like twisting your neck around and squinting to read, the kernel of the lyric is "'T.E.K. technology /Is DEMOLITION of DADDY / Is A.U.T. Autonomy". That's Malcolm McLaren taking the Situationist idea that automation would lead to a world liberated from labour and adapting it for the age of Thatcher-imposed mass doledrums.  Demolishing Daddy would good for everybody, including Daddies (here doubly signifying as wage-slaves and bosses), because everybody would be freed up to live like children, dedicated only to play and imagination. Or, as per the other key line "demolition of the work ethic takes us to the age of the primitive", like tribal societies,  naively imagined to live without alienation.  Paradise regained.

I was thinking of the Situationists and  this idea that "no work = paradise" yesterday afternoon. We were at the beach and I remembered their slogan "under the pavement lies the beach".  For a second, I wondered what was so good about beaches, compared with sidewalks? (As well as expediting you through the world of business and commerce, paved urban walkways lead to all kinds of cool places... they are also better surfaces for aimless dérive and "kaleidoscope endowed with consciousness" artist-as-flaneur-ism).  But that's because I was going through this phase I often go through immediately after arriving at the beach, which is feeling restless and trapped: cut off from my usual networks of stimulation. "There's nothing to do here!" Then I capitulate, remember that the point of the beach is to do nothing, in a variety of enjoyably pointless ways.  Splashing about, getting bowled over by waves.  The building of castles or networks of canals in the sand teaching you, in the most kindly and pleasing-to-look-at way, certain things about Time and futility and "all this too must pass away."

It's the same with vacations: I kinda dread them at first... then slowly succumb. At first I don't want to give up my habitual state of nervous unrest.  But slowly and steadily, Life reduces to absolute simplicity. Extremes of temperature and sensation. Hot, cool. Dry, wet. Exercise, rest. It reduces to the basic functions of  life. "What shall we eat?".  You can feel your mind gradually emptying.  The books and magazines you brought (in order to make productive use of all that free time) go unread. It's genuinely therapeutic, totally necessary.  A tonic. But then it's time to go back. Back to work. And I'm always more than ready.

A permament vacation would be a hellish existence. Likewise the beach... A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. (People who do live at the beach full-time often seem a little cracked. Either that, or they've retired, given up on work).

And now I recall, one of McLaren's early slogans with Bow Wow Wow was "sun, sea and piracy", they were meant to be playing tropical rhythms...  in one interview I remember he unfurled this endearingly barmy fantasy of  a man-made sun that would be tethered above the U.K. and would turn this grey-skied country into an endless summer paradise...


See also: the Parrotheads and Margaritaville and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" - a similar fantasy of getting away from it all and never coming back...

Interviewer: In one word, what's this all about?

Parrothead #1: Non-work.

Parrothead #2: Living.... This is what we work for, 364 days a year, is one day, to really do what we want to do.