Dare we imagine?

The project of domestication

While it would be unacceptable to the majority that all schools need to be closed, there was a time on this planet when there were no schools. Children were viewed as ‘wild’ and in need of domestication. Weren’t they beaten with the same cane used on the cattle? Now the cane has vanished and the project of domestication uses insidious coercion. Is this the place from which a huge change will spring up?

That is unlikely, for we are all immersed in a Stockholm syndrome narrative. We have many justifications, many many, to keep the coercive program of ‘schooling’ intact. Do we want wild kids running around our cities? Better to lock them up in a facility during the day.

Nowadays schooling is integral to visions of prosperity. Do we think the young have what it takes to change the world? You can see here that I am pushing the notion of change, though just as a heuristic device.

Useful Further Reading: For more on the topic of ‘wild’ take a look at Layla Abdel Rahim. For more on the topic of domestication take a look at Deborah Lupton.

Then these children enter university. It is usual for many to demand the same accoutrements of coercion. Tell me, tell me. I know how to function in a banking model of education – please open my head and pour in content, then test me to check that I retain the content. But wait, there is a contemporary notion, that of the detox, that can serve as a segue into an alternative. What indeed is a detox for education? Is it subtraction? Take a look at Leidy Klotz.

The text till this point just attempts to shake loose the tight hard ball of the notion of schooling. So that we can play a game of jenga with the notion of school. Remove bits – aka coercion, content, regimen – and add it to the top (university?). We will keep going till the tower collapses. But then we can start again. This activity of playing jenga with the notion of the school is a game of speculation. A what if.

Jenga gives us a metaphor for speculative construction. A place where we can stand and take a look at how we do what we do. Maybe idle speculation, maybe to change a jenga block.

When the human body is the project

In the human population women do the laundry. There could be exceptions, but this is accurate if we are to portray a global project of enslavement. Is this why Mao decreed the Mao suit? If everyone had just one jump suit, there would be far less laundry to do. Plus, the female body has one less task assigned to it.

In the human population women do the cooking. Again, generally true. Is this why Lee Kuan Yew instituted the hawker stalls? If everyone had cheap clean food to eat, they don’t need to ask women, deploy the body of women, to stay home and cook.

In the human population women’s bodies are the main instrument for reproduction. That is at least still true in the main. In places, like China, where the demographic time bomb is constructed as a threat, populations are being instructed to ramp up reproduction. Isn’t this appropriation of the womb as a sovereign manufacturing facility turning back the clock?

In todays world these three tasks continue to be assigned to the female body. The jenga pieces we are looking for are the bits that enable this use of the human female body. These bits are laws, concepts, cultural practices, designs of homes and cities, clothes, economic instruments. As you can see this is a jenga with too many bits. It almost as if the whole jenga tower is these bits. Let us call this ‘the careful and intricate institutionalization of the female human body’. This jenga does not have clean cuboid blocks. These jenga pieces are complex pieces that enable interweaving.

Still, there is hope. For this is just play, isn’t it?

Take the institution of marriage – the marriage jenga piece. Now portray this jenga piece as the outcome of a design project, created by a team in a Palo Alto Campus, who were paid billions to not just create this jenga piece, but also to provide a methodology of scaling this jenga piece and of maintaining its sustainability. Can this jenga piece intersect with other cultural jenga bits to change their form? There are those that have discarded this jenga piece. Is this the future?

Another instance, an ecology, is ‘health care’ – the healthcare jenga piece. Breathtakingly intricate this jenga piece intersects with another piece call profit. Except in Cuba, where they inverted the piece. This one does not intersect with the money piece, but with sovereignty.

This Jenga tower is mind-bendingly complex. Especially when you stand as observers. Leave it, you say. There is a reason it is this way. I can show you books that explain it.

But luckily we are not in those – shush, just look observe and write – circles. We are in the ‘let us break the jenga tower and rebuild it’ discipline of design. Or at least so one expects.

Of late I have been finding that I am in a university that has gone over to the dark side of those that read and want to know the reason of the jenga tower being a certain way. In this world Virat Kohli will not bat at the MCG till he has read all the scientific and cultural PhD dissertations about the MCG. I digress.

Maybe it is not dark days yet. Maybe there are those that can play Jenga.

Maybe the jenga piece ‘the body of the poor’ can be hidden, so the ‘drunk Friday night reveller keen to kick someone’ jenga piece cant see them?

The body can be a project. We can remove the pieces that consign the body to tasks.

Maybe the Saturday brunch – another jenga piece – can be discarded? Also Friday night?

Can the human body be the commons?

Isn’t it the commons? For when the virus arrived the planet became a medieval village. The rich folk of the planet pulled up their draw bridges and closed their tower gates. The virus raged outside. Jumping from one human body to another as they huddled in cramped quarters. Did the states now have enough money to fly these poor to the empty and spacious tourist hot spots?

If the human bodies in a state are the commons, aka Cuba, would we have responded differently.

What is this jenga piece? Not just a heuristic device!

By Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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