I was sitting, enjoying my first cup of tea this morning when my mobile 'phone let me know I'd had a message. Immediately, an image of a person popped into my head and I was suddenly aware that I always associate that particular notification with this particular person. And it got me thinking .... as many things do, about how this was just as good an example of learned behaviour, as the experiments that Pavlov did with his dogs.
Last weekend I was in Weymouth with friends for the beginning of the Olympics. Now, I don’t know about you but to be honest I’m not much of a ‘sports fan’, in fact I’ll go out of my way to avoid it if at all possible; but somehow even I have caught the Olympic fever which is sweeping Great Britain at the moment, at least I’ve caught enough of it not to get too bored when the swimming comes on television.
One of the things that has fascinated me about the whole thing is that, alongside the sporting events is something called the cultural Olympiad which is designed to expand our minds and souls as much as our bodies and national identity. The cultural Olympiad seems to consist of many different things from art to dance to …… strange little rock shaped formations which have appeared off the coast of Weymouth!
And so it was on Sunday morning that the lovely Steve, Laura, Dave and I all trooped down to the beach to see what NoWhereIsland was all about. I’d seen some reports in the news and I’d heard a few people around and about passing comment but I wasn’t really prepared for just how disappointing it was when I saw it over the headland. It literally was just a lump of rock (or something made to look like rock) that had been towed to Weymouth from the Arctic and was going on ‘tour’ around the South West UK.
We wandered along the beach searching for the ‘Embassy’ all chuntering away to ourselves about ‘art’ and ‘hype’ and ‘waste of money’ and ‘what’s the point’ eventually settling ourselves in a local pub with a spectacular view of the bay and the sailing events that were going on; in fact you can see one of the Star Class sailing races going on in the background of the photo.
Our conversation turned, as conversations have a habit of doing, towards many other things and NoWhereIsland was forgotten for the time being; we talked about why we were living the lives we were, what we would do instead, why some celebrities have staying power and others don’t, how we all seem to divert problems through other things, the rain that was blowing in yet again (as if we haven’t had enough of it over the last two and half months with the flooding, the landslides and the deaths), and finally, how we would change the world if we could. Of course, we were only half aware of talking about these BIG topics because they were mostly wrapped up neatly in little packages with pretty paper and bows, dropped into conversations as little anecdotes or small observations.
Eventually the time came for us to leave – it was getting close to barbeque time and we were all getting hungry – and we set off up the hill that overlooks the bay even more; and right at the top was the Embassy for NoWhereIsland – or as one of our number (Laura) realised ‘Now Here Is Land’ ! It was at this point that our earlier assumptions were challenged; the island itself might be disappointing to look at, but the concept behind it certainly wasn’t. It brought those discussions we’d been having over a pint or two in the pub into sharp focus because it challenges your perceptions about all sorts of things including our idea of democracy.
The Embassy has a board where anyone can write the things they would like to see enshrined in the constitution of this brand new ‘nation’; there are no barriers to entry, all are welcome; everyone is entitled to put their idea forward, and all are then put to the popular vote; those that are voted by enough people are the laws that are passed.
Of course it is tongue-in-cheek, but much of it provided an exceptionally good insight into the human psyche. For instance, there were the conflicting laws that allowed anyone to bear arms and that prevented arms being brought to the island (if you’d like to read a post that also talks about this in more detail then I’d suggest heading over to Brain Snorts), there were laws about ecology and conservation, and laws that banned children alongside those encouraging them.
In short it was the perfect microcosm of this thing called the Human Race and above it all, ringing loud and clear, was the unspoken sentence that the most important right of the human is to say ‘what’s in it for me?’
We each have our own views, idiosyncracies, values, beliefs and ethics which are garnered as a result of upbringing, peer group pressure, cultural conditioning, social mores, societal attitudes and expectations; which means that to hope that we could all agree on just one thing would be in vain. NoWhereIsland does a fantastic job of pointing this out, perhaps we should learn from it.