Space vs Family
(I tried to get this published in a nice web zine called ausgang but they did not print it, so here it is)
The birth of human history, like the birth of every identity, takes place in the contact of a family. This is the key lesson of the psychoanalysis of Lacan and Freud. Humans come from families, later in life we seek our own space.
Family is not a space, but a flow. A timeless flow of myths and memories were individuals step in and out of set archetypes. We move from child to parent to grandparent to ancestor to have others fill our roles; the family establishes a timeless spaceless continues place.
The lands around a family or clan can only be understood in terms of the family itself and its needs and activities. Some land is for raising spring crops, another for pastoring animals, or the home of the family ancestors.
The tribal construction of reality was qualitative, with individuals hold distinct spaces based on long legacy of previous ancestors and with all "places" constructed in their relationship to the family, its needs and rituals. Beyond this family constructed place or "home", no matter how wide, was a place of either no importance or even evil.
The rise of the great Empires and then the States changed all of this and established the practice of Space as one of its universal measure.
Imagine the life of a Mesopotamian youth who had lived among groves, watering holes, and pastor lands which had belonged to his family for years. The places beyond home held the legends of the family, perhaps creatures of great power, old women who gave birth to rivers, monsters who slept under mountains. The land beyond home filled the imaginations in the same way Television and movies fill us today: with the ideological myths that establish the rightness of home.
Now imagine this young man drafted to fight in the war of some early Empire. His life now is one of marching set distances every day in large units of men. They are forced to march to a place some distance away. At first their understanding is only of time, a place is so many days away. But through participation in the sates Army the young man, if he survives, brings home a sense of a place beyond that constructed by the family. When he returns to his village he spends his life telling the story of the other places he has visited, places that are now real because one of the clan has seen them.
Through this force of disciplined motion and measurement th State establishes space. It is not interested in a place established by the legends of families, a kind of topology of place that changes from clan to clan. States want to count out what they hold, determine the length of border, count the tax revenues they can get from unit of area.
The State invents Space as a new way of constructing place. Space is not the qualitative structure of clans and families but a pre-existing quantitative property of Earth. Space can be measured regardless of who lives there or who is buried there. Space is much like money. Just a money converts all human productive activity in to a single entity that can be counted and compared, Space turns humanities entire relationship with mother earth into units of measure and like money, of exchange. States can sell land for money, they can exchange land or grant land.
For centuries the world of Family and Space have lived a uneasy co-existence. Our fear of homes haunted because they are built on Indian burial grounds shows our continued belief in the power of clan, ancestor and myth to form the meaning of space independent of our efforts to map, cut up, and distribute land. This was shown clearly in the movie Poltergeist.
But in time an effort to even bring Family themselves under the control of Space began. In Northern England workers were constructed uniform row houses and a family became that which could fit in to one such home. This was taken to a radical conclusion in the American suburb movement, where the size and layout of typical new homes established the nuclear family. Without places for the old to connect and carry on the mythology of the families their link to the next generation beyond tragic, which children reaching out to grandparents suddenly separated in the new imposed order of Space which does not need the "unproductive", this process of Space breaking down mythology held by the old is shown brilliantly in Barry Levinson's Avalon.
Woody Allen's Any Hall shows the power of the new space to not only separate individuals in to clusters but to also impose identities upon people. The identities of space, especially for a mobile population, overcome the places families open up for people or the roles family impose on them. In Any Hall California and New York establish what people are.
With the current rise of Social Networks the effort to impose Space upon "friends and family" enters a new stage. A service like facebook promises to "organize" your relationships between friends and family by placing them in to a social network, a kind of map of people's social relationship to each other in space. Facebook is constantly pushing people who are "close" to connect with each other. Facebook wants us to connect to people we have no established meaningful connection to because in its space we are close together.
Online dating sites replace the families established role as the place of marriage and childbirth with a system of managed networks judging the closeness of two individuals.
Even today we describe those we love as "close" to use. We are distant from family we no longer care about. Space has invaded all our thinking about family, the myths that Shakespeare and Austin tell us are replaced with a kind of map of people and distance.
The next level of technology may be a 3-D web like Second Life. These kind of communication practices will establish space, a fully constructed and corporate controlled space, as the sole way of imagining all our relationships to space.
Already we have lost the true sense of home, of a world dominated by persons filling rolls filled before by generations of ancestors who are still remembered. We live in a world of measurable space, time and money. An objective world where space has overcome family as our means of imagining "place".