Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Lucky Society

Once upon a time, in a faraway land.....there was no war or political intrigue....for roughly two thousand years.  Yeah, it sounds like a good fictional piece for a science fiction show or some less violent Game of Thrones.  But it's true.

I often read far and wide from the regular news crowd and came upon this piece written over the Harappan people.  The article?  By Annalee Newitz....."How Did This Ancient Civilization Avoid War for 2,000 Years"....over at Io9.

As you head south out of the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal.....there's this big grand valley where the water flows into.  To the west are mountains (Pakistan), and the east is India's flat desert region.  The river heads on off to the gulf.  You can kinda imagine it as the Tennessee Valley area resting south of the Rocky Mountains, with a gentle breeze and mild temperatures, and a rich fertile soil that grows just about anything you desire.

What Ms Newitz points that life just kept going on and on there.....with no noted military campaign, war, or battles.  Nor is there any evidence of big-name political figures, kings, emperors, or conquering generals.  Normally, it's hard to find a society that exists more than a hundred years without some town burned down, or some mass grave area.  The Harappans?  Well....there just isn't any plain evidence of trouble or chaos.

What the smart guys will say is that Harappans developed themselves into a culture or society around 6,000 years ago.  They went through all the standard developments....weights, measurements, language, written word, agriculture, etc.  They had plumbing, flowing water, organized villages, and streets.

The story from Ms Newitz points out the eventual decline of the valley....mostly through over-farming, TB, disease, and folks just packing up to leave.  The society declined enough....that it could not survive.

But this all brings me back to the original topic.....a place where no political turmoil or intrigue existed, and wars simply didn't occur with neighbors or from within.  There's not a society in existence today that can match up with this record of 2,000 years.  The source of avoidance?  Until the day that we decipher the language and take apart what little written words exist.....we are stuck with no idea over the way they made it that far with no problems.

A happy place?  Probably.  A society just content on farming and local gossip?  Maybe.  Course, they didn't have the 24-hour news cycle, the New York Times, Karl Rove, or the Democratic National Committee to deal with.  Nor did they have some Hitler character from the next valley over, or some nutcase always talking up his connection as a prophet to God.  Maybe it was just plain dumb stupid luck.....which would be sad to admit.'s a four-star reading piece.....worth a fifteen-minute pause, and might make you reflect upon our society today and it's woes.

When a Play isn't a Play

Being from Bama.....plays (of the theater type) are a curious thing for me.  For some ninth grade project, the teacher engaged the class into a rough fifteen minute play....which I felt like a 500-pound gorilla at a disco.  In the tenth grade, another English teacher introduced the class to Shakespeare....strictly for inside the classroom, and I came to question this 1600's English usage (it just didn't make any sense for southern kids to recite like this).  Finally, around the twelfth grade, Our Town was introduced as a in-class project, which got me a bit more interested.  It was boring, but it had something worth watching.

Throughout the years, I've kinda avoided going to a theater to watch a play.  It's different when you can watch a play on to get up and stretch at different times.  Plays aren't like movies with intense interest built into scenes....plays are subtle in terms of words and actions the right moment.  You can see the shifty eyes.....the twist and turn of secondary characters.....and note a plot change that you didn't expect.

This week, I noted that well known play-writer David Mamet got all hyped up over one of his plays which had been designed by some group in a very different manner.  He'd written a nifty play that takes a college professor through a major stumble in he's accused of sexual harassment by some student gal.  It's a false accusation, but Oleanna (the play) takes you through the woes and sorrows of this professor.

In this case, the play company (a minor group) had decided to twist this around, and use a male student accusing the professor of sexual harassment.  Yeah, a gay twist of sort.

The play showed for one evening and Mamet sent a message of "halt and stop".....citing the change of genders was unacceptable and changed the whole meaning of the play that he wrote.

Redefining a play has been a big deal over the past few decades.  Folks from the 1940s didn't ever change a play was....what it was.  Today, you could take Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and turn into a play about two transexual folks, or two lesbians....just to do something different.  No bad feelings or such.....just to be different.

Course, if I stepped in to do the Romeo and Juliet script with southern accents, Pabst-Blue-Ribbon beer, and a trailer park setting.....the play-crowd would get all disturbed and say it just wasn't right.

I suspect if I took "Our Town" and rebuilt it to be inner-city Chicago....that would disturb the play-crowd just as well.

So, I'm back to the 500-pound guerrilla feeling.  This is stuff that I ought not care much about, but being a 500-pound gorilla.....I'd just like to stand there and observe.  Sometimes, a play isn't so much about a literally moment, as it is about what's going to be seen and perceived.  Good versus evil.  Idiots versus brilliance.  Same-old-same-old versus being different.  It's all in the story.