A while back (in fact last year) I went to a gathering of the gloriously named Australian Centre for Convivial Backyard Civilisation, which is one of Peter Willis’s gigs. I met Peter a couple of years ago when he, Fiona and I presented at the Community Centres’ conference. I have been to quite a few of the gatherings of the group now and have really enjoyed meeting people and having a chance to listen and share ideas. The group, as well as their regular conversational format, have occasional speakers on topics of interest. Their first guest, a guy called Jack Cross, who has been an educator of various kinds for many years, came that Sunday over a year ago and spoke about Marx and his relevance to the current world. It was just fascinating.
It’s intriguing how demonised Marx seems to be now – since end of the Soviet era, and of the communist regimes in eastern Europe, there has been a real aversion to analysing capitalism, almost at all, and certainly not from Marxist perspectives. Jack’s position was that while the enactment of some Marxist ideas has not worked so well, the insights that Marx provided to the ways capitalism operates are really useful still. He (Marx) was a very powerful and insightful thinker, and Jack was in turn a very clear and insightful presenter.
I wrote the first draft of this piece for the blog soon after the presentation, but didn’t finish it. However I have recently come across Jack’s notes given out on the day, and reading them through, was reminded of what a great session it was. Here is just a taster “He [Marx] believed that individually and as a species we create ourselves (especially our own consciousness) by acting upon (or reacting to) our environment and seeing ourselves reflected back in the product. In this way we discover our enormous innate potentials”. This has me thinking about the importance of action, of doing things to create the world we want to live in and the lives we want to live. He also talked about Marx’s idea that the way a society produces goods is highly influenced by the technology available to it, and that if you change the technology that is used, then “bit by bit you will change the social relationships, the ideas and almost everything else”. As we move further and further into a digital, computer based world, does this not ring true? I can’t have this blog relationship with anyone who reads this without the technology to allow it just for one example.
Anyway, I could rave on, but no doubt I would not do the topic much justice. Quite apart from the subject matter though, another aspect of the day is really worthy of note – and that is how marvellous it is to get together with others to explore ideas and have a yarn about how the world works. And how excellent that this can happen, and does, at least sometimes, outside of formal schools, with interested individuals, morning tea, and (in this case) older folk (like Jack and Peter) who are engaged, experienced and who have spent lots of time themselves exploring ideas, thinking and acting in the world.