For the last millenia, the human species has narrated itself as the protagonist and hero of its own story. Humanism, a branch of the European tradition, was partially a redemption story, but read more like outright hypocrisy, as it attempted to make space at the table for all of those Others, those who suffered, endured and resisted the sharp claws of colonialism and Empire building. And retrospectively we see perfectly clear that the circle of inclusion did indeed grow bigger, but only for those willing and able to play the great game of extraction based capitalism.
The Western European tradition has prided itself on its lack of limits - medicine, technology, and even ethics and morals - do we not like to think of ourselves as an increasingly ‘woke’ culture? We have tiny little men, fueled by a frantic performance drive, to colonize space. It is too easy really, as we witness their competitive struggle, to launch their giant phalluses into space.
It is yet to be determined how this current grand narrative will play out. But caught in the midst of the current chapter, things don’t look so good for team HUMAN. Like the frog swimming in increasingly warmer water, many of us lost sensitivity to the subtle changes in habitat loss, our senses not picking up on the lack of frogs croaking in the evening, the fireflies twinkling their dim but punctuated light in the thick grass of ditches alongside gravel roads. Scientists refer to this lack of sensitivity as a shifting baseline - Every generation forming its own baseline as to what constitutes NATURE. Or what passes as a ‘good enough’ relationship to nature. Each generation normalizing an ever weakening and severed relationship to the natural world.
Of course, language constantly betrays us. To suggest that humans ‘have’ a relationship to nature automatically places us as outside of nature. Our default, as Human animals is to position ourselves as the exception to the animalnature zone. This exception, that places human animals as outside of nature, and in control of nature, provides us with this normalizing and normative narrative. And even in our actions of resistance against climate change, our murmurs of discontent at the current state of the planet, it has been rare to turn the gaze inwards upon ourselves as human animals. Rarely taking stock of the intimate and dense entanglement and web of relationships that exists between human animals and the natural world.
Make no mistake, the anti-heroic is an inquiry into normative and normalizing Values as well as Sensitivities or lack thereof. The anti-heroic gives space to neither the dramatic events or the traumatic events (many folks have already written eloquently on trauma). But what I add to the conversation is the body in its in-between state of ordinary, everyday living. The anti-heroic is about giving space to how we experience the sensual, flesh and blood body. The everyday waking moments of living in a ‘business as usual’ body. It is an opportunity to take a breath, to sit back in stillness and think about our body in real time. Not ‘gym time’ or ‘studio time’ when we lie on our back and our yoga teacher provides us with exhortations to breathe. Or when our gym coach tells us to get in one more rep. Nope. The anti-heroic is to draw attention to the everyday unconscious gestures and physical habits. It is the everyday deeds and performances that, over time, harden through repetition and even become inter-generational.
It is an attempt to bring forth an honest and frank conversation about power relations and the material realities of our everyday, often banal lives. The anti-heroic is calling to attention of the body in lived time ‘getting by.’