Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Less than 4 years separate the world's fairs at Flushing Meadows and Woodstock ...

If 1965's world's fair at Flushing Meadows NY was everything the 1940 New York's World's Fair's "World of Tomorrow" had predicted, the same could hardly be said for the world's fair at Woodstock held less than four years later.

For its design style was far less Robert Moses and far more Scott Nearing.

So much so in fact that we are forced to ask just what on earth in 1940 could ever be said to have predicted Woodstock and the rise of a counterculture so diametrically opposed to everything that the 1965 World Fair had on offer ?


First let us look at the scientific and cultural ethos of the 1940 World's Fair (The World of Tomorrow).

In a word, it was Reductionism : uniformitarian reductionism and synthetic autarky.

It believed that the predictable simple motions of the small (atoms) totally explained the predictable Big and complex.

 So with only 'too cheap to meter' atomic energy and a pile of rocks, Man could confidently expect to readily replicate everything Mother Nature had to offer - only better - negating any further need for Nature - or even Earth itself.

We could hope to abandon the fecund green Earth in the near future, to live in a more advanced civilization under domes on sterile grey rock of planet Mars.


By contrast, in that same year, a scientist at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre, Dr Martin Henry Dawson, set about exalting the smallest and the weakest over the biggest and the strongest.

Using a medical miracle created by some of life's smallest and most humble beings, Dawson deliberately gave History's first ever antibiotic shots to some of humanity's smallest and most humble, a young black and a young Jew from New York's working class, just days before the giant 1940 World's Fair closed.

Dawson had earlier spent decades vainly trying to convince his fellow scientists that the supposedly simple and predictable small bacteria were, in fact, extremely complex and unpredictable.

Being incredible tiny and defenceless, microbes had not succeeded in taking over the world in the way in the way Man was currently attempting, being content merely to survive upon it.

And they had done so in spades.

For four billion years, in incredibly dense numbers, in all possible biological niches ---- when bigger and more complex beings had only occupied narrow niches and had then quickly gone extinct.

That surprising amount of success really needed explaining.

Rather than confront and simplify their external environment in the way that human Reductionism did, Dawson demonstrated that the microbes simply conformed to all the world's incredibly varied and fluid circumstances - displaying their own plastic willingness to change, adapt and co-exist  -- an ethos that I call Commensality.

Woodstock : Dr Dawson's Children

Now let us jet forward a generation after 1940.

While the futuristic science displays at the 1965 world's fair still strongly treated Nature was as stupid and as unneeded at the 1940 world's fair had thought, the world's fair at 1969's Woodstock clearly differed - strongly believing that there was lots and lots of wisdom to be found in fecund Mother Nature.

Dawson had had his own brief back-to-the-land experiences in the Depression years in rural Armonk NY, a 100 miles south east of the Woodstock site.

If he had still been alive in 1969, he might not have understood the clothing and hair lengths choices made by Sixties back-to-the-landers but nevertheless , Joni Mitchell's famous "Child of God" could just as accurately be described as "Children of Dawson" ....

No comments:

Post a Comment