About Chemainus

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Mural in Chemainus, British Columbia

Mural in Chemainus, British Columbia

Street scene in Chemainus, British Columbia

-- Your treatment of Chemainus is typical of your eirenic approach. "Nothing postmodern," you say. Well, look again. Everyone is playing a role in Chemainus now, caught in a mirroring, turned into a spectacle, made into a commodity, floating around in a simulacral economy of experience and image.

-- We've heard all those terms before, and you are trying to absolutize them. It's you who are ignoring the basics: people in Chemainus are still getting up in the morning, going to work, looking for enough money to survive. They're selling an image product instead of working away in the woods or the mill, that's true (and a lot safer). But your terms treat them as disembodied tokens, which denies their daily struggles. Their whole being hasn't gone through some postmodern transformation. There is something postmodern about them, but that's the way they and whatever structures they can create (in wood or in social grammar or in exchange relations) are inserted into a field of activities and flows that they have no hope of controlling. But that was always true to some extent, except that it happened on a time scale of generations rather than months.

-- I grant you that that acceleration is crucial, because it makes the whole process so much more self-conscious. It does change their way of relating to their work and their identities. They're more of a spectacle to themselves. But that doesn't uproot them completely. It's still the basic move from traditional to modern, to a new kind of self-awareness, even if to a self that's not so centralized and controlling as some theories of modernity postulated. Modernist literary and visual artists seldom made that mistake, though many of the philosophers and social theorists and architects did.

-- So you do admit that the townspeople's reality has changed.

-- It's always changing. The pace of change has become self-conscious, and, yes, that changes their reality, but not in some total revolution. They weren't so unaware, before.