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Identity Crisis at the chicken factory
Thursday, April 13, 2006

This is a crop from a photo taken by a Canadian photographer called Edward Burtynsky - his exhibition about China currently showing here ( It struck a chord or two with my current thinking about repetition identity and the meaning of everyday life. Am in that state where thoughts are swilling about in some kind of philosophical soup in my head and I know eventually the flavours will blend - but it could turn out to be undrinkable. The industrial revolution and mass production brought these repetitive processes and procedures - factory work - I did this for a while packing soup in Symington's factory in the midlands - but I knew I wouldn't be doing it forever. Maybe the rhythms of industrial processes are not that different essentially from the rhythms of agricultural processes - the tilling and hoeing of peasant life. Maybe that's why the move from one to the other is being so cleverly effected in China - and of course there are a lorra lorra people there (most of them apparently working in this chicken factory). But that's stopped here more or less - we don't make much stuff anymore in the UK. We are part of the "knowledge economy". I can't say this without a sneer don't know about you (who?)
So my working day must be endlessly invented and reinvented and is often structured in response to an email or a phone call as different priorities assert themselves. I think this invades my head even more than the soup factory did. I used to be free to think my own thoughts. Now I don't have any it's not allowed my head is the intellectual property of my company and even writing this blog could become a capital offence. Bodies or minds? Which is the easiest to enslave?
Also connected to questions of identity - have two thoughts - one you could say that the people in this picture lose their id as part of the industrial process two you could say that doing this kind of job which is no different to what anybody else does - leaves you free to create an identity of a different kind. I am thinking about the whole blx about the individual on which our culture rests - so we are special, so we can be sold lots of stuff so we can look / feel better than our fellows. But sadly we don't. So we have to spend some more.
I have just tried to prove my identity at the HSBC bank. They don't believe me. The passport and letter from npower not enough. They need to see evidence that money has left my account from this address - I only exist in so far as I spend.
Individual / community? The apparent failure of socialism suggest we are made to be this unpleasant competitive greedy species. I think it might be time to leave my clothes on a beach and swim off. Or maybe I could flog my identity on ebay? Can't think why anybody would want it.
4:26 AM  

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  • At 8:14 AM, Blogger Jojo said…

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  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger zanjabil said…

    Interesting post.

    I've just checked out Burtynsky's site -- great photos.

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