Thursday, September 10, 2009

Anancyism... and sluggish systems

Thanks to Geoffrey Philp for a great story in response to the last post, as well as the observation that: "There is something quintessentially Jamaican in this joke -- tragi-comedy, that Walcott says must be earned. It runs through our culture. We recognize the hard blows of life, yet affirm our dignity through humor."

I agree that 'taking serious tings make joke' is characteristic of our culture and should certainly (in some degree) be part of the stories that come out of it. Anancyism, as articulated and operated by our folk hero, Anancy, the original Spider Man, is perhaps another marker.

That brings me to a question. I'd like to know what folks understand the term "Anancyism" to mean. I've encountered some definitions that disagree (I'll come back to them in due course) and I know how I've always understood the term. Because there's lack of consensus, I'd be glad for wider feedback.

So to another, and quite different matter. There are some who say that one of the signs of impending apocalypse is the collapse of world communication systems. Seems that in some parts of the world, broadband, touted as the solution to 'super-fast' delivery of data, is failing to live up to its big promise. According to today's BBC World News:

"... in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon.

A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom.

Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.

Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm's slow internet speeds."

Not entirely sure why Winston should be characterized as 'humble'... Seems the epithet in this case might better apply to the web firm's lackadaisical service; certainly it would not be inappropriate for the firm's attitude, in the face of its poor performance. (Vain hope!) But it's worth bearing in mind that old ways are worth preserving. After all, birds flew before planes and messages crossed distances before there were fibre-optic cables. Selah.

14 comments:

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Hail up, Pam!

Anancy is an archetypal Trickster and as such shares a lineage with Eshu, Loki, Coyote, etc.

In my readings of Jung and Pearson, archetypes like these have positive and negative sides--the negative side of the Trickster usually involves an enormous sexual appetite and he uses his skills for personal gain.

The positive Trickster, as I have done in many of my stories, involves using his/her skills to outwit an enemy/bully.

The usual growth of the Trickster is from personal, community, global use of skills.

Hope this helps.

1Love,
Geoffrey

FSJL said...

Remember, Anansi is a spider, small and weak. His only means of survival is to outwit those stronger and more powerful than himself. Anansiism is an approach to life that values trickery and wit, and the skillful deception of the mighty over a direct approach.

Geoff: You might see the enormous sexual appetite as a negative, but far more negative, I'd say, is the valorization of treachery as a good.

clarabella said...

Hail up, Bredda Geoff: Howdye? Me know. Him is de diminished Akan Creator God, our Atlantic version of him. I know he relates to the signifying monkey and other tricksters in various folklores. What I am trying to find out is how most of us average readers/ordinary Jamaicans understand 'Anancyism'. Maybe FSJL, for/as one, can help us out...

clarabella said...

FSJL and Geoff: Well, seeyah! FSJL pos is respanse jus as me was posing fe me own aksing far is elp. His understanding of Anansiism is much the same as mine. Anansi is a long head fellow, a ginnal who wuk im brain fe get tru, fill im belly and mek life. Im well bad sometimes, yes, but we fe do? I'd still like to know whether there are other definitions of Anancyism, so still glad to have help there...

FSJL said...

Memba, is long time mi nuh live pan di rock, Pam.

Anansiism, I think, for most Jamaicans, is a strategy. A means of dealing with those more powerful than themselves. Jamaicans both admire and distrust the samfie man. But most Jamaicans have a bit of the samfie in them; it being a necessity in dealing with a system that is, at bottom, corrupt. You have to adapt or fail.

Oddly, the best depiction of Anansi I've read in recent years was written by an Englishman, Neil Gaiman.

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Anansiism, it not merely treachery. It is use of the wit and imagination to overcome an obstacle or problem.

To use an analogy that I hope works. Bill Clinton has moved from using the personal charm, skills, imagination for personal use to perhaps, I say perhaps, helping Haiti. That to me is also a move from personal sexual appetite to growth as a Trickster.

FSJL said...

Not merely treachery, but, alas, treachery is an aspect of the phenomenon as it is practiced and experienced in Jamaica (and other places). Jack Mandora, mi nuh choose none.

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

And that is why is this time, we need to move the conversation along

FSJL said...

Perhaps we should move it in a different direction. I'm interested, inter alia, in the African presence in Latin America. Here's a story which both you and Pam should find interesting: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/argentina/090810/afro-argentines-assert-identity-culture?page=0,0

clarabella said...

FSJL and Geoffrey: I think you would agree that Anancy is a ginnal, a samfie man, a trickster, a schemer, a strategist. So, concomitantly, Anancyism is a strategy – of survival, of overcoming adversity, of using ingenuity so dat de likl man cyan put one over pon de big man. Anansi as treacherous? Is that maybe a bit harsh? Though I admit he's by no means a moral fellow and I suppose, yes, he can be faithless. Still, he'll find food for his family (and trick them into giving him the lion's share) and he'll catch snake by a ruse, to the relief of the creatures in the forest. We can move the discussion along, yes, but not before I mention the definition that had me raising the question in the first place. I'll do that in the next post. Thanks, as ever, for the discussion. 1luv pam

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Pam, because I see Anancy as a archetype--another of his brothers is Hermes--each archetype has positive and negative valencies. Xango/Mars can have a positive of fighting for a noble cause or can disintegrate in "macho" behavior. Hera/Yemoja can be nurturing or smothering.
For me, Anancy's positive side--Imagination & wit as an everday strategy is useful, but is not an end itself.
To be fully human, to embody all of these archetypes at the right time is what we should be aiming at.
And the greatest of these is Love that will break every chain that binds us and our idrens

clarabella said...

FSJL, Geoff: I think the Anancy I am sticking with, for the moment, is the likl Spiderman from the stories and pantos. That's not to say I disagree with what Geoff is saying about his being an archetype by any means, just to point out the place I am operating from, AT THIS POINT in the discussion. So that when the question of 'treachery' arises, I want to ask, 'Do we really have a treacherous Spider in our folklore?' If yes, what are the examples of his treachery? Several things have arisen in all this that fascinate me. For instance, how do we arrive at a 'right' understanding of both Anancy and what Anancyism is? In the case of Anancy, should we not perhaps examine the Anancy Chronicles and set down jes wat im wuz up to? In the case of Anancyism, shouldn't we do a lot of that kind of homework too? Otherwise I or anyone else might just decide like Humpty Dumpty in ALICE IN WONDERLAND that "When I use a word... it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." And if we do decide to examine the Anancy Chronicles and the several understandings of Anancyism, how do we decide who/what shall be a reliable source? How many 'understandings' do we collect before deciding? Do we attempt to resolve them? And so on...

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

"For instance, how do we arrive at a 'right' understanding of both Anancy and what Anancyism is?"

Pam, as writers I don't think we have to be right, we have to be interesting. We are the creators, and although I know you want to move the discussion to treachery and Anancyism in the culture, (I'll talk about this later today), I just want to stress that in the original context, Anancy was not weak, but only "appeared" to be weak.

In some contexts, Tricksters are so closely aligned with the Creator god, are almost indistinguishable. In some contexts they are.

More with the treachery later...

clarabella said...

Geoff: My response to this has grown enormous, like Topsy! I'll post it on the blog, with much thanks. 1Love, as ever.