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The House (introduction).

Purely by chance, I stumbled across a movement called Mass Observation today. Born out of the surrealist and ethnography fields in Britain in 1937, it aimed, as it still does, to be a study of ourselves. Well, the British self, I guess; but still, anyone can pick it up. The Mass Observation site doesn't play much to the surrealist angle, and the current crop of questions, relating to 'The Asian Tsunami' and the royal wedding are pretty bland. But the questionnaire listed in Ben Highmore's Everyday Life and Cultural Theory is actually a lot more interesting, so I'm going to fill it in here.

There are twenty two questions, but I altered four questions (and I cleaned up the sexist language like a good politically correct human). The first (#9) dealt with home, but I changed it to country, because I thought the answers would be more interesting. The second (#13) was changed because it deals with the King marrying Mrs. Simpson, the third (#14) was the destruction of the Crystal Palace and, lastly (#16) the disestablishment of the Church of England. Neither of those are particularly relevant right now, so I've figured out some reasonable alterations that suit the tone of the original whatever interests me vaguely and fits.

The Meme.

This is a meme, basically. The Mass Observation Meme. People in Britain have been doing different ones since 1937. You want to do it, you take it, copy it into your blog, and post it round. Lets call it the Mass Observation of the Blogsphere. Or whatever you want (alternatively, you can ignore it--I'm not fussed).

Mass Observation.

1. Age?

28.

2. Married, unmarried, divorced, other?

Unmarried. Single.

3. What are your superstitions, in order of importance?

I don't have any superstitions.

4. Do you pay attention to coincidences?

In what will appear a complete contradiction to the previous question, yes.

It's not that I believe in a specific higher power. It's not that I think the world has a karma. It's not even that I believe in fate. But shit happens, as they say, and sometimes, shit happens in an order that makes things weird, and I figure I ought to pay attention to that. It usually works out well.

5. What is your class?

Working class.

6. What is your father's profession, and your own?

My father was a customs officer. Before his death, he was actually working as a teacher for the customs officer regime. I like to think of myself as professionless, and on forms, I tick the student box. But I'm an author, also, as much as I am a student, and I earn my money teaching.

Kinda odd when you think about it.

7. Do you or did you hate your father, and if so, why?

My father died before I could decide to hate him or not. I was nine. I barely remember him, now.

8. Do you or did you hate your mother, and if so, why?

No.

9. Do you or did you want to leave your country, and if so, why?

At the moment, I'm quite happy living in Sydney. That said, I'm pretty poorly traveled, and I'm hoping to change this after I finish the thesis, so who knows? The only thing that keeps me here is money and my friends and family. I suspect the last two are why I'll always return.

10. Do you want to have a son, or a daughter, or both?

No.

11. Do you hate your boss; do you hate your job?

I've no real opinion about one boss, but I like the other. I like my job. I especially like teaching at University, because it allows me to teach without feeling that I'm a merely a voice spewing propaganda for the current time. Teaching creative writing at Uni, at the very least, offers the potential for seeing people find something new within themselves.

12. What is your greatest ambition?

To be free. Free of debt, obligation, government, money. To be able to do anything whenever I want without worry.

13. Did you want President Clinton impeached, and if so, why?

Not my country.

14. Were you glad or sorry when the World Trade Centre was destroyed and if so, why?

I felt nothing.

Let me preface that: I had shock, the kind of shock that comes when the image of a plane is shown to punch into a building. I felt sad when I saw images of people jump off the top of the building and to their death because there was no other choice in their mind. But of the World Trade Centre as an event itself, I felt nothing. I felt nothing just as I felt nothing when America bombed factories in Afghanistan. Just as I felt nothing when stories of suicide bombers attacking Israel were reported. It is intellectually sad to hear that people die, but because I do not know them, I ultimately feel nothing. I flip the channel. I continue in my day.

15. Do you approve of the institution of marriage as it exists in this country at present? If not, how would you wish it changed?

No, I do not approve.

Gay marriage should be legal. It should be approved. The idea that two people of the same sex who love each other cannot be married, while I can go out, pick up a sixteen year old prostitute, get wasted, and married in some sleazy chapel in Vegas and then wake up in the Jungle Hotel Room... well, come on, one of those things is stupid and should be slapped around, and the other should be respected and given all that it deserves. Don't make me tell you which is which.

16. Are you in favour of the disestablishment of the Church?

Totally. Fuck the Church. Fuck any Church. Fuck the organisation of religion.

17. Are you religious? If so, in what form?

I'm agnostic.

This, I'm sure, will come as a surprise to some. Many figure me for a card carrying atheist.

18. Do you welcome or shrink from the contact by touch or smell of your fellow humans?

It totally depends on scabs.

19. Can you believe you are going to die?

Yes.

20. How do you want to die?

Quietly. Maybe like Aldous Huxley with the mescaline. Or in my sleep. Just without pain, though I fear, really, that this will be a rare thing. I'll die lucky and happy if it happens.

21. What are you most frightened of?

Escalators. Stepping out of planes and into nothing. Being cut open while wide awake. The list is long, my imagination good, and my neurosis' strong.

22. What do you mean by freedom?

That I can do and think as I please, without anyone telling me that I cannot, without circumstances preventing me, and without my own actions causing another to be prevented from doing what they wish.




1. Age?

2. Married, unmarried, divorced, other?

3. What are your superstitions, in order of importance?

4. Do you pay attention to coincidences?

5. What is your class?

6. What is your father's profession, and your own?

7. Do you or did you hate your father, and if so, why?

8. Do you or did you hate your mother, and if so, why?

9. Do you or did you want to get away from home, and if so, why?

10. Do you want to have a son, or a daughter, or both?

11. Do you hate your boss; do you hate your job?

12. What is your greatest ambition?

13. Did you want President Clinton impeached, and if so, why?

14. Were you glad or sorry when the World Trade Centre was destroyed and if so, why?

15. Do you approve of the institution of marriage as it exists in this country at present? If not, how would you wish it changed?

16. Are you in favour of the disestablishment of the Church?

17. Are you religious? If so, in what form?

18. Do you welcome or shrink from the contact by touch or smell of your fellow humans?

19. can you believe you are going to die?

20. How do you want to die?

21. What are you most frightened of?

22. What do you mean by freedom?

Comments

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wheeler
Aug. 25th, 2005 12:57 pm (UTC)
I don't think your changes really fit, to be honest. The destruction of Crystal Palace was not a great human tragedy, it was the loss of an architectural feature that was symbolic of empire. No lives were lost, and the geopolitical climate was largely unaffected.

The Affleck/Lopez relationship, on the other hand, is much more trivial than the abdication crisis, which had a lasting cultural impact and major ramifications for Britain and the Commonwealth. A closer cultural parallel would be the impeachment of President Clinton.
benpeek
Aug. 25th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)
yeah, fair enough, i'll take your point about the crystal palace thing. the affleck, king, president thing... it's all the same to me. my response would be the same no matter what you put there.
wheeler
Aug. 25th, 2005 01:39 pm (UTC)
Your response may be the same - and may even have been the same in 1930s Britian - but your response surely isn't the sole point of the exercise? It's the range of responses that matters. The Affleck marriage does not present the range of responses to a modern American that the abdication crisis offered to a Briton in the 1930s.
benpeek
Aug. 25th, 2005 01:50 pm (UTC)
my way of viewing the original was not that it the question was tied to the political or cultural aspect that are part of that question, but rather that it was attached to the trivial point of 'your morals about these two people' much in the way the charles and camilla wedding was presented, the affleck and lopez thing, which is really quite often what those questions are asking you, imo. even the clinton thing had an essence of this. so for me, the question was structured around being trivial, which is why i altered it to that.

likewise, i'm not bothered by the range of response for the modern american. of course, you're more than free to change it if you want. assuming people do it, watching changes seep through is part of the interest.
wheeler
Aug. 25th, 2005 02:04 pm (UTC)
There's a moral aspect to the question, but it's tied to context. It's not purely trivial. If Edward had taken the throne with Wallis as his Queen, the Commonwealth would likely have broken apart. That's why Clinton is a better parallel. There's a trivial moral question that's forcing a crisis, but the crisis is still undeniably real.
benpeek
Aug. 25th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC)
yeah, fair enough. it was convincing enough for me to swap it.
wheeler
Aug. 25th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC)
Or to put it another way; it is not a 'celebrity wedding' question.
benpeek
Aug. 25th, 2005 01:55 pm (UTC)
and yet, after i posted that, i figured you had a point. so i changed it.
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