My difficulties in telling east from west seem to have become common knowledge. Yesterday, Janice introduced me to a friend of hers named Bernard.
'He's a bit weird,' she said, 'but he's really nice really and I think he can help you.'
Bernard is a short, round man with a straggly ginger beard and stary blue eyes. He is a leading light in East is Up.
EIU, as I understand it, is an international movement to counter what its members see as the cartographic hegemony of the northern hemisphere. Its aim is to get the world's maps redrawn so that they show a proper balance between north and south.
As Bernard explained it to me, spluttering slightly in his eagerness, for too long the cultural oligarchs of Europe and North America have imposed their will on the hapless south. We must assert ourselves and break the chains. We must show them that they can't foist on us their distorted view of reality. Out with their smugness and their complacency, we say. Out with their arrogance and their sense of superiority. They will impose on us no longer.
That, at least, seemed to be the gist of it.
I was somewhat taken aback, not to say a little dampened, by all this fervour but I had to admit that he had a point. If I thought of the map of the world with the east at the top instead of to the side, I suddenly felt better orientated.
North was to the left and south to the right, I had not a moment's hesitation in seeing this, whereas with the normal view I was always in doubt - East to the left, no, right, or is it?
I confessed to Bernard that his world view was an improvement.
'Of course!' he said, astonished that I should think so obvious a conclusion worthy of remark. 'It makes more sense in every way. Symbolically, for example. I mean, they...' He spat the word out with a look of contempt. '...they would have the world spinning pointlessly like a top, whereas we have it rolling inexorably into the future towards the New Dawn.'
'Like a millstone,' I said.
'Like Destiny!' He gave me a triumphant glare.
'So,' I said, making sure I had it clear, 'we have an eastern hemisphere and a western hemisphere.'
'And in the east hemisphere we're at the top, although a little off-centre.'
'The Far, Far East, my friend!'
'Sounds fair enough to me.'
30 September 2008
I think it is incumbent upon me to point out that the orientation of maps is a convention without any substance in reality. There is no left or right or up or down in space.
It's through habit and convention that the intellectual oligarchs keep us down where they want us. Throw off the conventions! Breath the fresh air of cultural independence!
Oh, for God's sake!
© Chris Else 2008