Italy, February 2016

Counting of the chicken's feathers in cold countryside

L

A PISTA (Piemonte)

5th of February. 1st hour in Italy, the other side of Tende, ascension finished.

Not a centimeter of white powder: I’m hurtling down asphalted ski pistes in a fantom station. I test the depth of the echo a bit. Oh, A fox chilling out (everyone thinks heights are impracticable)! End of the slope, slalom in sneakers on a mini-piste of artificial snow, in the middle of queueing  bambini and mechanical lift full of downs and reflectives glasses. Nobody was suspecting someone would burst in from the summit, on a retro patineta, loaded like a mule, all flags out. The ski monitor is running out of breath, dispensing his precious advices. He has a sort of goblins flock

hung on his sticks, eyeing elsewhere, with long planks on their feet, crashing into another. I’m negotiating a last turn, staying perpendicular to the hill, lifting with a quick kick the rear wheel, letting it turn 180°. Let’s get to a safe zone of grass, make funny figure before the snowplough, enter in the first warm inn of Limone, and drink something hot, in order to celebrate. And don’t bother beginning to swindle me! It’s written 1 euro less on the board at the entrance! I’m savoring, a bit loony, that crossing of the Alps well played, on the sound of the snowing canon and charges explosions digging the second tunnel, a aria of Puccini in mind. Tzin ta tzing, BOUM, tsoin tsoin, BOUM BOUM, hey ho Italians is there anybody in that valley, in that valley, that valley, valley… ! Oh, my!

A

NTHROPO (RE)PRODUCTOR (World)

Issues of political philosophy, the basis.

  • How does a human ensure his material reproduction (to eat, drink, sleep, be safe, reproduce, use symbols which open other worlds to him) within a group of peers (« political animal »), group amongst other groups, in a finite world with limited ressources?
  • If he does not possesses himself the means of his material reproduction (self sufficiency of food, energy, technique, use of symbols), who is providing those goods, by what means can he reach them, under what conditions (what’s the actual configuration of social relationships giving him access to the essentials)?
  • And the goods that are proposed, by whom are they made, by how many, where, how, in which conditions (what’s the actual configuration of social relationships concerning production)?
  • Lastly, are those goods really vital, what is really sold and in which purpose, which are the desires prompted to him (what’s the actual configuration of social relationships regarding consumption) ?

Depending on the answers given to those questions, what will he be in position to say about his way of life, about the conditions of his material reproduction? And what will he do from there?

A

FTER MAY (Piemonte)

First following day in Piemonte, in the middle of a highway.

A young woman slams on the brakes of her old red Fiat, to her tail pile up surprisingly patient trucks and automobiles. « Do you need to be drop off somewhere, something’s wrong? », in italian. Confusion, since I’m on my way, worriless, certainly, in mono-patino. Ha! Francese. Dou you needé somethingé? She’s wearing a woolen scarf badly wrapped, the cockpit smells of old smoke and papers and books from here, she doesn’t seem to possess much more than I do, a little and I’d believe she’s touring Europe with her repackaged Punto. She’s disconcerting me with simplicity, « to drinké, to eaté », gesturing the grasp of something on the frontseat, making signs to invite me in, the immediacy is to know what’s the need, but not any need, mine, the basis. If I relied on her as for the means of my material reproduction, I could very well end a few decades back, surrounded by a brotherhood of Turinese dissidents, Venitians, Romans, united by the cinematograph, debating of the efficacity and means of Revolution : « aloré, politicalé or artisticé? The roadé or the moviesé? Marxé or Rimbaldé? »… grazie, grazie ! Buon viaggio! The procession starts again, in a rush. She disappears, and me too in her rear-view mirror.

C

OUNTING OF THE CHICKEN’S FEATHERS IN COLD COUNTRYSIDES (Piemonte, Lombardy).

Mornings are cold again (between 0 and -3°), on top of being ill. Habit comes of a precise order of gestures to stay warm the longest time as possible, while preparing myself to face harder conditions. Thus, I never use the sarcophagus sleeping bag totally zipped to the top, I put it as a sort of blanket on the air mattress covered with a cotton liner (the ability of the matress to insolate from the ground is as important as the efficiency of the bag), and I tuck it firmly. Once correctly wrapped up, after a moment, the trick is to find how to avoir air flows in the microcosmos I’m maintaining at an acceptable degree of agitation, thanks to my own body energy. They would accelerate its degradation, temperature would drop and everything would be to be done again. Sometimes, on the contrary, one has to use wisely the air draft effect in order to temper the fervour of the feathered furnace. Hop, a small lift between two pages of reading, and you’re done. I’m counting on that circumscribed java to dry (relatively) the socks at the bottom of the bag at night. One also has to find how to let only the nose pass beyond the fabric, shun humidity under the down. Evaluate if the night is going to be very cold, or less, to avoid waking up soaked in sweat, and adapt the number of layers.

Now, I’m using a quite advanced technique, which consist in the appropriation of the spontaneous mean of material reproduction of another animal, its feathers (reproductive function, or nest building one concerning goose). The captured raw material is then confined in a highly technical fabric – a good sleeping bag will often be very cold on the external surface, and one finally just has to slip in as in a second skin.

It’s practical, web-footed birds seem to not have yet developed a language of anti-human resistance, nor the capacity of organizing offensive squadron to sabotage the vast breeding warehouses, nor to ally with their comrade beasts internationally exploited. It went way too fast for them; as the quasi whole of species, they don’t dispose of the formidable symbolic capacities that we use to relay and adopt sciences and techniques as quickly as we do, of our tool to make datas circulate at a speed higher than the rhythm of their genetical reproduction, and they are not born in a state of de-specialisation (neoteny) as consequent as our, something that allow them to adapt to almost any kind of environment, and open the gates of invention and exploration*. On top of really improving the resistance to cold weather of their biped predators, their precious down is now the object of a big-scale industrial collection, in a ferocious struggle between goods humanoids producers (breeders, makers, suppliers) who have to maintain themselves on a globe-market (produce, sell and renew infinitely the marchandises in a yet finite world), ruled by a unique liberal imperative (to value the Capital, infinitely). Why this respect of the game, individually, among those hunters, allegedly savant: to gain access to the money, actual fetish (a jingling piece of metal, some paper sheet with a value added contractually) purveyor of the dictated goods means of their material reproduction!

For my part, I’ve bought a down jacket and a sleeping bag in real goose feathers to Cumulus, a small polish producer who started in 1989, at the time of a famous political era shift (planned economy to liberal economy). The boss is a former employee of a national cooperative, enamoured with fresh air and mountains, he complied at the speed of the lighting strike, like a sapiential ape, with the reconfiguration of the production and domination social relationships, yet claims a number of base values. The manufacture is next to the technical conception and management offices, in Gdynia, Poland, where everything is done. There are 16 employees. The company buys the goose down which would have been destroyed to an existing meat farmer (Poland concentrates a high poultry farming activity). That breeder applies conscientiously the minimalist european norms in effect regarding animal exploitation in the less-ill-being way (a french play on notions of « mal-être », and « moindre mal »): when I enquired about Cumulus position on the matter (I had to choose between a synthetic sleeping bag or a real down sleeping bag), Natasza, client service manager, sent me the certificates at once : approved by EDFA (European Down and Feather Association), certified by IDFL (traceability standards). As for the technical fabric, it’s with Mitsui that they work, a japanese firm who bought Pertex, once Perseverance Mills, with whom they’d been working from the beginning.

I have with the team a direct and personal contact. The relationship with Natasza is very good, human to the extend of dematerialized exchange, even warm, though we’ve never meet each other (maybe when I’ll kick near Warsaw): the adventure I’ve thrown myself in, the use sectors of the products they make (outdoors, exploration adventure) do encourage enthusiastic interactions, raising us up for a moment beyond low considerations regarding the means of our material reproduction.

I’m being sarcastic and honest at the same time. I think, as do many others, that the actual configuration of the social relationships of production is not compatible with a grown-up sapiens humanism, and, very simply, not compatible with the survival of the species (and a lot of other species, as we know already). Anyway this configuration is certainly not a « crisis » as it is sold over and over by the Spectacular, but rather the instituted form of an ideological and economical neo-liberalism (one must not expect to get out of it as out of a storm diminishing, as a temporary crises of elements, but one should fight it fiercely as an individual). It will go on adapting and changing, with repercussions of higher contrast experienced as something more and more unfair, when fossile energies will come to a degree of rarefaction to the extent that the infrastructures of the market of goods will be hit harder and harder (petrol, and other forme of expensive and limited energies, are fueling the mass of our spheres of activity, urban as well as, unfortunately, rural), that very rich people will be able to protect themselves more easily, and moreover when amplified modifications of our environment will have to be faced, partly induced by our very own doing. The most important thing seems to act for a general awareness and resistance, ultra-quickly, and the borrowing of other ways, more mature, in order to avoid that in the decades upcoming the totalitarist component of that 21st century liberalism should stiffen strenuously (whilst liquefying in the pores of our biological, urge-driven, symbolical lives, so much that it often ends totally interiozed). It means it’s our task to build viable alternatives so that the inequalities between human beings, between species, the slavery of sad passions disguised as joyful passions, and the destruction of our home-planet and its diversity, don’t accentuate themselves exponentially and quicker yet when we won’t be able to produce essential goods the way we mainly do now, when our m