Some years ago, I was commissioned by the New Zealand Charter of Health Practitioners to write a series of articles for their house magazine on topics that have traditionally separated mainstream New Zealand from the rest of us cranks, weirdos, whackos and fringe dwellers: fluoride, aspartame, genetic engineering, and so forth
They formed the basis of my original website.
As time went by, and the site grew, I kept wondering about what, if anything, defined "mainstream" and what, if anything defined those who danced to the beat of a different drum, and why they found it so difficult to talk to each other.
And the more I thought, the more it seemed to me to that the answer had something to do with Joseph Campbell's theory of primitive social structures.
Nomadic groups, he said, placed the interests of their social group above all else. They were exploiters both of their surroundings and of weaker populations. When they had used up the resources in one place, they simply moved on to the next. Their interests tended as such to be short term. Such gods as emerged in these groups tended to reflect the warlike, male qualities that defined effective nomadic leaders. Spiritual practice tended to be dualistic, with a strong emphasis on good and evil as these were defined by the perceived interests of the group or the group leaders.
Settled communities saw the land they occupied as central to their existence. Their loyalty and their relationship was first of all to the land they occupied. Instead of viewing the environment as something separate from themselves that they could exploit, they saw themselves - and their social group - as part of a larger whole that included the environment.
Such gods as emerged tended to be female and nurturing. Spiritual practice reflected this sense of oneness with a greater whole. And along with this identification with a greater whole, notions of good and bad tended to be more relative in the presence of the bigger picture, the larger awareness.
The original social structures posited by Campbell have long disappeared, in any pure form at least, but the fundamental attitudes they represent continue today, in the division between technology and conservation.
There is no question that the technology developed by the exploiters has given them an enormous economic advantage, and has thus defined them as "mainstream", but the problems they have always faced in respect of resource management and pollution still dog them today, when we are running out of raw materials, running out of fuel, and running out of places to dump toxic waste.
(One of the advantages in conquering space would be the availability of almost unlimited supplies of raw materials and an unlimited dumping ground for industrial waste.
Confined to earth, this same technology threatens to choke them in a rising tide of pollution and an ever decreasing supply of fuel and raw materials, to say nothing of an increasing threat from global warming.)
For possibly the first time in history the voice of the non-mainstream, the environmentalists, and the mystics, has been heard sympathetically in an increasing number of places, by an increasing number of people, at least in the west, and the last years of the 20th century saw widespread and far-reaching environment-protection legislation enacted in most western nations.
The response of industry has been effectively to bribe government to undo existing antipollution or labour protection legislation or minimise its enforcement, or to shift the more polluting activities to countries which have no such regulations.)
Such countries are also likely to have exceptionally cheap labour available, including child and slave labour. Once an exploiter.....
Unfortunately, global warming does not respect national boundaries.
What we are dealing with are two completely different modes of thinking, each seemingly incapable of comprehending or communicating with the other except in head-on confrontation, yet each, in its own way, vital to our ongoing survival as a planet, each with its problems.
On the West Coast of New Zealand, large tracts of land are owned or adminstered by the Department of Conservation, and a friend of mine remarked that it was like living in a museum. Everything was for display; nothing was available for use. A balance must be struck that allows the use of resources in a manner that is sustainable for the forseeable future, that enables technology to make increasingly "smart" use of our heritage and our children's heritage.
This website, then, is an unashamedly non-mainstream look at a wide range of mainstream and non-mainstream activities by a guy with a couple of hi-tech metal hip joints.