Ice Age Art
Thank you very much for forwarding the copy of the review (Mixed Media, September). It is great to read a piece in which the Marxist arguments are remembered and there are certainly excellent discussions to be had on these themes. More information on the topics mentioned can be found in the book that accompanied the exhibition. In both I tried to get away from the notion that these societies were ‘primitive’ or ‘savage’ as this is the language of the nineteenth century used to place modern western Europeans at the top of the evolutionary tree. The language of Marx and Engels that pursues evolution from savagery to barbarism and then civilization also need to be brought up to date with modern knowledge. It also sought to avoid the concept of Rousseau’s noble savage that is also inherent in the Marxist approach.
Ice Age art shows the developing skills in language and communication that enable modern humans to form larger, successful communities with many forms of organisation. Hunter gatherer communities have to be collaborative to survive and as I say in the book, these people probably did have gender specific activities but without concepts of male/female superiority or measures of value for activities. Men and women served one world through different tasks. The breakdown of this comes with agriculture and the measured values for activities. The concept of Mutterrecht as fully expressed by Jung’s disciple Erich Neumann also needs to be used with care.
The elaborate ornaments in the exhibition also express ideas about personal and social identities, wealth and status that may have been politically, socially or spiritually hierarchical but as always it is difficult to be conclusive about the implications from the archaeological record.
There is as ever much to debate.
Jill Cook, Curator Ice Age Art: arrival of the modern mind, British Museum
Kenya school scam
I worked as a school manager at Bridge International Academies from 2010 to mid this year. The company’s business is educating the less fortunate in society at an affordable cost. Most of the company’s schools are constructed using iron sheets. And they are located in the slums.
Workers (teachers, school managers) in these schools are poorly paid, work for long hours and are not represented in any trade union. The proprietor of these schools is a top American capitalist. Profit is his main theme, though from time to time high quality education is dangled to parents and in prospectuses to attract them to the schools.
Workers are paid per the pupils who pay that month. Those who pay later on don’t count for this and the money remains the profit of the company (worker’s sweat). Any worker who makes an attempt to complain or show displeasure is shown the door.
Morale has been low and prospects of employees scaling the corporate ladder are slim as there is no upward mobility in the firm. The company pays US nationals handsomely while Kenyans are left to feed on crumbs.
Out of the 210 schools, 75 percent are profitable but this profit doesn’t get to those who make this a reality (teachers and school managers).
If that’s the way capitalism operates, then damn the system. It’s ugly and repugnant. Companies ought to realise that without their workers the wheels of their operations would grind to a halt.
Patrick W. Ndege, Nairobi, Kenya.
Kaz’s interesting article ‘Propaganda Power… in your pocket’ in September’s Socialist Standard sparked a mischievous thought: How ironic it would be to find bank notes defaced with the briefest of messages: ‘Abolish money – see SPGB’. I’m not suggesting a thing, mind.
Andy Cox (by email)
Maybe that’s why they’re thinking of changing to plastic notes? – Editors.