STILL AT THE CENTRE
In 1962 three westerns were released: 2David Miller's Lonely Are the Brave, Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country. That same year my pioneering life began quite unobtrusively. Looking back, I find it difficult to define the texture of my life and my society as it existed then. How can I describe the interface between my personal life, that historical moment in society and the stage of development of the religion I had come to be associated with, by then, for nearly ten years? The raw material for the western genre came from the 1840s to the 1890s when the USA expanded at a staggering rate. So was this true of the raw material of my religion, and specifically the Revelation of the Bab and Baha'u'llah: 1844-1892.
The first western was shot, writes Gary Johnson1, in 1898. The western genre emerged out of the embers of the actual frontier history, a frontier which formally ended in 1893. By 1962, the typical new western Baha'i pioneer lived imaginatively, to some extent anyway, in "Bonanzaland"3 thanks to the TV western. In the Baha'i Faith this pioneer also lived imaginatively, to an important extent, in a crescent occupying a region from Teheran to Akka and Haifa in Israel. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Gary Johnson, "The History of the Western," Article on the Internet; 2Richard Armstrong's Review of John Saunders, The Western Genre: From Lordsburg to Big Whiskey, Wallflower Press, London, 2001; and 3M. McLuhan in Philip French, Westerns: Aspects of a Movie Genre, Seeker and Warburg, London, 1977.
As the world was being turned
into one vast tourist attraction,
amidst war and horror,
free-wheeling anarchic community,
a staggering complexity,
I started my pioneer journey
beyond my St. Louis1
amidst TV horse operas:
Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Virginian
Not equipped to handle
complex socio-political ideas,
we lived under the illusion
that what we saw was
a neutral recording of events,
not cinematic artificiality,
for the eye was so much busier
than the mind, for most of us.
We mapped out personal life-stories
over these simple tales and, in the process,
provided a glue to the social order,
little did we know, then,
for cinema did not question,
was not critical. The social consensus
had not come apart back then,2
or so some argued anyway.
Beside Bonanzaland a new narrative
was played on the stage, for some.
It was told across the wide-wide world,
To the observer of mass-culture
it looked like other stories were
winning: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
Rosemary's Baby, Amityville Horror,
The Clockwork Orange, On Golden Pond,
The Exorcist, Apocalypse Now, Dirty Harry---.
and on and on------went the complex tale------
as liberalism failed,
and conservatism triumphed;
as a strand of the radicalism of the sixties
slowly became organized
in a broadbased movement
that was still at the centre
of that quiet revolution
which began in Shiraz.
2 M. Ryan and D. Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film, Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1990, p.3.
1 St. Louis Missouri was the beginning point of 'The West' in 1850; my St. Louis was Burlington Ontario Canada in 1962.
4 December 2001
Since I was the writer of this post, and since I would like to edit it, I have written this reply. Being unable to edit it--I will leave it as is.-Ron Price, Australia
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