The South has no idea, really

It can be useful to consider the doubts that beset the South. In a way, it’s repeating conventional wisdom to claim that the North is more significant than the South, but it’s important to acknowledge it at some point in this journey. At least we know what we are up against. Treat it as a crude provocation. Rebuttals are most welcome.

Let’s face it, North is where the action is.

  • There are four times as many people living in the northern as in the southern hemisphere.
  • The South is mostly water. Two thirds of the continents are in the North.
  • The earth is magnetised so that all our compasses point north.
  • Since the breakup of Gondwana, even southern continents have been moving steadily northwards. Africa will eventually be joined to Europe.
  • The South is mostly islands. Isolation leads to inferior evolution — look at the flightless birds.
  • Colonisation was an unfortunate but inevitable confrontation between the superior interconnected empires of the North and the fragmented independent kingdoms of the South.

The superiority of the North is partly due to its curiosity for the unknown. An idea of South emerges not from anything within the South, but from the missionary impulse of the North itself. The South sees itself through the lens of northern primitivism.

The South may chose to turn its back on the North, but this will only isolate it further from the source of new ideas and resources. Nations like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Chile were formed by empires from the North and so are destined to judge themselves according to Northern values. They may achieve significant feats in their own hemisphere, but they will never contribute anything original to the source of their nationhood in the North.

2 thoughts on “The South has no idea, really”

  1. I wonder if the idea of ‘north’ and ‘south’ might be more usefully discussed in terms of ‘antipodality’? McKenzie Wark in his essay “Suck on This, Planet of Noise!” in Simon Penny’s (ed) Critical Issues in Electronic Media suggests that “…experiencing antipodality is always very unsettling, sometimes a little schizophrenic. There is nothing uniquely Australian about it, although it is a very common anxiety in Australian culture. This is a place that is always in a relation to an elsewhere, that is always defined by its relation to a powerful other. We are…always oscillating in antipodality with elsewheres.”
    He goes on to say with reference to global flows
    “Suddenly cultural identity looks like it is in flux. The relations and the flows are more clearly in view than the sources or destinations. Cultural differences are no longer so tied to the experience of the particularities of place. These ‘vertical’ differences of locality, ethnicity and nation are doubled by ‘horizontal ‘ differences, determined not by being rooted in a particular place but by being plugged into a particular circuit.We vainly try to preserve forms of difference that are rapidly reorganising themselves along this other axis.”
    He then goes on to talk about antipodality being an experience of a trajectory…
    ” antipodality is the cultural difference created by the vector…”
    In these times of global flow, the antipodean experience will become more common.
    (nb. this was a 1995 publication)
    You might like to go to to see a map of world city antipodes, and see how few are in the ‘north’.
    I realise that this doesn’t help your mapping- but thought it was interesting nevertheless…maybe we can’t plot ‘north’ and ‘south’ at all?

  2. Yes, this is a point that needs to be made at some point. Thanks for putting it forward so well. It’s interesting how the term ‘nation’ has developed in recent times to denote not a geographical region but more a common identity spread across the world.
    As for ‘antipodality’, I’m not clear if this is a specific strand of horizontal connection or the basic structure of horizontality itself. It may risk being too general to be of use.
    Certainly, the objective of this journey is to start with an open idea of South, to gasp the breadth of ideas associated with the concept. This journey certainly goes beyond a circumscribed region. It may return to one at the end, but it is important to consider horizontal connections. However, it is not necessarily the only horizontal connection. ‘South’ may denote all the people in countries across the world who drive taxis, but it may not extend to all those who catch them.

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