Jarod Guillette

Landscapes of Hate

Often the things that are right in front of our faces, are the things we can’t see, the things we miss. It isn’t until those things are placed in a framed view or a new perspective that we actually become aware of their existence. The perspective itself, though humans see the world from a perspective vantage, with objects disappearing at at set vanishing point on the horizon and size appearing relative to position, it wasn’t until, though there is much debate about this, the Renaissance, with Ghiberti’s Italian translation of Al Hazen’s Deli Aspecti  (Book of Optics) and his contemporary, Brunelleschi around 1413, that the modern geometric perspective as we see it today in drawings and paintings, was expressed. It takes a framed view, which was exactly what Brunelleschi did, using a view finder of sorts, to build the perspective. Taking this to a further logical extent we get to landscape.

Landscape is a complex topic and idea, largely bound to cultural perceptions. As it is, modern society really didn’t start seeing the landscape until it was pointed out to them. Until the landscape was named, what was there? What did we see? Trees? An etymological history of the word is complex but worth the wikipedia journey. For the sake of brevity I won’t get into the whole history, instead I’ll get to the cliff notes version. Landscape, in the modern sense came from a term borrowed from Dutch painters around the 15th century, landschap, which referred to a novel painting genre, painting rural scenery. It was then that landscape became, the land that we saw. As time went on and geography, the environment and related fields expanded in research and in the general knowledge of the public (some public), the area has become a fecund territory for thinking about the human, his environment and society.

Daniels and Consgrove in their 1989 contribution to the book, The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design and Use of Past Environments, go further and describe the landscape as;  “…landscape is a cultural image, a pictorial way of representing, structuring or symbolising surroundings.” It is not just the physical presence of land being in sight of man but rather, an image of nature reflected through cultural mores. Meinig takes the idea to an even further logical conclusion and incorporates psychology saying, “any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads.” The landscape is not just a thing that exists before our eyes, nor is it just a reflection of our cultural mores, it is also a reflection of our personal, societal and cultural psychological mindset at a current time. Seriously folks, unless you have access to a great library, check out this wikipedia article. 

But what then could a landscape of hate be and why bother putting it in a framed view? I’m a student of landscape. I study landscape architecture. But more than that I’m a student of history. I’m a theorist. I like to plot a historical trajectory for a certain concept or process to understand the reasons behind the issue in the futile hope that we can avoid the same mistake in the future. A book I remember from my undergrad days was called A Short History of Progress.  Another book I also found influential was Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Both investigated why certain societies flourished and or failed based on their cultural and environmental mindset. If we assume Meinig’s thesis, that a landscape is the reflection of a psychological state we can then analyze the design practices  and the landscapes of societies to perhaps find a point at which they began or will begin the descent from a living to a decaying society.

Now if you are all wondering why this has anything to do with Judaism and Israel and the current state of affairs with the world, good. Much like the Jew has been history’s canary in the coal mine as a societal barometer for the good or evil, the health or illness, the flourishing or failing of a society, the landscape can serve as a physical reference too.

Though much of the world would blame Israel for the current state of Gaza’s and what I think may be the possibility of a State of Palestine, much of world also still thinks the world is flat, figuratively. What is important is to analyze what is done with the landscape by the people there. Though construction materials are highly regulated, Gaza had enough concrete to build all those attack tunnels, a subterranean landscape of hate.  This is a prime example of what constitutes a landscape of hate.

If we are to judge a society by its productivity on the land and how it shapes its landscape, then attack tunnels do not imply a flourishing society. Now, there will of course be all sorts of claims to the sort that the blockade and economic state of Gaza are the main contributing factors to the landscape projects in Gaza, plus the recent resultant Israeli air-raids in response to indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli civilian population centers over the past several years are the sole culprit. This however is not a sufficient answer. With the amount of concrete and building materials material plus alleged Qatari engineering know how used for those tunnels, with a different ambition, say parks and other public infrastructure projects, plus no rocket attacks, Gaza would have a much different landscape.

In another blog entry I posted this summer on a really stupid Korean advertisement showing Gazan students studying with nazi swastikas drawn everywhere. I was not surprised by the sight of history’s most hateful symbol.  A symbol we see resurfacing across Europe, Canada, America, Asia, the whole world. The swastika is a sign of complete irrational hatred. And hatred is rarely a constructive emotion. When a civilization bases hatred as its raison d’etre all sorts of bad decisions are made. One of such is landscape practices. Which we all know is the environment we live in.

It is ironic. That we live in such an age of environmental consciousness, suffocating political correctness and technological advancement, yet we still fail to realise the basic factors that contribute to our own destruction. There is a quote that I sign my emails with from the book, Justine by Durrell. “We are all the children of our landscapes.” We are all the children but the landscape is also our child. But once the father eats a sour grape…everything goes to hell and a hand basket.

In the end, Hamas will only destroy themselves, possibly Palestine, hopefully not Israel (I hear the guardian neither slumbers nor sleeps and the IDF does a proper job) but what’s worse is that until we as humanity, finally internalize and come to deal with what hatred is and does to us on an environmental and landscape scale, well let’s just say I worry less about global warming and more the global warming of tempers.

Europe, keep on the path your on, doing great (despite what awesome landscape architecture projects you do). ISIS, yeah real great examples of stewards of the land. Hamas, should get the award for worst use of public funds for infrastructure development. New Dawn, have you built any roads yet, improved any?

In the end, hate just leads to the kind of landscapes seen on movie sets where people wear too much leather and not enough sun screen and Tina Turner is really angry about something. People of the world, Palestine, self-righteous so-called “liberals” of “academia” be warned, you’re not making the kind of garden anyone will want to live in.

This is going to be an on-going research investigation, on the fate of civilizations related to their landscape practices. Despite the claims that Israel “rapes the land” one only needs to compare between the two, and I’m not sorry the occupation is and cannot be the only contributing factor, to see the difference. Israel uses concrete to build subterranean parking lots / hospitals shelters. Hamas uses it to build terrorist attack tunnels. It’s just too bad none of this was in a framed view so people could see it.

About the Author
Jarod Guillette is originally from a small town in Maine near Canada. He met his wife, who is Korean, in Canada and they wound up in Korea. There, he is a graduate student of landscape architecture, a husband and now a father. He runs a small design/media thingy that does environmental research and comedy all related to landscape architecture and the environment.
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