Trapping the Fabric

I’ve been curious lately about the phrases, “the trappings of society” and the “fabric of society.” Are they the same?

What are the trappings of our society today? Dictionaries define trappings as adornments, external decorations, outward signs. The word comes from the Middle English, trappen, to trap, which in turn comes from the Medieval Latin, trapus, which means cloth, or fabric. So are the trappings the cloth itself, or those things, which adorn it, cover it up, trap us from seeing the truth of the stuff from which we are really made?

If it’s the adornments, what are they? A Beemer in the garage? A nice house in the suburbs? A nameplate on your desk that includes a title? I’d really like to know. I’d really like to generate a list of what makes up the trappings of today’s society. Help me out. Please.

I know that the trappings of a good hippie were long hair, colorful clothes, weed, and a funky van. If we stripped a hippie of those things, we’d be left with a human whose only covering might be a threadbare cloth. Long hair did not a hippie make, nor tie-dyed shirts, nor a split windshield, air-cooled VW van.  But stripped of the trappings, the threads were love, peace, tolerance, justice, and respect for the earth.

If we strip away the trappings of today’s society, are we left with the bare cloth, the fabric? Are we afraid to look at it without it’s adornments and decorations? Are we afraid to inspect the threads, which make up the cloth? Would we tear asunder the fabric by removing a thread here and there? Perhaps replace it with another. Thread by thread, can we reweave a new fabric for our society? Do we have time to do it gracefully? Maybe if we had started 40 years ago. Now, we must act quickly to repair holes in the cloth, maybe with the same patches we used to cover the holes in our jeans.

We may have to yank a few rotten threads out altogether. Will the cloth hold up? Is it possible to replace a piece of fabric thread by thread? Do we have a choice? And if we succeed, what will the new trappings of our society be like? Maybe if we think about how we would like to be decorated and adorned, how we would like to be seen by others, it will give us a clue as to the kinds of threads we should be using in both our national warp and weft.

Action Items:

  1. Name some of the threads that make up the fabric of our society.
  2. Identify the trappings that currently exist.
  3. Tell which ones you think need to go, and which ones can or need to stay.
  4. Describe what kind of trappings you’d like the rest of the world to see adorn us.
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9 thoughts on “Trapping the Fabric

  1. Lee Balan

    I never had much faith in society because I always felt trapped. My vote was always for an underground revolution: building a new social structure within the old and from the refuse and waste of the old. There is certainly a lot of waste in our modern day society that could be put to good use building alternative societies. This would be a peaceful revolution where an underground thrives in the midst of a rapacious, dominating social machine. But I’m old fashioned.

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    1. Phil Polizatto

      Lee, did you read the NYT article? Seems like this “transition” movement may be what you are looking for: building a new social structure within the old… of course it sounds a lot like what we were trying to do 40 years ago… but it’s never too late, is it? Please, tell me it’s not too late!

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  2. Phil Polizatto

    Debby… I agree. At least I think they are not synonyms, though the roots of the words are similar. Trappings are the deceptive exterior covering what really makes us, meaning the whole of our society, tick. What motivates us. The driving force behind us. I’m not sure I like it. Am very curious for you to expand on the symbol of Babylon. What do you mean when you refer to it?

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    1. Debby

      The Babylonians were solely concerned with the material aspect of living, and the way that they practiced religion mirrors this tendency. The first records of any written language are traced back to about 5000 BC in Mesopotamia. This language was originally used for accounting purposes and continued to develop throughout the era in which Babylon stood. The scientific, logical mentality that governed their lives, extended into, as well as received from, their religion. They were, in fact, a very religious and superstitous people, but the deities they believed in had concrete ties to the realm of physicality. Babylonian people believed in Polytheism. To believe in multiple Gods seems slightly absurd to the modern person. However, the effect it had on its people is similar to the increasingly popular modern religion known as Atheism. It becomes apparent how the”Babylon Mentality”of the modern Rastafarian vocabulary has a truthful synonomity with the Ancient Babylon’s way of thinking.

      I love cut and paste…of course, I didn’t write that, but does it speak to that “motivational” definition?

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      1. Debby

        The Bible contains many stories of slavery that describe the hardship that was endured in acncient times, as well as the eventual emancipation from the hardship. Rastas have found much applicable meaning from within the Bible, and it is only natural that they identify with the Jews in Babylon, who faced much of the same obstacles that they themselves face. By labeling the source of their own oppression as”Babylon”, the Rastas shed more light on the fact that opression is in fact taking place. This definitive name gives the oppression that they face a center, or a heart, which can be targeted easier. Instead of saying”Injustice must fall”,”Poverty must be alleviated”, or”Jamaican legislation must represent its people”, a Rasta need only say”Babylon must fall”. When this centralized, encompassing word is used, it provides the Rasta with a target to be passionately against, and increases his sense of unity with his people.

        “We know where we’re going

        We know where we’re from

        We Leaving Babylon-

        We goin to our Father’s Land…..”

        (Robert Nesta Marley, Exodus)

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      2. Phil Polizatto

        That was great, Debby. Thanks for the research and all. Babylon is a great metaphor! I think I should refresh my memory about Jericho! (and the walls came a tumblin’ down, tumblin’ down, tumbelin downnnn…. hey isn’t that a Carol King song?)

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      3. Debby

        yeah…from her Tapestry album…very funny Phil!

        I loved her then! I better dig out some old music for our gathering…and one of them ol phonographs to play it on, I guess.

        I could even say that she motivated me to change from a lawyer’s wife to a hippie…yup, that would be true.

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  3. Debby

    Answer to your first question: NO. “Trappings of society” is almost the opposite of “fabric of society”. It’s that word, society that is catchy. It reminds me of how many times I’ve wanted to “drop out”…way after it was popular.

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  4. Debby

    Wow, you did expand on that. I’m still thinking Babylon, tho’. The trappings (things that trap us) would be the meaningless material ways that others make judgements based on what they see.
    One person’s idea of trappings, could be completely different from anothers, perhaps based on things coveted.
    Much easier to talk about trappings than the threads of which we are woven. I’ll have to think on that (tho’ I didn’t think too much on this).

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