Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Losing Our Place

Place is the ultimate source of culture.  The local environment—the local climate, geography, flora, fauna—sets the parameters regarding the specific behaviors required for survival.  Culture is merely(!) the historical organization and elaboration of these behaviors over time, and the assimilation and adaptation of these behaviors by people living in different places. 

Obviously this is a gross oversimplification. 

My point is simply to reference the foundational role the local environment has played in human culture.  Culture is grounded in the physical world, and the ways we negotiate the demands of life in specific places.  

But all that is long past.  Our connection to place is rapidly dissolving.  Modern “culture” forces us into lifestyles that are increasingly untethered from the local world.  My food comes from 1500 miles away.  My children are forced to move to other time zones to find employment.  Events in China have a direct impact on my economic well-being.  The quality of the air I breathe is controlled by lawyers and lobbyists for corporations headquartered in the Cayman Islands          

As citizens of a culturally-diluted global society, we are losing our sense of place.  We are rapidly becoming a race of beings who don’t know where we belong in the world.  What that really means for us, I’m not sure.

I do know that it is a serious problem, and that the problem lies somewhere in our willingness to buy into the meme, our willingness to see ourselves as members of an abstract global system rather than as individual human beings living in a concrete physical world.  

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