I started out to write a post about inclusion. The further I got into it the more it changed from being about inclusion to why do we think we have the “right” to claim a place as “ours” just because we have visited it.
Let me explain. I first became aware of this “flag” as if it were The International Flag of the Planet Earth but as it turns out it’s an idea, floated by a Swedish student has proposed a way of representing Earth, rather than some individual country when future space travelers venture out into the universe. Right now I realize those goals are a bit chance-y, what with a President who seems to dislike science and wants to cut the budget to smithereens — but it’s an interesting idea — representing the entire planet by a blue flag representing life and water, with seven interlocking circles for the continents, and a flower in the center representing life.
When NASA landed on the moon it was a big deal. We were newlyweds at the time and we had no TV. I can remember going to the mall to spend what little savings we had on a 13” or 14” black and white TV because I wanted to see with my own eyes the promised coverage about the landing with my own eyes. I guess my trust issues started early on… eh? That was something I had to witness; I wasn’t about to take anyone’s word for it.
This phenomenon is something that intrigues me. It’s not just an American (as in U.S.) phenomenon but we are certainly among the proponents of claiming things. During the Second World War there was the ubiquitous Killroy who seemed to have been everywhere before most of the soldiers arrived. Other countries had their versions. The Brits had “Mr. Chad” and the Aussies had “Foo was here”! Other versions included Smoe, Clem, Flywheel, Private Snoops, Overby, The Jeep (as both characters had sizable noses), and Sapo.
But I’ve been thinking about the way it is with humans. Greeks wanted to make the whole world Greek. Romans wanted to make the world Roman. The Mongols invaded and they had the similar goals. The Nazis were hampered in their dreams by WWII but there’s no end to the story of domination and intended domination.
Europeans who invaded North America did the same. They pretended that no one “owned” the place and then drove the First Nations out of their homelands. That is something we essentially continue doing if you consider the recent events in North Dakota and ask yourself why it’s ok to break a treaty with the Indians after the non-Indian people of North Dakota resisted having a pipeline go across their land. But that’s a topic for some other day.
Of course we Citizens of the United States went one further. First we claimed the country for our motherland, then when Momma England tried to tax us we said the heck with the motherland and we claimed it for ourselves — gladly going to war with England for our rights.
I find it frustrating and blindly ignorant of our own history that we as a nation now stand on the stage of history and tell other countries that they should not do what we did. All the polluting and laying bare of natural resources that we object to when developing countries do them are things we did ourselves when we were in their stage of development. It’s like it’s ok for the first guy to do it, but if you’re the second guy to try it’s off limits. Hardly a neighborly way to be, is it?
Even today there are atrocities to be found if a person is paying any attention to world news. Not the least of which is the question about should we be drilling for oil in arctic regions. When faced with leaks and spills we’re being told that it’s too cold and too dangerous to perform certain kinds of repairs during the winter and that leaks and spills should be allowed; and my question is, if it’s too dangerous/cold to take care of what is being built maybe it shouldn’t be built at all until there IS a way of doing those things. But then I’m an avowed nature lover so my voice probably isn’t valid.
I know it’s a popular idea to own things. In this country you pretty much have to own things. The world seems to have migrated away from socialist and communist ideas of group ownership. Families are more fragmented nowadays too. There was a time when land stayed in the family and generation after generation operated a farm or ran a business. But the children of farmers quickly discovered that farm work was a lot harder than office work and children began leaving the farm communities. Third and fourth generation business families often found that ‘their heart’ wasn’t in the family business and their family firms got sold off to investors and conglomerates. You can’t blame anyone for wanting an easier life, can you? Specially not if selling became a windfall for the third or fourth generation children! Why not take the money and run. The end result, however, is that people are no longer connected with anything. Companies think nothing of moving employees around the country — and the world — at a whim. The upset to the family is discounted for the additional wages earned — supposedly. But the net result is a world where no one is connected even to their own kin.
To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on some of the manifestations of “progress.” I see lots of development that is making people lots of money; but I see those same people increasingly unhappy about their life. I see continuing declines in family and a resulting catastrophic impact on shared values and shared care. We put kids in day care, seniors in nursing homes and the middle generations seem to live as if they extremes of age didn’t exist or shouldn’t be allowed to complicate their lives. I find it all very strange.
I happened to have been an only child. But I had kids in the neighborhood with whom to play. I spent a lot of time around old people — never understood how exactly that happened, but I know this: I learned an immense amount about life by being around people old enough to be grand parents or great grandparents — even if they weren’t mine. We lived in an immigrant community with a couple foreign languages (as in not English) being spoken and we all learned from each other because we rubbed shoulders with our neighbors every day. Nowadays we drive around in cars with the windows rolled up and the iPod blaring. Kids stare at smartphone screens — and adults too — all day long. No one seems to want to interact with other humans at all.
Maybe that’s what I like about living where we are. There are people here. We see them every day. We talk to them regularly. They are close enough that we know when something’s wrong, or when we can lend a hand, and they are genuinely happy to be helped — not resentful.
It’s becoming a different world. I’m glad I’m in it — which is to say I’m glad to be alive — but I sure don’t know where it’s going.