Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Making Connections

When one typically thinks of a village, we tend to envision a small, close knit community where everyone knows everyone else. It is so sad to see, however, that this same community vision is lost in the global community. In spite of being more able to reach out via instruments like the Internet, we, as people, are typically becoming more disconnected, existing in a haze of independence where we take everything and everyone for granted.

In the village vision, if Ted the farmer was having difficulties, then the rest of the community would respond to help him out. In the global village, people are deluded into thinking that what is happening to a farmer in South America or Africa has no effect on someone living in Germany or Canada. People do not look at their basic amenities and whatnot, and do not realise the whole interconnected reality of our world between all things.

Take, for example, an apple. Think of the process that brings an apple into our hand. There is the long historical and genetic chain connecting the apple to its tree and everyone and everything that made that apple possible. More immediately, there was the farmer who grew and nurtured the apple, the person who picked it, the person who shipped it to the warehouse, the warehouse workers, the drivers and shippers who took it to the store, the stock person who placed the apple in its place in the grocery store, the check-out person and, finally, the person who paid you so that you could buy the apple to eat.

The apple is a simple symbol of everything we own – our clothing, furnishings, government, sewage and sanitation, electricity, etc. Independence is truly impossible as is self-sufficiency. It is also rather sad that a very large number of things upon which first world countries exist on, is based on third world exploitation. Using any urban centre as an example, the haves live in nice neighbourhoods in big houses guarded by hi-tech security systems, while the have-nots live in the rough parts of town with high crime rates, violence, drugs, etc. Quite often theses two worlds face off through home invasions, armed robberies, drug deals or other violent, detrimental acts. On a larger scale, looking at nations, we see a plethora of violent revolutions, coup d'etats and genocides all through the continents of Asia, Africa and South America. Young Muslims with nothing to lose are wearing suicide vests and detonating themselves in public markets. Young people in first world countries make their way into racist organisations, Christian fundamentalist sects or the military to find something to believe in or to vent an anger they do not understand.

I do not know what is more frustrating, that many people do not understand, or the many who believe that they do. Present armed struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq are excellent examples of this. The cultures in these nations are millennia old, and diverse. Many of the people in these cultures to not understand their own culture, despite living there, so how can countries like England, the United States, Canada, France, etc. go in expecting that they can set things right? Having traveled lots myself, one quickly realises that people all over the world are not as we may think and, if we visit them as tourists, steering off the main road, we will learn to see others in a very different light.
For example, I moved to Czechoslovakia, just as the fall of the Eastern Bloc was taking place and did not quite know what to expect. After all, just like I was taught in school that the USSR and it's mates were brutal governments looking to jump at the first opportunity to nuke us and take over our countries. But the Slovak people with whom I lived provided me with one of the best years in my life, with incredible hospitality and friendships.

In the first world countries, we walk around like our feces don't stink and that we are entitled to all that we have. How can not see how these attitudes will impact us in the long term, not to mention be so negligent in our attitudes towards others? How can we look at a poor person and simply state that they simply need to pull their finger out and get a job? How can we justify spending exorbitant amounts on sweatshop clothing, knowing it was most likely the product of child labour? In Canada, people seem unanimous that child pornography should result in a criminal prosecution of the sick bastards who view and make the stuff, and I agree with them 100%. But some third world child working long hours everyday in poorly lit and poorly ventilated sweatshop receives a blind eye from us because that would leave consumers with an inconvenience. Ultimately, we would have to give up most of our big brand clothing, forcing them to have ethical working regulations, which would translate into higher priced clothing for the first world consumers.

We are directly responsible for committing genocide in many Western nations whether through neglect helping many third world nations. The whole gold and diamond trade is the main cause of the present state of Africa, and much of this dates back to the early days of De Beers, colonialism and slavery. Though we can't go back way back then and change what is history, the present blood diamond trade is very well and alive. I cringe every time I see a person wearing diamond – especially self-righteous black hip hop artists who are all about black power and mama Africa. Are they really so stupid to what those diamonds and gold represents? Does anyone, tying the knot, really want that symbol of love to represent their love's union? Perhaps there is a curse that has resulted in Canada's 50% divorce rate.

Think of how "me" focused we are. People starving, yet we throw away enough food everyday to end hunger. People being brought up in poverty, missing out on the chance to become literate, to receive potable water or healthcare, while we in the West feel entitled to buy mansions, drive Hummers and Mercedes, have massive plasma TV's, own jet skis and a ski-doo, etc. In this country people will pay $100+ dollars to go out and watch a hockey game being played by a bunch of millionaires. Imagine the pain, suffering and violence that could be ended with that kind of money! More importantly, why can we not pull ourselves from the vacuum of our self-absorption to see this? How can we care so little about others? How can we let our greed for fossil fuels take priority over our air, fresh water supplies and environment in general?

This is why people need to travel. I can't imagine that someone could go to a place where there is famine and watch children die, knowing that this could all be stopped with a little wealth distribution. Perhaps if more people visited the poor parts of the Middle East and saw what the foreign policies of many countries has done to these people though war, sanctions and creating policies to de-stabilise the region, something may click.

I know, sadly, that this won't work for everyone. An American friend of my wife who is working on the Obama campaign as a volunteer told her that he was making calls in Nevada the other week. One of the very matter of fact replies that he received was "not too long ago we used to own blacks, so I won't be voting for one of them to become president".

Ultimately, we need to live more consciously and awareness. Though we are individuals, we also share an interdepenacy. Not making this realisation will simply result in history continuously repeating itself and civilisations living in fear and ignorance, perhaps inevitably leading to the destruction of the global village.


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