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February 17, 2007

REFLECTION: “America”

Anyone who has traveled to non-Western societies knows that many people have a glorified view of “America.” I make sure to tell people that not everyone in the U.S. lives like Hollywood, and that we actually have very similar problems as here. A lot of people think there are no poor people in the States.

But besides dispelling these myths, I include another reflection, that in the United States we have a unique problem: most of us don’t have tribes, place-based communities, or extended families that we live with/near. People don’t know the people who live next to them, or where their food is grown. Instead, we become more isolated and compartmentalized into some function in society. Now, of course this is overgeneralized, and also ignores the problems that arise with tribal life or more close-knit place-based communities, but I do think that the American lack of sense-of-place is a fundamental reason for why we tend to have an exploitative relationship with nature and other people. If we don’t directly see the effects of our actions, like we would if our food, materials, and relationships were more localized, then we are more likely to make choices that harm people or the earth. That’s why Americans buy clothes made in sweatshops, wood cut from native rainforests, and bananas from massive plantations that destroy ecosystems and poison people.

1 comment:

charla said...

And what is the response to your reflection of America to the people of Africa? I imagine surprise, and deeper understanding of what an overgeneralized "successful" nation can become. what gets lost in the monetary process of wealth.

love you sooooooo much.
Today was Ken's birthday party. it was beautiful in Portland today. sunny and like 70! daphne and daffodils are blooming. it's heaven!