MOVEMENT vs PROGRESS 101

It used to be that when natural disasters struck, humans would do the same as animals- they’d move. But if people own land and rely more on infrastructure than on their community intelligence, then when disaster strikes, there is inevitably a greater chance of loss of life and culture….

Why don’t people do like King Cyrus did? He built this giant urban center with gardens and courtyards…but instead of setting up shop, the people who visited brought their own camps and tents. So when Alexander the Great came through and destroyed everything, there were less casualties and the people were ultimately not left homeless and scattered.

Don’t we live in a strange dichotomy of land versatility and entrapment? Folks can take planes to escape catastrophes, yet we cannot move our homes, livelihoods, or communities. Ask yourselves, how is it that the world can accumulate millions of international refugees, but in this massive movement, rarely families manage to stay together? Is seeking refuge really as traumatic as answering these questions: who can come with you? who will be left behind? once safe, do you help those left behind, or start anew? do you lie to bring more family over? do you go back?

It is as if we can run very far, but we cannot escape the devastation of our territories, of our peoples. Is this what economists meant by progress when massive urban centers cast their massive urban shadows on slums of refugees and migrants? What is the world’s plan for these people who are attracted to cities like iron fragments to a magnet?

Come and you will have safety, and freedom.

And we’ll come, given the increase in extreme weather events, economic inequality and looming military threats. Though, we probably aren’t the ones you were calling for. Yet, we’ll come and we’ll settle…and the cities will grow bigger and more diverse. Your education systems will expand to accommodate us, and you will measure success by how well we can be exploited to increase your median income. So, I wonder what you meant by progress when our small communities fell apart so that your urban centers could swell with migrants.

Is your progress our choice to rely on reluctant strangers for safety? Are we punished when we send home money, or smuggle in a relative, or speak our native tongue? Is your progress, our inability to survive together? We were once self-sufficient and mobile…for centuries our families found a way….but suddenly we lacked movement. Suddenly the world changed and resources were fenced off, markets were relocated, and we were tied down. All for progress. And when disaster struck we could not escape together…all we had was one seat on a plane, or a boat, or a donkey. Is this progress when the togetherness of our communities becomes a barrier to our safety?

Because let’s face it, disaster is inevitable. It will strike, and contrary to popular belief, it is not our infrastructure and economic progress that determines survival; it is our ability to move together that has determined the survival and continuation of human societies, languages, and cultures since time immemorial.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not our infrastructure and economic progress that determines survival; it is our ability to move together that has determined the survival and continuation of human societies, languages, and cultures since time immemorial.

Would the global water crisis be as grave if people could move together to access neighboring streams and wells? or coordinate migrations across lands and borders between seasons? Would food crises be so bad if people together could rotate their farms and grazing plots? would the economic crisis be so terrifying if people could share and rely on each other’s intelligence and technology despite what the market does? or if losing a job did not also mean losing your resourcefulness to your community?

We’re walled off- it seems. It’s whoever has the most money (or muscle) who can afford the best land, the best well…and whoever is lucky who can afford to escape a bad deal…. Yet when the chips fall in their their places, no one is obligated to share. No one is obligated to care who loses, and who wins…or wonder at the consequences of either.

If we were obligated to share, I am guessing there would be a lot more innovation and land/water restoration efforts. People would invest so that their neighbors wouldn’t come pouring into their precincts. We would make sure water ran freely, and healthily, and we would come together to inspect the health of soils, ecosystems, and game. We would even consolidate space when the elements decided not to be favourable, and if anyone fell ill, it would be everyone’s concern. But does anyone in this world need to care? do we need to care when our neighbor starves or loses their home? is it even in our power to help one another? Or are we bound, by laws and ownership, from extending our resources?

Doesn’t it seem necessary that if one classroom is hijacked by a gunman, the students can run and hide in another classroom?

I am not alluding a communist solution; communism is a term is derived from the idea of community ownership. What is referred to here is not common ownership, but an obligation to share out of a sense of responsibility. For instance, doesn’t it seem necessary that if one classroom is hijacked by a gunman, the students can run and hide in another classroom? This does not imply that the students could always run to the other classroom on an uneventful day and claim it for their lessons. However, when in danger, they share out of common necessity. After all, the kids may be in different classrooms, but are they not still of the same school? And even if they were not, can’t the kids run to neighboring houses and buildings to hide? I have read news reports of neighbors opening their doors to fleeing students in danger; even students off of a bus.

Responsibility is not ownership hence. It is merely recognising that although we have different places in the world, we are all of the same lifecycle. It is as simple as that. We may need to overlap when disaster strikes, and we often do. But it is seems to me that the direction we are headed in is barring our “classrooms” off from another- neigh, it is barring our very desks. We make choices everyday between preserving ourselves, or suffering with our communities. We hear “survival of the fittest” and race against one another to the safe houses of society, relying more on our trophies to protect us, than our own families.

When a storm wipes out a city, or a crop, where can those people go? They will be burdens first, homeless, defenseless, resourceless in their own society. They will be barred from utilising neighboring lands and waters and the world would let them drop dead, except that they cart off their living corpses into camps. Then overtime a select few are separated, examined for suitability and made into refugees….this is a terrifying predicament, and those people are completely at the mercy of others. They will not survive as a community- not as neighbors, or families, or friends…

They will move away from one another, and their value to society will be wiped clean once they enter a community that speaks a different language, has a different culture, and a different style. They will be dependent and have to ask themselves what they are willing to do to stay alive, or what they are willing to sacrifice to keep their families (or friends) together. And those who are left behind? They are living corpses…the world waits for them to die.

Slowly, and gradually, this situation may be what dooms us all. We are not just etching away at the fabric of the small family, rural or tribal units, we are etching away at our very foundation for survival. Humans rely on communities, and communities rely on humans being together. If disaster strikes, and our instinct is to scatter rather than come together, we will always be seeking refuge alone; always be dependent; and always be vulnerable to losing our value to society.

We are not just etching away at the fabric of the small family, rural or tribal units, we are etching away at our very foundation for survival.

One day, in the school of our life, the bullets will start flying. On that day, we will find that when we run, we have nowhere to hide.  Every door will have a lock, every border will have a wall, and every stream will have an inaccessible dam. And yet, that will not be the tragedy. The tragedy will be, that even when barred together we will not be able to help each other, because up till that day, all of our skills and knowledge would have been spent in helping ourselves alone. We will have forgotten what it means to be a community, and what it means to move together.

We will have sacrificed movement, for progress.

(Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

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