Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Global Tribe

At times, I find that driving in rush hour traffic is an exhausting exercise in patience. As evidenced by the actions of some drivers, I’m not the only one who feels frustration at the wheel.

It seems that we feel anonymous and important while in our cars, like no one can really see us behind that clear glass. Each car becomes a microcosm, bowing to the command of those inside, their next immediate destination being an urgent objective.

I see this is just one of the many ways our loss of community manifests itself. Once we are enclosed in these capsules of metal, glass and plastic, we are immediately defensive – some go as far as becoming suddenly offensive.

When people are broken down into the individual units of self and/or family, they seem not to identify with the needs and rights of others. The objectives of my tribe become so much greater than those of your tribe, because we are separate.

Our modern world does much to single people out. For example, in a city setting, just look at how hard it is to meet and befriend your neighbors – people aren’t interested in getting to know their immediate community anymore. They have friends and family they can chat remotely with, either by phone or email/internet. As another example, jump on a city bus or train. Even if you see the same people every day for a lengthy commute, very rarely will people talk to each other, let alone even make eye contact

These are situations that seem to arise more in the cities, where people are forced to lead lonely existences in the midst of greatly concentrated populations. Isn’t it unsettling that the place where people can be the loneliest is also the place where they can be surrounded by a sea of bodies, jostling and hurrying about?

It is also in a city setting where you will find a more severe lack of respect for the safety and property of others. This is clear by looking at the number of collisions on busy highways, break-ins, theft, vandalism and assaults.

I am a strong believer that those who can’t suggest a remedy should not complain about any issue. I do admit that the scope of this problem is so huge that it isn’t likely to be solved by a few bits in a blog. I do have a couple of suggestions though:
A) If we all start to think of ourselves and others as belonging to the same great tribe, we might yet see some difference.
B) If you start to build your community from the people you find around you, others may follow your example.

Next time you’re stuck grumbling in traffic, just start to wonder about the destinations of all of the other drivers around you – and and you will see that in the minds where they reside, all of those other goals and deadlines just as important as yours.

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