Same Old, Same Old
Once again, I find myself riding a crowded, very large beer can as it hurtles through the stratosphere. I am headed for Chicago. This particular can does not allow me to determine where I might be on the progress of my journey. All I know is that at about 4 pm I will open the window shade, respectfully closed now so that others may watch the small screens, and see before me the Second City, hog butcher of the world. Until then, some of the passengers will stare at the screens hanging from the baggage compartment. Others will sleep. And I, I will try to understand the ocean of my present negative judgments.
It’s all very simple. I went for a walk one morning. On my walk on the road that borders the mangrove of Bahia Soliman and the backs of the houses on the Bay, I pass some very elaborate, very luxurious vacation villas. I have discussed them and what I consider their ostentation before. Anyway, on my walk I saw, waiting to be picked up by the basureros, a very large, in tact carton from a 53” flat screen television. The television itself was probably at that moment in the house being comfortably cooled by the air conditioning. But the carton led me to a stream, no, not a stream, an avalanche of negative judgments. About the person who brought such a thing to Bahia Soliman. About the thing itself. About the state of affairs in Bahia Soliman. About the course of human destiny. About why our environment is in such terrible danger.
Was this person flaunting his monstrously large TV? Was this person trying to incite whatever burglars might be around? Was this merely thoughtless, a failure to think to break down the box? Was this the start of a test for the Security Service for which my neighbors and I all pay? Why am I paying the same security fee as somebody who has installed such a burglar magnet, something that clearly needs serious protection? I don’t have anything like that. And why does somebody want a ginormous television on Bahia Soliman anyway? On and on and on.
I’ve discussed before my love of Estilo Robinson Crusoe. Maybe my negative thoughts about this carton and, as important, its contents are an extension of that. Maybe it's the shadow of that. First, I wrote about my house, and what a marvel it is, with no glass and only wooden louvers, and how it invites the natural world of Bahia Soliman in and itself belongs to it. I love the house. Then, I wrote about the palaperos, those indigenous artisans who make millennia old roofs that withstand hurricanes and heat and last so very long. I love indigenous architecture. But I’ve also complained that my neighbors have left ERC far, far behind, and have instead embarked on what can only be called Akumalificacion: overbuilding their lots, tons of glass to shut out the breezes, lots of air conditioning, a plethora of distasteful homage to Spanish colonial architecture, including red tile roofs, faux mission motifs, and encircling walls and gates, and, of course, as if Bahia Soliman itself were not the reason for building a house there, lots of swimming pools, to be used instead of swimming in the very Bahia that brought all of these people. This is their taste. They are doubtless entitled to it. And I am entitled to react to it. And to my judgments about it. It saddens me. And it also angers me.
The carton for the 53” television, sitting shamelessly in front of the rest of the basura, signals the culmination of the change from ERC to overt Akumalificacion. Why else is there a 53” television in Bahia Soliman? Presumably, instead of sitting at the shore and watching the stars over the Bay, instead of listening to the glorious night sounds and the breeze and the rumble of the waves on the reef, instead of the hushed conversations and shooting stars and the playing of guitars and singing, instead of reading, instead of just going to bed early, instead of all of that, someone will shut all of that beautiful nature out. And watch television. Just as if he or she weren’t in Bahia Soliman. Just as if he were somewhere else in the world. In fact, anywhere else in the world. As if it does not matter where he is. I repeat: As if it doesn’t matter where he is.
And if the windows are open— an increasingly unlikely scenario given the unfortunate trend— you will hear above the hum of the air conditioners and mixed with the sounds of breeze and wave and wildlife and human voices, of all things, the horrible braying of television.
Tan vergonzoso! So shameful! What have we done?
I fear we have lost our way. Do people really want everything everywhere to be the same? Do we really want homogenization and standardization of everything everywhere? Blandness all the time everywhere? Complete, overwhelming, inescapable consistency? Do we really want television and music and ear buds and games all of the time no matter wherever we are? Is all of this “entertainment” (read: distraction) necessary to our being comfortable? Do we have to have all of this to transform new and different places and situations into the ones with which we are already so utterly, so boringly familiar?
And when we do this, isn’t it a fact that the importance of wherever we actually are on the planet is diminished? It becomes so unimportant. Wherever it is, is just like everywhere else. Everywhere is utterly the same and bathed in the same things that we use to make it all quite familiar. And ordinary. Your dwelling in magical, remarkable Bahia Soliman becomes the same as one in any standard, well equipped suburbia.
Well, I don’t want Bahia Soliman to be like everywhere else. It isn’t. I resent those who would attempt to make it so (their motivations in this don't matter). And I worry that this pervasive ignorance (read: ignoring) of where one is, is extremely dangerous to the environment. Not just to Bahia Soliman. But to the earth generally. Because the place in which we appear to live is no longer a specific place on the earth that needs and deserves specific kinds of our attention. No. Now we will live in the generalized, imagined space we have created with incessant media. And we will persistently shut out the real world and its murmuring what it needs out.
(Note: a special h/t to the woman from Belize who talked to me about her community there and inspired this essay.)
(Note: Your Bloguero is back in the states. He has brought some weather with him.)