The day after yesterday

I have not been sitting comfortably with my what I wrote yesterday.  I feel it reveals a harshness, an entrenched moralism in my character that I might like to work on.  And anyway, it’s not a productive vantage point, being angry and judgmental and then reviling oneself for that!

This morning, an article came to me that begins to explore how modern consumption feeds psychological hungers, and how this might relate to communication about climate change and behaviours.  Now, none of this is new to me.  My mother was a compulsive spender who died with loads of consumer debt– and I think a lot of my identity was self- consciously formed in contrast to the way she was in the world.  Her problem was particularly egregious and self-destructive, but its actually a mass phenomenon if we look on a social scale.

People are just trying to fill their holes, figure out and announce who they are, through shiny new things and experiences.  And of course there’s the numbing: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”  You drown out the noise of your own anxiety by turning on the telly.

(Having lived in Britain for a decade now, when I encounter snippets of  US tv on the internet, I’m really overcome by the hyper-activity of the voices, the graphics, the amount of simultaneous information and nonsense.)

Here I am, someone who has travelled, lots by air, less than some but more than many, and probably more “deeply” than many in that I’ve been in places and situations way out of my comfort zone.  

But somehow I am able to take a position of “giving up flying” (not absolutely, but pretty drastically)– hmmmm.  

Recently I had a bit of a conflict with someone who sought my approval; her daughter’s girl scout troop (10 year olds) was  saving money for a trip to Kenya to plant trees with a famous development activist.  Surely this would be a great, formative experience for the girls travelling this far (from east coast USA).  My problem was that I couldn’t stomach the do-good justification, that they girls were being taught that they were doing something for Kenya rather than for themselves. 

So the question formed in my mind what I would do if Elsa had an opportunity like this, and surely she would resent me if I said no.  (I often have a hard time saying no– a foible indeed as a parent.)

I began to think of the fabulous flying holidays her friends have– snorkeling in blue waters, running free in warm air under blue skies, possibilities to climb pyramids and acropolises, ride donkeys and camels and elephants and dolphins and eat baguettes and go on safari.   Wow! The tantalizing seductions of mind expansion…  experience… fun…  just being able to relax in climates other than this crap one here in Britain.  

Then I thought of another kind of amazing kid, of parents who are putting their energy into making experience, the revelatory cultural DIY that hippies and homeschoolers and hard knock eco-people celebrate.  Parents who bring their children to beautiful festivals. Children running wild in multi-age packs with other kids.  Kids living in communities.  Adults who create magical experiences, circuses, processions, Halloween parties…. Adults who help children to create their own magical experiences…  Adults who turn off the television….  People who camp and tramp with their kids.  Who use public transportation.   By necessity.  By choice.

This nagging feeling, that in taking a “stance” against flying I am “depriving” my children– I am giving them something else, something quite fortifying, and strong, and beautiful.  I’d like to believe this.  But I know it rubs against the cultural grain of my middle-class upbringing, and assumptions about “giving” to my kids.  These are modern assumptions, culturally, socially created.  Today somehow, having read that little piece on the web  and linked below, I can appreciate that this call is very loud to people very similar to me.  And loud to me!

But of course let’s not forget most of the kids in the world. the ones who really stand most to lose by the vagaries of this increasingly chaotic climate:  They ain’t flying nowhere.  Those kids might not even be eating.

http://www.identitycampaigning.org/2009/07/psychoanalysis-identity-and-climate

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11 Responses to “The day after yesterday”

  1. Milkweed Says:

    Back to the idea of the petroleum crack — maybe there is value in expanding horizons of those of us who live in first world privilege during this narrow period of time when air travel is cheap? I know that my world view has been shaped by my (fossil fuel powered) travels in the third world, and I have the sense that if mallrat-kids in the suburbs here could witness life in Nicaragua or Haiti first hand, it might shift something significant. Maybe in the contradiction of guzzling resources to enable paradigm shift is something true? (See: bulldozer ecovillage reference in my comment on your previous post).

    Annie, I LOVE that you are asking these questions. Blog on, Sister!!!

    • heshwesh Says:

      Ditto me, travel in my 20s completely shaped my worldview and politics. I really wouldn’t want to deny that to others. And then I’m also aware that declaring a beach holiday of lesser value is snooty… one person’s adventure is not better than another person’s…. i also find the idea of “love miles” really, oh i don’t know, we’re all stuck in this ethical condundrum… Lots of issues swirling around!

  2. Milkweed Says:

    PS:
    You are making me want to get on a big old jumbo jet and fly over there for a visit!

  3. nicola baird Says:

    Just need to let Milkweed know that the climate here isn’t crap (with the right clothes, often lots). I’m going to defend the rain, the cold coming, etc because yesterday saw the most amazing red sunset over the train tracks at Finsbury Park. And sometimes the sky is just so blue (like a Microsoft screen). And there’s autumn coming up, which is a lovely season. Isn’t loving UK weather – or indeed anywhere else – an important part of wanting to do something to tackle climate change? I’m not trying to miss Annie’s point, but perpetuating the myth that it’s rubbish here (I know I should have got out more before I understood the impact of flying) provides the itching excuse that means half term involves an air trip. Not for me, honest, but I could send you a list. So sad.

    • heshwesh Says:

      Nicola, lovely Nicola, you are my muse and such a stalwart inspiration– let me start by saying that! You are also a formidable character. For ten years I haven’t complained about the weather. It’s only just now that I am longing for blue skies and a warm sun… to deny that would be a lie. I try so hard to celebrate the rain, to appreciate the many shades of white and gray and the brilliance of the green, and the frequency and magic of rainbows… the moments of illumination… the feel of the wind. The ever changingness of it all, in an hour, within ten minutes. Britain is beautiful, and fascinating!

      I am so not with the people who celebrate a warming Britain that will become “more Mediterranean”– if you thought that was an unconscious implication, I need to rewrite….
      xoox

  4. Jess Schurtman Says:

    Hi Annie,

    Great questions to be asking! For me, I am trying to find the right balance between complete lack of awareness and complete denial of consumption. I think of my mom (of blessed memory) who wouldn’t even re-use plastic bags b/c it was too much work. I find that I do more good for the planet when I satisfy enough of my American (or Human) desire for consumption, so that I don’t become reactionary and give up my efforts completely. For me, that balanacing act would be, ok maybe we don’t fly every year, but 1x every 5 years, ok. Also, the environment always seems to get the short end of the stick, but I think there are other factors as well….being exposed to other cultures and landscapes and being an “outsider” are valuable experiences for a child. just my 2 cents

  5. Keith Farnish Says:

    We ain’t flying anywhere (sorry, I have to pick you up on the double-negative, dear 🙂 ) – made that decision a while ago, but it is easier for us. If a relative turned round to us and said: “We’re emigrating to Australia, I hope you’ll come and see us sometime,” I know what the answer would be.

    We’ll phone; we can send emails; but it’s your choice to move so far away – why should we have the moral burden of deciding whether to see you?

    We need to contract in *so* many ways.

  6. nicole s Says:

    Hi, Annie. I’m glad you focus on flying. I have to roll my eyes when I watch programs or read books about climage change in which the adventurer-writer-spokesperson flies all over the world to educate us about the damage done to our planet.

    That said, I am in the business of encouraging students to take their own such adventures and broaden their minds and maybe change the world. Also, if I had more money, honestly I’d love to share some frolicking among pyramids with Sophie.

    Question: Can you take a train to Greece?

    A thought:

    “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room”–Blaise Pascal

    Not something to encourage study abroad but it might encourage blogging.

    You preach it, sister!

  7. annie G (not me!) Says:

    Most kids who fly abroad just go the beach or swimming pool of their hotel, eat chips and have no cultural experience whatsoever! your children are NOT being deprived by not having foreign holidays. they live in a beautiful place with big gardens. children need freedom and to be outside in nature not stuck in front of a telly, and the wilds of Wales are as good a place as any for that. grasshoppers and ladybirds in your garden can be just as fascinating as an exotic animal. Also, your kids get to experience alternative culture at festivals etc. when they are older they can go anywhere they want – and by then trains might be cheaper and better and aeroplanes a thing of the past!

  8. Keith Farnish Says:

    Annie G, that sums things up beautifully – you paint a picture of a rich childhood that no one with any sense of worth could ever deny their children (by, for instance, spending their holidays at Disneyworld).

    Not sure if the trains will go on any longer than the planes; but the bikes and feet will 🙂

  9. Dan C Says:

    Why is it that so many times I find an agreeable, intelligent conversation going on, it is nowhere near my county or country?
    Huh. Surprise surprise, the American Freedom really means “freedom from reality” while dragging the kids around airports and freeways to see drunken relatives and media-coerced Spectacles, paying ridiculous prices for machine-produced generic ‘food’.
    Well, back to work. I’ve got to get ready for winter here in Wisconsin. Oh, and the guns need oiling….;-)

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