You know what?
Life is hard.
There are tornados. Earthquakes. Fires. Hurricanes.
But the worst natural disaster is humans.
We are our own worst enemies.
There’s a man named Terrazo. He’s an old guy with sad eyes. I think he has cataracts. I think he’s partially blind and partially deaf. When I first saw him, I felt sorry for him. He walks with an unsteady gait and he seems a little sick. Terrazo is our neighbor.
Unfortunately, Terrazo never watched Mister Rogers growing up. How do I know? Because Terrazo is not neighborly. And, though I at first felt compassion for this man, as it turns out, I have never wanted to have a neighbor like him. He’s the kind of guy who’s mean just for the sport of it.
But while some might say, “Hey…you moved to Mexico. What do you expect?…” the thing is, while Terrazo is being an asshole to us here in Mexico, back in Brule, people are being assholes to us too. Unfortunately, the same breed of Asshole exists everywhere in the world. There’s no escaping for the Ass-holiness. And that’s why life is hard.
Yes, a tornado may come and suck everything you own up into a vortex and spit it back out into another county, but the people around you could in theory work together to rebuild homes and lives and the overall experience of an F5 could be positive.
But here’s the thing:
If there’s no tornado, no earthquake, no hurricane, and no fire that rages out of control, humans will fabricate a natural
disaster. Not all people are prone to this behavior, but most of them are and certain humans are particularly good at stirring the pot. And that’s why tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes are good. They make people focus on important things instead of focusing on greed and other bullshit. Without natural disasters like fires and floods, people focus on each other in a negative way. They hate. They covet. And they hurt each other. They do all of this for the sport of it.
Am I being too negative? I like to see myself as a loving and positive, compassionate person, but I also like to be honest so fuck it. This is how I’m seeing things right now…
Before we moved to Mexico about 1 ½ years ago, I hadn’t been grounded for longer than 6 months at a time for about 7 years. We traveled for long periods of time several times a year. We went to places where we didn’t speak the language or know the culture. And we’d stay for a month or three at a time.
Traveling is a wonderful thing because when you travel, you aren’t part of a community of people. The theory of community is good. It evokes thoughts of things like helpfulness, mutual assistance, positive dependence…that sort of thing. But in reality, the first priority of every community I’ve ever belonged to (and I’ve belonged to many, many communities), is to pigeon-hole the new bird. After the newcomer has been pigeon-holed, he/she must be squeezed or squished. He/she must conform to a particular shape and bend to a particular set of “gods”. These “gods” tend to be the bullies of the world. In grade school, they were the most manipulative kids on the playground. They were the big boys who hurt the smaller boys. They were the conniving girls who excelled at back-stabbing and creating hurtful rumors about girls with fewer skills in emotional manipulation.
This is my definition of community.
I’m not advocating for anarchy, you understand. No. But I’m aware of the realities of community-life and what it means to belong to closed group of people who have developed a sense of identity around “place” and sometimes “culture”. There’s a dark side. Can you deny it? I wish for equitable leadership for the good of all, but I don’t really believe in it. I don’t think it’s possible.
Back in 2002 and 2003, John and I traveled with baby-Lydian in our RV. We stayed in various RV parks throughout the U.S. during this time. RV parks are transient communities for the most part and I realized quickly that I liked the transience. Groups that are open, where people come and go often and newcomers are more the norm than the exception, are healthier. They’re like engines that are well-oiled versus static communities where people endeavor to stay for long periods of time. This is basic Group Psychology….Cybernetics Theory. It’s the reason why so many young people today are putting off “settling down” in favor of traveling and doing the Digital Nomad gig instead.
Static communities are social systems that tend to be prone to social disease. When John, Lydian, and I would leave for long periods of time and then come back to our Home Base, we were usually ready to put up a fight against whatever offensive the people around us had mounted against us. But without that break from the community, we started to 1) feel like we were bad people or 2) feel like humanity was evil and absolutely hopeless.
When we travel, bad things happen sometimes. Sometimes people are shitty to us. This isn’t the norm, but it happens. We’ve had some singularly bad experiences with Russians, for example. And often, travel to India is all about being ripped off. Sometimes we encounter fundamentalist movements where we’re profiled for our skin color and then (most often), assumptions are made about our religious inclinations. This can be scary, of course, but while we’re theoretically more vulnerable outside of our community when we’re profiled like this because we usually don’t speak the language fluently and we stand out as good prey due to our pale skin color, this “profiling” and “preying” behavior is essentially the same thing that happens at our Home Base in our community. Knowing the language is important, but often, here in Mexico, we invoke the “I don’t understand you,” phrase in order to avoid confrontation and it works swimmingly (as long as we can actually understand what the person is saying well enough to effectively defend ourselves as needed).
Americans are so terrified of terrorism that most of them never leave the United States. But I have to say that the “neighbor” behavior that’s common in most communities throughout the world (including the U.S.) is a form of terrorism. It makes people afraid that they won’t survive…that they’ll be ousted or fined into oblivion. When people threaten other people over trifling things that wouldn’t matter if a big chasm opened up in the ground and all but 3 houses remained standing in a 100 mile radius, they’re being “terroristic”. And the natural emotional response that victims have to this kind of behavior is to fear for their survival. It’s not a conscious fear. It’s unconscious so it can lead to all kinds of problems like Generalized Anxiety, Depression, Panic Attacks, or whatever. And my thesis is that a bit of traveling to another country can resolve some of these problems at least temporarily.
I try to do the right thing. I mean, I think about “right” things a lot. And I act on what I believe to be right a lot. That doesn’t mean that I’m always right or that my actions never hurt other people. I realize this, but it’s the best that I can do as a human at this time. If I’m living my mundane little life with my normal, little non-stigmatized family, going about my normal, non-stigmatized business and someone has a problem with something like, say, a particular tree that’s growing in my yard, or where I choose to park my car on my land, I have to assume that that person has deep issues. But unfortunately, in communities, these people who have profound issues…these people who bully other people for the sport of it, are often at the top of the heap just merely because everyone else is afraid of them. That’s the kind of thing that I like to escape from on a regular basis. And it doesn’t matter whether I live in the United States or Mexico, I still need to get away from this kind of bullshit. Inevitably, when we return, all our normal friends who watched plenty of Mister Rogers growing up have lots of stories for us about the shitty people who are in charge of everything. While we were on airplanes, flying through non-communal skies or floating through non-communal seas, they were in in the thick of it all…
The jungle is less scary than Brule, Nebraska, for example, because you can identify poisonous snakes by their stripes, but venomous people are harder to identify. And the stupider they are, the more convinced these people become of their superiority. The same is true here in Mexico. And it’s true in Egypt and Tunisia, India and Thailand too. The problem of community and their “leaders” is a worldwide problem, I assure you.
But that’s not a reason to NOT travel. On the contrary…travel is the escape from “community” and from what the Powers That Be have deemed to be true about you. People leave everything and everyone behind to travel to find themselves. They don’t settle down and buy a house and a big car to find themselves. They buy stuff to buffer themselves from all the shitty people who believe life is a game of King of the Mountain. And what I’m saying is buy less stuff and instead spend less time in one place.