Dislocation, dislocation, dislocation

Posted on October 6, 2011


It is stating the obvious to say that living today is not like living fifty years ago. It’s not even like living thirty years ago.  Today, we are all global citizens or something; and, generations ago we were citizens of our towns, our communities, our cities, our country weren’t we? Well that depends on which ‘we’, doesn’t it?

I am definitely on-trend.  I have lived in two countries several times, and within those, I’ve managed to inhabit four cities, and one place in the country.  I have lost count of the number of different abodes I have trundled through but it is probably between 25 and 35. Making a decision about where to live is a complicated thing when there are so many potential ‘homes’ from which to choose.  And it seems that a ‘global lifestyle’ is highly desirable and certainly expected for many young professionals these days.  International experience on the cv is a must for most.

Yet it goes without saying that the mobility which so many affluent, middle class people in first tier economies take for granted is still pretty illusive for the majority of people alive right now. This is a paradox.  A growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor is being accelerated by the access that wealth buys.  My experience of the world is so vastly different to one who has never set foot on a plane, let alone into a city.  Technology is ‘making the world smaller’, enabling the poor to vicariously experience the world through others’ eyes, yet it could not be more disparate on some level. What a poverty-struck person in Chad (arguably the poorest country in the world) can see on the communal television, is more than a world away, because so much of what we ‘have’ in the world is a product of pure wealth. Elaborate villas, private jets, sports cars to name the most obvious symbols of wealth are not something that a person living on a dollar a day can travel to.  It is not  a pilgrimage worth saving for, or a simple case of asking the village for a loan.  It is simply beyond the reach of the majority and no get rich scheme, or scrimping and saving will make that dream come alive.  I wonder how this huge disparity in our relative experiences of the world influence how we experience home.

Sitting watching the tellie the other night, there was a show all about navigating using nature – the shape of trees, the prevailing winds, the growth of lichens, the path of the sun. The show, All Roads Lead Home fronted by three well-known comedians and actors, takes each one to places they call home, and puts them through their paces to navigate some wild and wooly landscapes.

One of them, Sue Perkins, said she had grown up in London, had lived a busy, bustling, urbane life, but when she discovered Cornwall she felt that she had come home.  I am fascinated by this connection with a place.  Fascinated, that the most cosmopolitan can still relate to a single, small place as their spiritual home.  How many of us have this connection to some special place?  Do some of us have this connection to several places that sit within our hearts, tugging whenever we are away from them?  Does this connection come instantly, or does it grow?  Does relative wealth make this connection stronger or weaker or does it bear no relation?  Do things matter in this relationship to place?  Do people feel a connection to their cars, their houses, their jets, or is it to the place itself?  And what about people?  Where do communities, individuals, families, friends, co-workers fit in with the heart-place connection? Are perhaps some people people-people and some people place-people?

I am yet to discover which of these beasts I am.  While I’m still working it out, I’m trying to avoid becoming one of the thing-people!