Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nature-Culture Disconnect

If you've happened upon a mall in the last 10 years or been aware of changes in consumer culture, you may have noticed an increase in nature-related goods. Abercrombie & Fitch, L.L. Bean and Lands End, originally created to clothe woodsmen and those with an affinity for the outdoors, have merely become fashion and status symbols, for the most part. Certainly a plethora of comparable stores, including home furnishing stores, now exist with attention to this trend.

While some companies may actually hope for a connection between their customers and nature, others may simply be preying upon the latest trends.

Have you noticed the clothes that speak to "wilderness adventure trips"? How many of these children and young adults have ever done anything close to what their shirts brag about?

Whether this country knows it or not, there is a subconscious longing for the past.

Why were SUVs created? To allow 98% of consumers the feeling that they could go "two-tracking" and off-roading if they were ever "crazy" enough. Having this capability gives consumers, in the back of their minds, a connection to covered wagons, to the frontier which has, sorry to say, been "closed" for at least a century.

Try to think of SUV names...practically ALL are related to the West and the vanished frontier.

Just a few:

Trail Blazer

This list, sickeningly, goes on.

So who's to blame? What's my point? The inevitable shrinking of wilderness via overconsumption of goods and property means that the companies aren't really to blame as most would, hopefully, love the nature connections they depend upon to be true.

Society itself, with its instant-gratification, its ego-centricism, nature-ignorant and human-supremacist mentality make the past something to be bought and not something to be enjoyed nor learned from.

This ignorance of nature and our past is cute and purchasable for now, but it'll catch up to us, and we'll freak out wondering how it can be fixed, when subtle changes now would delay the unavoidable if not alter our country's destiny altogether.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Illegal Immigration: 21st v. 19th Century

While many have been condemning both the immigrants and their reasons ("under the table" foremen and farmers), their reasons for and means of immigration must be put into context.

Opponents of amnesty and supporters of a U.S./Mexico wall frequently cite the large influx of immigrants during the 19th Century through Ellis Island, pointing out their naturalization and dedication to this country's ideals and beliefs. While the former is true, the latter is merely assumed. In addition, those immigrants came from overseas which means places such as Ellis Island were their only way in and thus they had to enter legally.

To our South, however, is a vast border with jobs and families waiting for needy workers. Unlike Irish, German and Italian immigrants often cited, these needy individuals have a choice and the less time they waste, the sooner they can improve the lives of their families back home. And when their employers in the States care not that they speak English nor that they carry papers, what, honestly, is their motivation? Altruism? One could hope for that but when de facto segregation and prejudice still exist, few care enough to take that extra step.