Saturday, March 24, 2007

The waning waving woes

Growing up in the middle of nowhere that I fondly call home, there were certain characteristics of the area that I took for granted in my youth. Of course, youth is a relative term; I turned 23 only a week ago, and while that is a far cry from "old," I speak now of my cognizant adolescence. In that period, perhaps I was unaware of what awaited anyone who ventured outside of my county. Perhaps it is because of this ignorance that I was able to take for granted the more endearing aspects of my home. However, having now traveled over a fair portion of the country and the world for someone of my age, and reflecting upon the memories of my youth, there is one thing that I remember of my home that I really do appreciate and enjoy: When driving down the road, whether it is within town or on the highway, every driver would wave to passing motorists. This happened irrespective of whether the oncoming vehicle was recognized or merely a foreign vessel. Everyone just waved. (When I say everyone, my recollections suggest that the rate at which this occurred was upwards of 80%.)

Things have changed.

I have spent the majority of the past four and a half years away from home. Though I seem to remember a decline in the habit of waving in my final few years of home life, that well of goodwilled neighborliness has altogether gone dry. I have been lingering around home for a couple weeks now and have actively tried to elicit waves from oncoming drivers as recollected in my childhood memories, but not only do waves not befall me unprovoked, but I am greeted by none in response to my own, with only one exception: I recall one individual, who looked to be a relatively older farmer, returning my gesture.

So what has happened in the interim? Why do people no longer wave to their fellow community citizens? I blame globalization and the media. Ha! Lofty assertions, you say? I'm reading into the trend too much, you say? I'm not so sure about that. Globalization, as its name implies, has the effect of making the world seem much more accessible. One effect of this, though, is that the uniqueness and isolation of your home community is lost to the homogenization of the world at large. The very sense of community fades as you begin to feel that your neighbors are not just those living next to you, but everyone in the world, producing an environment where you don't really know your neighbors at all--they're foreign. The problem, however, extends beyond the sense that one no longer knows their neighbors or shares a unique community with them. The problem leaks down onto the level of trust, and this is the result of our modern media. Five minutes spent watching the local news will reveal to any viewer a multitude of recent murders, kidnappings, and burglaries. This, combined with pet stories, accounts for the majority of vapid local news programming; the lack of worth or value to society is of course not limited to local news, but extends into the national news networks, as well. Either way, such reporting has been demonstrated to produce fear in viewers and a lack of trust towards one's neighbors and community. With these notions summed, it is little wonder that those touched by globalization and the media may lose the requisite sense of goodwilled neighborliness to continue the waving trend. The old farmer who still waved is likely so isolated from the changing world that it has been unable to jade him to a degree necessary to end his waving ways.

Currently listening to: "Publisher" by Blonde Redhead
Previous activity: Reading from The Chomsky-Foucault Debate on Human Nature
Next thing on the agenda: Perhaps a little South Park

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