Thursday, April 2, 2009


Such tidal movements of human beings produce all sorts of seldom-noticed side effects. Similarly, orginazations and associations have a difficult time knowing where their members are. Within a single recent year fully one-third of the members of the National Society for Programmed Instruction, an orginazition of educational researchers, changed their addresses. Even friends have trouble keep up with each other's whereabouts. There is no social season anymore, he says, because nobody is anywhere at the same time - except, of course, nobodies. The good Count has been quoted as saying: 'Before this, if you wanted twenty for dinner, you'd have to ask for fourty - but now you first ask 200.' Despite such inconveniences, the overthrow of the tyranny of geography opens a form of freedom that proves exhilatating to millions. Speed, movement and even relocation carry positive connotations for many. This accounts for the psychological attachment that Americans and Europeans display towards automobiles - the technological incarnation of spatial freedom. ' The "auto-mobile" has become the modern symbol of initiation. The licence of a sixteen-year-old is a valid admission to adult society.' Young girls in United States, when asked what they regard as important about a boy, immediately list a car. Sixty-Seven per cent of those interviwed in a recent survey said a car is 'essential', and a nineteen-year-boy, Alfred Uranga of Albuquerque, NM, confirmed gloomily that 'If a guy doesn't have a car, he doesn't have a girl.' Just how deep this passion for automobility runs among the youth is tragically illustrated by the suicide of a seventeen-year-old Wisconsin boy, William Nebel, who was 'grounded' by his father after his driver's licence was suspended for speeding. Before putting a .22 caliber rifle bullet in his brain, the boy penned down a note that ended, 'Without a licence, I don't have my car, job or social life. So I think that it is better to end it all right now.' It is clear that millions of young people all over the technological world agree with the poet Martinetti who, more than half a century ago, shouted: 'A roaring car ... is more beautiful than the Winged Victory.' An extreme manifestation of this urge to move is found among the female hitch-hikers who are beginneng to form a recognizable sociological category of their own. Teenage girls in particular - perhaps eager to escape restrictive home environments - are passionately keen travellers. A survey of girls who read Seventeen, for example, showed that 40.2 per cent took one or more 'major' trips during the summer before the survey. Sixty-nine per cent of these trips carried the girl outside her home state, and "9" per cent took her abroad. But the itch to travel begins before the teen years. Thus when Beth, the daughter of a New York Psychiatrist learned that a friend of hers had visited Europe, her tearful response was: 'I'm only "nine" years old already and I've never been to Europe !' This positive attitude towards movement is reflected in survey findings that Americans tend to admire travellers. Thus researchers at the university of Michigan have found that respondents term travellers 'lucky' or 'happy'. To travel, is to gain status, which explains why so many American travellers keep ragged airline tags on their lugage or attache-cases long after their return from the trip. One "WAG" has suggested that someone setup a business washing and ironing old airline tags for "status-conscious" travellers. An airline executive quoted - 'In a few years I won't be living here. You plant a tree and you never see it grow.' This non-involvement or, at best, limited participation, ha been sharply critized by those who see in it a "menace" to the traditional idea of grass-roots democracy. They overlook, however, an important reality: the possibility of those who refuse to involve themselves deeply in community affairs than those who do - and then move away. The movers tax a boost rate - but avoid paying the piper because they are no longer there. They help defeat a school bond issue - and leave the children of others to suffer consequences. Does it not make more sense, is it not more responsible, to disqualify oneself in advance? Yet if one does withdraw from participation, refusing to join organizations, refusing to establish close ties with neighbours, refusing, in short, to commit oneself, what happens to the community and the self? Can individuals or society survive without commitment? The notion of roots is taken to mean a fixed place, a permenantly anchored 'home'. In a harsh, hungry and dangerous world, home, even when no more than a hovel, came to be regarded as the ultimate retreat, rooted in the earth, handed down from generation to generation, one's link with both nature and past. The immobility of home was taken for granted, and literature overflows with reverent references to the importance of home. 'Seek home for rest, For home is best' are lines form Instructions to Housewifery, a sixteenth -century manual by Thomas Tusser, and there are dozens of what one might, at the risk of terrible pun, call 'home-ilies' embedded in the culture. Thomas Hood, the poet of the poor, tells us that 'each heart is whispering, Home Home at last ...' and Tennyson paints a classically cloying picture of
An English home - grey twilight poured
On dewy pastures, dewy trees,

Softer than sleep - all things in order stored,

A haunt of ancient peace.

In a world churned by the industrial revolution, and in which all things were decidedly not 'in order stored' home was the anchorage, the fixed point in the storm. If nothing else, at least it could be counted upon to stay in "one" place.
Alas, this is poetry, not reality, and it could not hold back the forces that were to tear man loose from fixed location.

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