Friday, February 08, 2008

O wad the power to giftie gie us* [Repost from 2006]...

The mobile society is one of those cultural myths so firmly entrenched in our minds that even real true facts bounce off. After reading this essay about how mobile we ARE NOT, several other facets of modern life took on a new light:
“The idea of an increasingly mobile society is a widely held, but untrue, fact,” says Douglas A. Wolf, a professor at Syracuse University’s Center for Policy Research, who published a paper on the subject in the February 2005 issue of The Gerontologist. Indeed, according to the historian Stephanie Coontz, whose books include 1992’s The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and last year’s Marriage, a History, a person born today is more likely to remain near his birthplace than a person born in the 19th century.

This is one of those trite excuses we can set aside perhaps, I think, and start taking individual responsibility for our lives.

Above all, the mobility myth is politically expedient. Conservatives can use the notion that our society is becoming less stable because of increasing mobility to advocate programs that encourage traditional families and to push for taxpayer funding of faith-based social service organizations. Liberals can cite increasing mobility to justify funding for various social programs, including elder care and family care initiatives. Neither the right nor the left has an interest in debunking it, and so the myth endures.

Best of all, there may be more reasons to re-examine our home communities to find out what dynamics are really at work. Then we can build new ways to live together.

The first step is to "see ourselves as other see us" - not as we imagine ourselves to be.

No comments: