Monday, December 08, 2014

Ignoring Cape Town

Our ability to ignore, forget and recreate memories in our heads makes us very resilient. Circumstances change and clouds pass so that a dose of time tends to heal. That is awesome, but an example of this selective ignorance once got my blood boiling. I had just met someone and when he discovered that I had studied in Cape Town, he said he had been there once but that he was not going back. When I asked why, his response was that the drive to the centre of Cape Town from the airport takes you past townships. He did not believe such inequality was acceptable. So, to rephrase in my own words. It was not acceptable to live next to poor people, you have to extract yourself completely. Commence boiling.

Alternate ways to live beneath the mountain

There is vast inequality in the world. It is the absolute level of poverty that concerns me more than the inequality but emotionally, relative wealth hits home harder. We feel more obligation to those who live closer to us. For the last couple of hundred years improved communication has made it possible for Governments to manage larger areas. Since everyone didn't know each other as well, the idea of nationalism and patriotism built up. Through anthems, art, sport, shared holidays and national events emotional connections were built up so that patriots cared more. Over the last few decades communication has improved even more, and I think it is time to start extending the same caring beyond artificially created borders.

The problem with expanding the bubble is that small bubbles do help us survive. The smaller our bubble, the more control we have over our circumstances and our thoughts. There are lots of tough questions that are easier to just put to the side. Peter Singer is a bubble popper. Since this blog project is about happiness and learning, a big part of that is the relationship we have with those who surround us, and what we eat. I spoke about how difficult I found the food questions Singer posed in 'Happy Meal'. I am also looking at the charity questions in 'The Life You Can Save'. There are substantial lifestyle implications in what he writes. One thing that is important to me through this process is how to change without the blood boil experience I mentioned earlier. The chap who wrote off Cape Town was coming from a good place, but his conclusion and the way he said it left me feeling moral outrage. That kind of bone rattling, hair spiking, heavy breathing, bicep bulging, nostril flaring zeal for destruction you get when you feel someone is judging something you love. Philosophy, morality, ethics, and religion ask tough questions a lot of the time. You can argue that it is worth leaving these issues aside, particularly when talking with other people, and sticking to 'Polite Chunks'. Possibly, but then you are not working toward sustainable happiness. In a world with sustainable happiness, you can visit Cape Town. Cape Town is awesome.

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