Thursday, March 17, 2016

Move to Stay

There are about 7.4 Billion of us. More than half of us live in cities. In 1800, there were less than 1 Billion people and only 17% of the population of England lived in cities. In 1800 the world was a very different place. There was no city in Chicago. By 1900, almost 1.7 million people lived there. Up till the World Wars of the last century, Chicago was growing by rates of 25%-570% per decade. The city you move to is not the same city ten years later. The whole nature of the place you lived in got uprooted, rerooted, and derooted every time you started to root. 

Vancouver was, and is, a port city. Ports must have been crazy places. You could arrive, forts were built, and there was a relative mass of people. Sea points were typically 'open trading ports', with permission and protection needed if you started travelling inland. Persian traders used Zanzibar as a base for trade between the Middle East, India and Africa. Based at the ports, with ventures inland to trade and fight for Ivory and Slaves.

Spreading Human Populations

It seems to me that the people who were most likely to move were probably the ones most keen to 'protect' their way of life. To stay the same, you have to move. If you stay, things will change. If you move, you have to create a link to the past through stories. Stories can pretend that things haven't changed. They can create a sense of permanence that isn't how the world really works. We have wonderful imaginations and can 'remember' things that never were. That could have been. That we can re-create. 

What we have created with our moving around is a wonderful collection of stories. Ways to build communities. Ways to break them down. Stories of warning and fear and trauma. Stories of hope and beauty and calm.

With spreading literacy and the ability to communicate, there are now more open trading ports and less permission required to share stories. It may be harder to root though. Harder to move away and prevent change. With fewer escape hatches, we have to learn to live together. To have uncomfortable conversations. Learn to take the best bits of the stories from the past and create new stories together.
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