Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Potjiekos or Patchwork

I love the idea of Airbnb. On this trip, Gem and I have stayed in the homes of some really interesting people. Two doctoral students, the one in Chicago studying languages, the one in Vancouver studying communication. The couple in Seattle are working in Health Care and the Tech sector. Staying in people's homes while they carry on their lives, cooking dinner, going to work, de-stressing, is a much more real travel experience than the uniform hotels of business travel. Locals opening their homes.

Staying with us in Vancouver is another chap from Melbourne who is here learning to use a sword. As you do. Last night, the four of us had a wide ranging chat. Free speech and whether Trump is actually a good thing highlighting our sores so we can work at healing them. The water crisis in Brazil and what would happen if 20 million people suddenly have to vacate a major global city. Immigration. Colonialism. Racism. Mental Health. Drug issues. Poverty. Education. It is fascinating seeing similar problems from around the world but in very different settings. What if the oppressed minority were an oppressed majority? What if the problems are remote/elsewhere rather than local? What if the country were bigger/smaller, or wealthier/poorer, or independent/community based? What if the people 'who were different' were different. Looking at different combinations of cultures. Different cities. Different approaches.

One of the things I have been chewing on recently is how we balance our desire to build a world we understand (culture) with a world that is tolerant of other ways of doing things. The balance between Melting Pots (evolving culture) and Patchwork quilts (pockets of conserved culture). Cities seem designed for being melting pots (Potjiekos). They force tolerance and their character changes regularly and quickly. But change is emotionally difficult, and it is nice to be able to retreat to a place where you understand the set up deeply. Where you know and support the rules of the game. Where you are deeply embedded in the community.

Tolerance can be uncomfortable. We need a combination of Potjiekos and Patchwork.

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