Doing things differently since 1984
Oh dear, it has been a long time since I have posted on here! “So I’m becoming a stay-at-home mom…” and I can see the cobwebs growing and tumbleweed rolling. If you ever needed proof of how hard a stay-at-home parent works, you have it right here. Those precious few hours we call “nap time” disappear quickly and mysteriously.
So much has happened in the past couple of months that bear worthiness of thought and reflection… Superstorm Sandy tattered our shores as well as others, a madman brought unthinkable horrors upon an elementary school in Connecticut, our Congress revealed just how fragile our economic prosperity is, and special holiday times have come and gone. Many others have written very eloquently on these subjects, and I feel there is little I can add.
It was in a conversation recently when I pointed out something I thought was obvious: “I don’t think it’s good for us [Americans], living so far apart.”
OK, never mind your opinions on the above statement — whether you think it’s good or bad or somewhere in between. Like anything, it has its pros and cons. What surprised me the most was how little people know about how oddly spread out we are in the US. So, allow me to demonstrate:
This is about average for what an American town looks like. Shops all clumped together, people spread out in various neighborhoods. More urban settings will be more packed in, more rural settings will be spaced farther apart. So what?
This is how the same amount of space (notice the scale in the bottom-left) is used up in the UK. Notice a difference? It looks like it’s zoomed out, but it’s not. You have people/shops all packed in together, then you’re suddenly not in the town anymore. But how does this compare to other places?
Well look at that… The same amount of space in Japan looks even more zoomed out because it’s even more densely packed. I’ll admit, I’ve never been to Japan, so this space was picked very randomly (I tried staying away from the big cities). Scroll back up to the US image to compare.
So, OK, we all know Japan’s pretty packed. What about somewhere less populated? I picked somewhere random (again, avoiding the big cities) in the middle of Nigeria. Still much denser than the US.
I had to really test the theory… what about the least densely populated country in the world? How spread out are their people living? Here is a randomly selected town in Russia, nowhere near any of the big cities. Notice how it resembles the organization of the UK more than US.
So there you have it. Hopefully I have clearly demonstrated that the US is the odd one out when it comes to how far apart so many of us live from one another. I can assure you that if you look throughout history, particularly before cars, you’ll find it even more odd. So the next question is…. so what? Why does it matter how far apart we live from each other?
The answer is, I’m not really sure. It just seems wrong. If humanity has always tended to clump together in densely packed communities, wouldn’t it be for a reason? Wouldn’t some part of our psyche kind of depend on it? Would we even be able to track what would happen when we stopped building our society like that?
Consider just the theoretical benefits of living in close proximity to each other:
– Safety (always a witness / strength in numbers)
– Community living (opposite of isolated living)
– Sanity (there is a reason hermits were usually the crazy ones)
– Accountability (hard to get away with dark deeds without the space to carry them out)
– Information (the more people you talk/listen to, the less ignorant you’ll be)
– Public services (running water, schools, sanitation, and the like)
This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea. So, considering the above, why would people want to give that up to live farther away from one another? This list might seem a bit harsh, but just think about it for a minute and you’ll get it:
– Don’t really like other people (except in small doses)
– Don’t really trust other people
– Don’t want to be held back by other people
– Don’t want to have to answer to other people
Does that list look familiar at all? It should, because it’s progressively becoming the ideals of our society. Dressed up a bit better, of course, to make “ME” the important one, and everyone else the unimportant ones.
Is it progress? Maybe just a neutral change? You can decide. But I bet it would never have happened if we were all still living shoulder-to-shoulder to one another.