Thursday, May 31, 2018

Read "Community" from My Rogue Mile: Volume Two



I am ill-suited to modern life, I'm afraid. I don't have the patience for it. I don't have the time for it. The Internet is a rabbit-hole. Or, more accurately, a black hole. It sucks all your time away and leaves you with little or nothing to show for it.

I lived in San Diego from 2002 until 2012. Counting the 'burbs and Tijuana, Mexico, just to the south, there are more than six million people in that general vicinity. You'd think with those numbers I'd be able to scratch out a living as a professional tutor and find some decent folks to call friends. I failed in both.

Kye absolutely hated it there. She moved there in 2008. She observed, as I did, that it was a very unfriendly place, very disconnected, very alienated. I agreed. When we finally moved, we both cried. It was like being released from prison.

But perhaps it isn't just San Diego that's unfriendly, disconnected, and alienated. In every big city I've lived in or near, from Denver, Colorado, to Honolulu, Hawaii, and many in between, I have experienced that same unfriendliness, disconnection, and alienation. Hell, Los Angeles is known for it! I've been in and through LA many times. Its reputation is well-deserved.

We moved to Smith River, California, which is basically a ghost town located just a few minutes from the border of California and Oregon, to a trailer park there. Aside from the spectacular scenery, our stay was terrible bordering on horrific, and at turns dangerous. Drugs and drug gangs, believe it or not, just like in the cities, were rampant. We were threatened numerous times; on one occasion a man tried smashing his way into our rig with a brick. The public facilities were vile and dangerously unsanitary. We made ourselves unpopular because we dared call the sheriff several times on offenders, all of whom, it turned out, were relatives of the owner, who was an entirely absent old man who didn't care what happened to his residents as long as he got everyone's rent every month.

We somehow lasted until 2014, when we moved north to Gold Beach, Oregon, a good hour-plus north.

We're in our fourth year here, in the same spot in the same trailer park, which I believe is long enough to say with some confidence that it isn't the fact that it's a big city that makes a community unfriendly, disconnected, and alienated. Not at all. Because here, in Gold Beach, a town with barely two thousand people in it, that same unfriendliness, disconnection, and alienation is just as easy to find as it can be deep within the concrete jungle of any giant metropolis I've lived in.

Maybe there was a time when small rural communities were tight-knit, friendly, welcoming places. Maybe Mayberry RFD had some kernel of truth in its portrayal of aw-shucks country friendliness. If it did, that kernel is at the very least decomposing if not completely gone.

Personally, I blame the Internet for it. The mindset of urban living, which features unfriendliness, disconnection, and alienation as positive if not necessary features, has been adopted wholesale by rural dwellers across America. The Internet has urbanized and suburbanized the land from sea to shining sea, if not physically then certainly psychologically and most relevantly spiritually. It's cool to be that way. You're hardened and street-savvy and completely individualistic. You need no one. Friends are accessories, not necessaries. Community is never deeper or more demanding than Facebook and one's profile, where you have no idea who the hell ninety-plus percent of your "friends" actually are, and have never met a single one of them, nor really care to.

The trope of the friendly rural-dwelling family is no longer true. They're all on Facebook, and Twitter, and so on, just like the urbans and suburbans ("city-folk"), and they see what's in and what's out. In Trump's America, friendliness, inclusiveness, and community are most definitely out. It doesn't just reflect in urban jungles like San Diego or Denver, or in the sterilized spaces of the latest McCastles in suburbia, but now in regions as remote as Gold Beach, Oregon, and Smith River, California.

Anywhere with an Internet connection.

Ironic, don't you think? The Internet was supposed to connect us all. It did so, yes, but only on the shallowest--and most profitable--level. But in the sense that we could all find community, that we could all find friendship, find tribes to belong to in any actual communal sense worthy of the adjectives? Not a chance. Marketers have long since figured out, after all, that disconnection and alienation are much more lucrative than trying to sell to contented human beings. With both comes, necessarily, "the other" and the unfriendly urges we harbor towards them. And marketers are who Facebook, Twitter, and the like truly care about.

The photo above is mine. The redwoods featured are maybe a ninety-minute drive from where I'm writing this now. Besides being Earth's greatest tree species, redwoods are deeply communal beings. (Yes, I'm calling trees beings. Get over it.)

Homo sapiens sapiens is also deeply communal. We deny it, and elect against it, and market against it to our direct and present peril. Even out here in the boonies.



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