Sense of Place

Nov 3, 2010 by

I guess my most recent readings could be seen as meditations on why we physically are where we are, and why many of us hold fast to that, sometimes so much so that it hurts.

  • Reading about Bacardi and its origins taught me a lot about the company that I didn’t know – among many things, its history is intertwined with the efforts over a century to try to gain true independence for Cuba, but survival for the Bacardi family’s business and assets has meant cutting ties with that history as it became clear what a dictatorial egomaniac Castro was.  How they tried to hold to their Cuban roots as a multinational corporation no longer headquartered in Cuba intrigued me…not that they’ve been successful at it, but it presented an intriguing dilemma.
  • We drove past Centralia, Pennsylvania once when Dan and I were trying to evade traffic to get to my parents’ house one Thanksgiving and could have sworn we saw the fires in the anthracite mines glowing someplace in a hill we passed.  The fire’s been burning for over 40 years now, and the attempts to put it out over the years were stymied by quick fixes that didn’t work and counterproductive finger-pointing and outright evasion on the part of federal, state, and local governments to try to supply just enough resources and funds to put it out for good. Finally, the residents were able to be adequately compensated for their homes if they left Centralia.  Most relocated, but there were holdouts until recently, for various reasons.  Some of the strongest, and most emotionally poignant, explorations into why at least one person stayed can be seen in this documentary.  The ground is burning beneath your feet, sending up toxic gases, and yet, still, reasons can be found to stay, to keep hope alive….
  • …which brings us to Washed Away? The Invisible Peoples of Louisiana’s Wetlands.  A certain way of life, dictated by one’s environment, can have such a hold on the people who live in the bayous, who rise and fall with the remaking and the erosion of the wetlands here, but it is distressing how much the almighty dollar can trump that fragile existence.  It is even more distressing how easily the impacts of economic greed can trump the social upheaval due to the consequences of those actions taken in the name of that greed.  A way of living with and off the land and the sea is dying, and because we cannot adequately quantify those kinds of losses, it will be gone.

What’s left for what we know, deep down, is valid, yet cannot be tallied up by accountants and statisticians?

We keep that place within as safe as we can, and we do what a certain wise man advised: what is hateful to you, don’t do unto your neighbor.  At least, keep recognizing that and acting upon it, to the best of your ability, with those in your immediate vicinity who are in need…because acting on that recognition of the shred of humanity within us all will pull us through in even the toughest times.

It has to.  Even if the stupid burns like a motherfucker.


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