The Tragic Disconnect

In observance of my generation, again and again I remark how truly disconnected we are. And how illogical this seems when the vast and intricate net technology has woven over our cities is taken into account. People, groups, companies and corporations are constantly connecting and disconnecting. We are packed like sardines into towering skyscrapers and subway cars and busy intersections. Cities have grown like never before, their boundaries truly without limit and the possibilities of the metropolis have become endless. No longer are we creatures of the ground; we occupy every stratum of the earth. These cities that we have built attract people from the far corners of the world, because they offer prosperities of economic and social quality, however they are organisms of mass pollution, injustice and hostility that comes in forms never before seen.

The question torments me – are we creatures of our culture, or are we creatures of nature? Where should our loyalty lie? It is true that urbanization accelerated and debatably even instigated our development into rational, intelligent and conscious beings. The social, economic and political infrastructure created in towns and cities provided a scaffolding without which progression would have been made impossible. They have equipped us with the tools which we needed to create an enlightened society. However, today, the opposite seems to be true. Our cities are dominated by corporations, targeted advertisement, crime, isolation, segregation and corporate architecture. The home, where we have carefully constructed our culture, which serves as our identity, has turned on us. Because what pervades today cannot be counted into our identity, unless a new one is nascent, being one of cruel bigotry, ignorance and mass complacency. With urbanization comes the question – are we truly meant to live in these mega-complexes?

Having spent a majority of my childhood outdoors, in tree tops and billowing cornfields and on stream beds and in the dappled shade of spruce forests on the seaside, scathed by the marine wind and tangled in Spanish moss, I feel a connection, or even a commitment to nature that is without parallel in nearly everyone my age. I think that this connection has given me a different vantage point from which I can observe the trivial occupations of my peers almost impartially. No one seems to care about the environment anymore. Our economy has trumped all, and environmentalism has been deemed unprofitable. And no, by environmentalism I do not mean the advocation of clean or alternative energies, of recycling, of reduced carbon emissions or bicycling to work. By environmentalism I mean a deep-rooted naturalism, the belief that our surroundings are to be protected because they provide for us, and an understanding for nature that is not taught, but learned first-hand. This naturalism is not one of religiosity, of new-ageism of anarchism or of leftist anti-capitalism (though the two all-too-often go hand in hand).

In our cities, we are raised in a concrete cage. We have built walls and tunnels and fences and causeways around us and can no longer move freely. Nature has become ornament, and its value is only understood commercially. In the wild, ethereal states of minute fragility create a whole that is resistant and fortified, while in the city, our slabs of rock and iron and steel come together to expose an unsettling tenuousness. As to the children of cities: they are raised orphans, with no knowledge of the ever-present undercurrent that pervades our existences. Adopted by the city, their loyalties are tied into the sidewalks and i-beams and the fragile roofs over their heads, and they are immediately exposed to a state of decay rather than one of growth. These children will always be wanderers, but never pilgrims or explorers. These children will seek security in material things, because they have never experienced true value. However, most unfortunately of all, these children will participate in the lifestyle of destruction that was held by so many of their parents without knowing it at all, because they only have a disconnected apprehension of what is at stake. And here we are – a generation that does not know how to distinguish one plant from another, one whose children cannot name vegetables, one that places its value on social status and interaction rather than anything meaningful, because it grew up in an environment where this meaning could never be experienced. Have we truly graduated to become an exclusively cultural entity, or do we still owe legitimate loyalty to our surroundings?