(Versión en castellano)
I'll send an SOS to the world,
I'll send an SOS to the world,
I hope that someone gets my…
I hope that someone gets my…
I hope that someone gets my…
Mierda en una bolsa (shit in bag)
Mierda en una bolsa (shit in bag) ♪
I remember decades ago when I used to take my dog out in Buenos Aires (as a child I still didn't understand the cruelty of having an animal as a pet, especially in a city), the animal instinctively went straight to the base of the trees, the only miserable pieces of land left in sidewalks. The dog sniffed the area, did its thing and, after finishing, it itself scratched the ground with its hind paws to cover its gift. Decades later, the first thing I noticed when I came to Spain was that in Barcelona city the small square at the base of the trees had a cover with a few ventilation holes and it's not rare to see it totally covered with cement. It wouldn't surprise me if at some point they decide to enclose trees in glass cabins, or vacuum plastic bags to eliminate, once and for all, the grime that this pest of nature generates.
The local government of the town in which I live today invests lots of money in gardening to maintain a beautiful artificial appearance in the bushes and tiny trees on the sidewalks (they look like props) and, against any logic they put a sign banning dogs from peeing or shitting there (hey, they would ruin gardener's work of art!) Then, you may wonder where people make their dogs urinate here in Spain, well, without any kind of dissimulation (since it seems to be the rule here,) they guide their dog near some motorcycle or car wheel, or some house threshold. As for the “jackpot”, the original custom was to literally leave the turd in the middle of the path, until the government imposed a funny method, the owner have to pick it up and throw it to the container in a plastic bag. How do you think this sophisticated process is likely to end? 1) the guys from the garbage recycling plant diligently separate the organic waste or 2) the shit ends up buried in the bag as a “message in a bottle” for future archaeologists*?
Surely you lived the following experience, after enjoying a picnic lunch in nature you had to apologize and go to crouch behind a bush, then you probably noticed how flies arrived immediately and licked your scraps until they were completely dry and odorless. From our food remains to a corpse, any organic waste is recycled by nature. Complex in its simplicity, so wonderful is nature; what is waste for this, for that is a need, everything lives together in balance. But, lost as we are in our “evolved” pedantic abstractions, we find disgusting the mere idea that ants or flies invade “our” space trying to clean up our mess. Just yesterday, visiting the neighborhood of prefab houses that my (Spanish) parents-in-law call “camping,” I saw my mother-in-law deliberately spraying ant poison over the dishes with rest of food we left after having lunch.
As I usually do I try to liven my speech up with some funny comment, what, to be honest, each time I like it less, I feel I'm feeding what I call the “Homer Simpson effect,” which is when we just laugh at our own stupidity, making it chronic.
“Everything is easier today,” say my parents-in-law, and they have their home plenty of electronic gadgets which they barely know how to use. Where does this confusion come from: on TV, Americans show us their standard of living, their bigger than our whole house “isle design” kitchens, with large stoves and ovens, not by chance always impeccable since, in order to afford all that stuff, their everyday lunch has to be a hot dog in some street stall in the half-hour break free of their full-time jobs. Material or abstract, everything is for sale in the US, while the Spanish term “comodidad” is associated with laziness its English translation, “comfort,” is internationally accepted as a sign of status, “Neither on foot nor by bicycle; by car, like a gentleman!” says my father-in-law. The true is most people have the car to go to work and work to maintain the car; this in turn maintains some oil magnate's mansion in Miami, who, in turn, bought and maintains this house just to have it as a status symbol (the “Homer Simpson effect” is not just about proletarians!) and the mansion remains there empty, waiting for some South American immigrant to pass by, take some pictures and send them to his relatives in Mexico saying, “Look how well these gringos live!”
Being a child I noticed in some of my neighborhood friends a behavior I found disgusting. I called them “The Wow, dude! guys,” morons who are dazzled by the chromes of a chopper bike, the exorbitant figure in the tacky documentary, the last generation technological gadget… Americans constantly reinforce and take advantage of this mental weakness, they redefined “hobby” as a pathological desire to have more, to consume, and they refer to this behavior as acceptable. Then they distinguish this condition, “the fan,” from the ill version of the fanatic, i.e. “the Islamic terrorist,” which, in turn, they distinguish from “the adolescent,” i.e. the American troubled young man who one cloudy day decides to take his gun to school and mow down his teacher and classmates after killing his parents and siblings at home. Evolution, progress, new technologies, pepsi and coke.
Jokes apart, let's analyze the consequences of our artificial environment seen from the human, social point of view. I usually compare South America with Europe because my migration experience reinforced what I've been noticing about human evolution, how the lack of contact with nature have been weakening what I believe should be the basis of our intellect: instinct. Although today, telecommunications have standardized customs and culture all around the globe (in a more or less achieved imitation of the American-Way-Of-Life®, depending on the case) I suppose it's genetic memory what still makes some difference, people in Europe have spent a lot more generations living in an overcrowded artificial environment. I've written about this a lot of times and it's not in vain to paraphrase about it again: instinct is what connects us with nature, it needs to be woken up and nourished by nature from early age. I don't mean necessarily to grow up in the jungle, but to dispose of time and space enough to allow our activities to develop in a natural way. An example I used in my first novel: in the times when children could play alone in the streets they learned to organize by themselves (in a natural way); in my childhood, for example, with other children in my neighborhood we improvised games and constructed our own toys. We learned in that way to be responsible, alone on the streets there was no adult to tell us what to do, we knew we had to face the consequences of our decisions. See how children are raised today, locked up in a flat watching TV, locked up in a classroom swallowing lessons from a teacher, locked up in a schoolyard screaming and running randomly, each one in a different direction. You see this flaw in education in the way they behave later in their adult lives, having fun means for them to reproduce the school playground experience, which basically consists on crowding and stunning each other. Along the 17 years I've been living in Spain (2018 at the time of writing this,) the most remarkable aspect I've observed in these people is they go through life as if they were totally alone and their acts didn't affect objects and people around (so convenient in current overpopulation circumstances!) they don't assume any responsibility for their actions, before any claim they'll forward you to the local government or the police (who won't assume responsibility either.) What happens to a greater or lesser extent everywhere, as a consequence of how people live and coexist today, especially in big cities.
Number is a decisive factor. When the group is small, playing evolves spontaneously in an organized activity. It goes without saying that city life constantly sabotages this healthy way of interacting.
The environment we created is healthy only for cars (what carry proletarians to their jobs every day.) Cities, with their buildings, supermarkets, are just a way to shorten distances, to optimize production-consumption processes. No aspect in a city takes in care our well-being. I find little difference between cities and modern milking yards for cows.
To some extent we depend on the artificial environment we created, an environment that doesn't manage itself, it requires artificial maintenance; the more artificial the environment the more artificial maintenance it requires. In turn the artificial maintenance process requires its own maintenance that in turn requires another sub maintenance process and so on. We keep adding more and more layers of complication, and all those layers still rest on natural resources.
What our “progress” means in practice: now each time you need to scratch your ear you have to pass your arm under your ass. And, taking into account what history tells us, we know the upcoming “solutions” will hardly mean a simplification, in the future you'll probably have to leave your country or travel to another planet to scratch your ear.
But man doesn't give up, keeps inventing excuses to justify his nonsense. After all, it hasn't been the need but plain vanity what prompted him. And this same vanity doesn't let him accept his supposed “superior” intelligence won't fix what it itself has been breaking.
Not just because “ecology” has been distorted by sellers and politicians, human mistake is deep, when it's not a pretty view far in the horizon seen from a comfortable hotel, a film, a documentary or a photo in a postcard, for most people nature is grime. Some crazy hypothesis come to my mind like that man didn't evolved here originally but on another planet and this past life memory is the origin of his irrational tendency to modify the environment, tendency, which far from being moderate, doesn't allow nature to make any decision at any level. Whether decorated with scientific arguments or disguised as ecology, any action taken from now on that don't keep in mind that nature knows better than us what to do, will make the situation worse.
Let's put the ideal case in we all finally agree in honestly start to gradually change the course in order to survive as a species. We'll realize that changing habits won't be enough, whatever the new way proposed be, it'll rather coexist nicely with the natural environment if it's (passively) adopted by 7.6 billion people we currently are.
Human psychology is easy to understand. Waiting for some natural catastrophe to force us to settle down abruptly (recurring argument in fictional literature, especially, for obvious reasons, religion) is like taking for granted that, at some point, mom, tired of our pranks, beats us up and problem solved. At some point nature lost control over our population growth, we should consider that probably mom is not there to save us anymore. Quoting Nail Armstrong, the next “one small step for a man” that will mean “one giant leap for mankind” will be to overcome adolescence.
(*) It takes from 100 to 1000 years the plastic to biodegrade.