The other morning, while catching up on the world, I came across a New York Times article that caught my attention. It was linked to a tweet that mentioned the outrageous commute times that many New Yorkers are having to deal with in order to get to work. My first reaction to the tweet was that this is due to the inordinate number of persons being enamored by "big city living and a voodoo woman named Phyllis." Reading the article added another dimension to the problem entirely. The swelling of the American city due to the never ending quest for wealth and power is still very much involved. But the people in this particular article are the victims of this quest rather than the perpetrators.
The article tells the stories of service workers, security guards, laborers, good honest blue collar folks, who find themselves moving further and further from their jobs in order to have rents more in line with their incomes. Some of these people have had to relocate so far out that they are commuting up to 2 hours one way to get to work. This isn't your typical Atlanta commute. These people are using transit - buses, subways, combinations of the two, often having to switch back and forth more than once. People putting in eight to 10 hours a day making $11-$15 an hour simply cannot afford to live near their job...anywhere near their job. Throw in a two way commute that might equal as much as a half of their work shift, they've lost more than 12 hours just to pay the bills. An 8 to 5 worker could lave home at 6 am only to return around 7 pm.
As cities continue to drag in more large employers that pay high salaries and property values climb in response to the housing market shifts, the problem continues to worsen. And transit isn't making the situation any better, so it can't really be the answer.
Closer to home, we see Atlanta trending that way with many claiming that transit will ease the pain and make the problem evaporate. People float the ideas of minimum wages and rent control and a thousand other schemes to try to solve this issue. But there are resource issues - water, energy, air pollution, affordable food, disposal of refuse, all of these are stretching the capacity of Atlanta and nearly every other American city. Throw in the regional types of natural disasters (i.e. Los Angeles fires or flooding in Houston) and the cities don't have the resources and infrastructure to deal with what they have, much less more.
It isn't sustainable.
There is only so much urban sprawl that a plot of land can withstand. I've mentioned before that we need to be using our new connectivity and new technologies to spread out some, use our resources more wisely, and create more sustainable communities. We don't need a mom riding a subway for two hours to make a living and then ride two hours back, missing PTO meetings, dinners with her family, and whatever practices or activities she can afford for her kids to be involved in. She can't have an effective family this way. This isn't life. This is survival. Nothing more.
We have to change our thinking - as individuals, as a society, as a nation. No one is ever going to win the Rat Race. The only way to not lose is to not run. It is time to look for us to quit chasing shiny and start pursuing meaning. Why are we doing what we are doing?
By Sam Burnham
I want to talk about Thanksgiving. I mean the holiday and the expression. In recent years Thanksgiving has gone from a an actual holiday, to the official beginning of the Christmas season, to a mere speed bump between Candy Day and Materialism Month, featuring Consumer Claus. We don't talk about it, don't think about it, don't even stop to consider it. Throw out the pumpkin, put up the tree, let's go shopping.
Oh, everyone is still going to eat. There will still be turkey and dressing (did y'all know there are folks who strain the giblets out of their gravy? Just learned this yesterday myself.) There will still be sides and deserts aplenty. There will still be football and talking politics with your uncle and all that. But will there really be any thanksgiving at Thanksgiving?
As consumerism continues to consume this land and consumers become the consumed, there is yet greater and greater demand. There is the eternal striving for increasing abundance. Everything will never be enough, there will have to be more. We must have more, bigger, better, shinier, and more elaborate on our mission to convince ourselves that we are filling the hole within us with the right stuff. Maybe if we get enough of the stuff we'll finally be happy.
But no matter how much there is, it is never enough. The things we have to have never make up for the lacking of significance. There is never any contentment. Without contentment there is never gratitude. Without gratitude there is never thanksgiving. Without thanksgiving, that famous Thursday meal in November is just a celebration of gluttony and abundance.
We think of contentment as a type of surrender. We aren't striving for more because we are lazy or scared or incapable of doing "better." But we never ask ourselves the reason we want more. Is there a reason for it? What is the actual need we are trying to fill? Is it an actual need or just a passing desire?
With a week to go before the Thanksgiving holiday arrives, let us take inventory. Stop with the hustle and look around. Think about health, wealth, security, happiness. Do you have these things? Look at family, friends, faith, hope for the future. Do you have these things? Rather than looking up to the more fortunate to drive your desires, look back on the less fortunate to allow yourself some gratitude. Don't make it about seeing yourself as better than them. Make it as "but for the Grace of God go I." Because that is reality.
We are so blessed in this country. Yet we are living in turmoil. We fight over political power, cultural slights, we fight over fighting. Our problem isn't our differences. Our problem is we lack thanksgiving because we lack gratitude because we lack contentment.
Take a week. Think it over. celebrate thanksgiving, not just Thanksgiving.
By Sam Burnham
Let's talk about a book.
First of all, anytime you get a book recommendation from a South Georgia hog and poultry farmer, follow up on it. That will be a good book. Trust me. That's how I got to this point. Second, we don't usually review new books here. It happens but we would rather review a good book than a new book.
So the good ol' Georgia PINES catalog indicated that the book was indeed at my local library so I swung in and picked up a copy. True to the recommendation, A Land Remebered by Patrick D. Smith was as advertised. The story itself was very much what we so often discuss here at ABG. Without ruining the plot, the book carries your through 3 generations of the MacIvey family, crackers from Georgia who make their way into the untamed Florida frontier and attempt to squeeze a living off a fertile yet unforgiving landscape.
This work of fiction is a great representation of the faceless multitude of crackers who settled the Sunshine State, as well as much of Georgia. Before there was a Miami or an Orlando, there were cypress cabins strewn over the hammocks and prairies of central and south Florida. Seminoles still hid in the sawgrass and the cypress as they too made their living off this land. It was a tough existence that required the people to be just as tough.
The books characters are realistic and endearing. Some of the dialogue gets dry in places and may not always be true to the time period but overall you find yourself pulling for the MacIveys. You want them to make it. There are plot twists that you cannot predict any more than they could have. You along for the ride with them. And it does get bumpy. The plot deals with issues of race and class. There are moral as well as physical crises and you see good and bad coming from decisions.
But the title puts the land itself under the spotlight. I think the plot does as well. The land is there before any of them arrive and it is there long after they are all dead. How the people interact with the land is the story. There is a lesson that native Floridians know all too well. It is the lesson of the Florida that was and the Florida that is. It is the lesson of greed and development. It is the lesson of "progress." As you see the land and the people change, you can see exactly how it all happened. You see how people sucked the life out of the land and, in turn, sucked the life out of themselves.
I highly recommend A Life Remembered. It's a great story with a great lesson.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire