Offbeat – 08 November 2013
If locality influences thought, it must be some kind of a resource in the economics of thought.
Once or twice a week, I walk to the local pub for a couple of beers. The things that I see convince me that the neighbourhood is stuck in the 60s. The kids are very active, walking dogs and playing football in the cul-de-sac just down the road. People sit in gardens, sharing beers. On the playground, there are always a couple of adolescent boys and girls chatting with one another, out of sight of mothers and fathers.
There are plenty of mobile devices in evidence to remind me that it is the 21st century, but the high walls and formidable barriers that shield wealthy people from one another aren’t much in evidence. And people do walk to one another’s houses instead of driving to next door.
Because it is a community, I don’t have to think much, other than to count the beers when I do go out, and sometimes total up the ingredients on the occasional pizza. I don’t have to worry much about fitting in with the sort of idiots who judge strangers by their dress. I suppose I am the amiable mulungu, in the sense of being an odd one out, with the qualifier of being one who belongs. It must be something like that. People give me the nod as I trudge around and I talk to a couple of people along the way, depending on who is in the garden or going to and from the pub like me.
Sometimes, my mind turns to things like smarter, bigger houses, but I think of the neighbourhood and realise I am rooted. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Suburbia is not a soulless geographical or economic description. It’s a state of existence.
There is an interesting aspect to the sense of belonging in a place. The adjustments to my environment are minor at best. Nobody looks up anymore when I walk into the pub, and the place no longer pauses to see what I will do. I don’t have to explain myself or my presence. That leaves me a lot of room to think my own thoughts.
Places have their own ways of being. They come with dress sense, the economics of the individual and group and projections of attitude. For instance, if I walked up a street in New York, small clues would give me away as a foreigner, It might be the way I dress or the way I look around at new things. People would spot me for someone who doesn’t belong, and would respond in some or other way.
Depending on the neighbourhood or area, it might be predatory, it could be an offer of a tour or it might be disinterest and movement away from me for fear of the burden of newness. I would have to adjust my own behaviour to match the response, and I would have to take the trouble to begin the process of learning and adapting to that response.
I would also have to absorb the environment. A visit to the pyramids or New York, for instance, would ask me to incorporate the new environment into my thinking and being, and evaluate it against my previous experience.
That would be the basis, I suppose, for ‘travel expanding the mind’, and for travel marketing. Pity that most travel marketing seems to have put this aside.
On the other hand, the fact that I have a sense of security in my own vicinity. My own thoughts are configured differently. I can think philosophically or economically or about the people who are around me. The limitations that I place on my location free me up for different types of thought.
This leads me into the area of trade-offs and the economics of thought. If locality influences thought, it must be some kind of a resource in the economics of thought. If this is the case then travel or staying in the same place imply a trade-off is possible in the results of thought.
The idea that ideas have an economic ecosystem is an interesting one. Perhaps by manipulating the variables that go into producing thought, and thinking beyond the ideas of education and culture, for instance, it might be possible to begin to assess the productivity of minds.
Thinking is going to become more and more valuable, but maybe ideas shouldn’t be a hit-and-miss environment. Maybe their production can be manipulated.