July 24, 2017

The Tragedy of the Homogenization of Earth

• By John F. Chisholm •

I find myself worrying more and more about homogenization.

No.  I’m not talking about Pasteurization.  That’s a milk safety process.

Rather, I’m referring to almost everything else.  It occurs to me that our global village is working very hard to homogenize the planet.

What an unspeakable tragedy.

Unfortunately, examples abound.  It begins immediately outside our doors.  Invasive species have disrupted ecosystems around the globe.  Starlings, sparrows, green crabs, zebra mussels and so on ― and on and on ― have raised havoc here in North America.  Cats are demolishing the kiwis in New Zealand.  The problems caused by rabbits in Australia are legendary.  Black, Norway rats are now a global species.  The list continues.  It’s nothing short of homogenization of our very environment.

Worse, our cultural environment calls for it, too.  Modern business practices demand it.  For example, McDonald’s insists that their Big Mac sandwiches be interchangeable.  From Peking to Tokyo, San Francisco to Dallas, New York to London and in fact, straight around the world, a Big Mac is a Big Mac.  But I’m not picking only on McDonald’s.  They simply use a standard and accepted global business model.

Amazingly, they regard this fact as essential.

The problem arises that I don’t find comfort in any of it.  If I traveled all the way to Peking from Maine, you bet it wouldn’t be to find a spot exactly like the one I left.  That would include the sandwiches.

Alas!  Uniformity is becoming the global norm.

You doubt me?

Then who decided that the only apples available in 99 percent of all grocery stores across America would be Macintoshes and Granny Smith’s?  Whatever became of the literally thousands of other apple varieties that were once widespread?  Maine used to be famous ― justifiably ― for its apple varieties.  Thousands were originated right here.

Why is it then that today all children know that apples are either red or, occasionally, green?  They’re never yellow, gold, russet or combinations of all three.

Why shouldn’t they be?  Especially if they’re good at the same time.

I’m afraid that I personalize our tendency toward uniformity as impoverishing at the most basal level.  I can’t help it. The perception arises from my vocation.  I’m a writer.  My fear is that this trend homogenizes not just our art and literature but ourselves as well. That’s because it encroaches on our very thoughts.  The disease of sameness is insidious.

Some examples?

Gay or lesbian people talk this way. Black Americans behave like that. All white Americans are all Protestant. Farmers are uneducated.  An action-adventure movie looks, sounds and feels just like Die Hard. Westerns are all oaters.  Stick to the guidelines.

The message is clear:  Be a genre or forget it.  You can’t be marketed otherwise.  More to the point, you won’t be.

What about you?  Do you really want to be just like everybody else?

Think about it.  Why would anyone want to be an interchangeable, completely manageable, tax-paying cog in someone else’s economic model?

But that’s what homogenization demands.

What if I became a father, a mechanic, a farmer and an author on purpose to be different?