The world in 60 seconds? A sociologist looks at daily life differently. Walking through a market with melon in hand, we see interrelationships, economic realities, injustices, and a world that "could be" or "might be" if we stopped buying into the "that's just the way it is" mentality of "normal" life. Revolutionary? No. In a way it is deeply ironic. Engineers, chemists, even physicists work hard to improve the things that matter to them and nobody questions that. Is it so strange then that sociologists might aspire to ask questions, point out contradictions, and contribute towards a better future? It's only strange, I feel, that more people don't listen.
The other day, I was standing in the local supermarket, here in Copenhagen, Denmark, ready to buy a watermelon as a Nigerian woman asked me about the coloring of the melon in question, as mine was striped where the one she had found was full colored dark green. She shared with me, there in the line, how there in her country, was a different melon growing, similar to a watermelon, yet with an entirely different taste and that she thus wanted to check that our two melons were in deed the same kind. She had her little son with her, mulatto as his father was of Danish heritage.
Standing there in line, I also met another baby boy with his two Polish parents, who were out shopping for baby products and diapers for the little one. As I went out of the supermarket, carrying my big watermelon, two Romanian workers who deliver advertisements in the early morning hours to the neighborhood, went in. I walked down the street, watermelon in hand, enjoying the heat of the sun and as I turned the corner of the street, I was greeted with a wave and a shout by the Turkish pizza bakers who were sitting on their milk boxes, smoking cigarettes and taking a break from the heat in their busy restaurant kitchen.
Further down the street by the Korean restaurant, an old Korean man was standing on the steps leading up to the restaurant entrance. He smiled at me as I walked by, never having set foot in this or any other Korean restaurant. There is also an Indian restaurant further down the street that I have also never visited. I suppose it is a mixture of sticking to what I know when I do eat out and only eating out on rare occasions because of the money it costs. Interestingly enough a pizza costs the same as a fine Korean or Indian cuisine dinner, yet I have never considered frequenting those restaurants. As I walked past the Korean restaurant I almost bumped into a van that was leaving a driveway.
The woman driving the car laughed as I came up to the car and signaled apologetic to me to go around the car as she was backing out. As I walked around, I saw two other women silently swooping into the car, one of them only wearing a blanket and high stiletto heals. They were coming out from the bordello called “Hungarian Studio”. I actually did not know if the girls were Hungarian or not, but they did speak an East European language. The bordello has a sign that says “Open” with blinking neon lights and I have only seen it being turned off once. As I had passed the van, I looked across the street where a group of Lithuanian workers had been busy restoring a couple of houses and after waving to them, I crossed paths with a young Afghan boy that I often meet in the area who was walking his dog.
Shortly thereafter I walked into my house, carrying the watermelon to my kitchen and as I cut, sliced and ate this juicy piece of the earth, I looked out, through the window, at ‘my world’. In approximately 60 seconds and as long as it has taken you to read this, I met people from at least 10 different nationalities, in a tiny radius around the area where I live. Most of them are here because of money and most are working jobs that they do not enjoy or make much money from. Most of the ones that have been coming during the last 5 – 10 years, the eastern Europeans, live in crappy apartments rented to them by their work-providers for expensive rent in small spaces where they’re crammed together with 6 other guys sharing one bathroom. Others have managed to create a business or have perhaps married a Danish person. Currently Copenhagen is even voted the most expensive city in Europe and even for the Danes themselves, rent, food and transportation is extremely expensive and work is hard to come by.
So here we are: ‘the world’ gathered together in a tiny area, where all the world’s inequality and injustice exists directly visible and immanently obvious, yet incorporated into a day-to-day living where even the most basic questions asked in regards to this apparent exploitation of human life, is considered too naïve or too idealistic to be taken seriously in terms of taking action to change the situation. I want to live in a world, where everyone can travel everywhere and live as equals.
In such a world, an entirely different way of living together might emerge, where for example work environments can be established or cities can be designed with specific purposes that supports the local environment or draws direct inspiration from it, such as water-themed living near the great lakes of Finland or building clocks in small cities of Switzerland. Perhaps as all the people of the various countries on Earth will mix in the melding pot, people will eventually travel to and live in India specifically to live a specific lifestyle of tranquility and playing music or people interested in making movies and working with cinema will gather in California.
When looking at it, in some ways this already is this way – except for the inequality through money that makes all the difference in the world, when it comes to making a living — anywhere. Consider countries in Africa, where the world’s best climate is for growing coffee, yet where people are being exploited and exploiting each other and where the infra structure is non-existent in terms of providing public service and supporting the citizens’ with basic necessities such as clean drinking water, schools or transportation. Who knows how those countries will flourish and bloom, once a system is in place that is created on the basic premise of Life supporting Life to be lived dignified for all?
There are basically endless opportunities to live differently as the way we are currently living is not only extremely restricted and unpractical, but even more so, unfair and unjust. When taking the walk from the supermarket to my house, the people I met were by large people providing a service, working hard and working long hours for the bare minimum wage, while the majority of those they serve are the local population of which many work few hours, with excellent conditions, benefits, unions, pension and decent pay.
So basically we have created a new working-class that might not be women, children, slaves or our local brothers, but in return are people either trafficked here by ruthless people of power or who has migrated themselves out of desperation towards the situation in their home countries. And as we did this, one person crossing the border after another, we also create new elite –ourselves – and we are now living side by side with the poor; equally shopping in the supermarket, yet with unequal access to the kind food we can buy and the quantities in which we can buy it.
We may live on the same street, but where one family of 5 live in a huge town house with a furnished cellar and a garden, the other might live in a single room in an apartment with 5 other people with only fungus as insulation for the winter cold. It is as a constant ‘age of inequality’ we’re all in, all the time, and even though nothing may have changed and people are still as unequal as when the slaves were trafficked overseas or when women were not allowed to vote or get divorced, we live together in this tiny space that is this world. We can no longer deny that inequality is a living fact.
What is required is that we realize that it IS possible to live differently and that what we’ve believed to be creating new opportunities and ways of living was in fact recreation of the same inequality in new and more sophisticated ways that offered nothing more than the same way of living in working to survive. The Whole World is here and here is the Whole World. Borders are not meant to be permanent or to surpass our self-direction, because Life does not have borders and thus the borders that are here, may exist for a moment and be gone the next.
What is important is that we – as a whole – decide upon the borders and fences that we place for ourselves, because they’re practical and supportive – not because we fear the invasion of a foreign nation or wish to uphold a justification of inequality between people. The World in 60 seconds is the World we all live in, all 360 degrees of it – and that is the same as we live Here, in Nigeria where a melon grows that looks like a watermelon but tastes differently than the ones from Spain that can be purchased in the supermarket right around the corner from where I live in Copenhagen.
I Vote for an Equal World for All – because we’re all Equally in it and therefore: by living Inequality, we are living something that is not who we really are and that simply doesn’t make any sense.