Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Examining ice-olationism

Under normal circumstances, I like winter. I like winter weather, I like the idea that the summer heat isn’t going to come up and bite me on my anatomy, I like the idea that my allergies are limited only to those which thrive indoors. Winter is my friend.

Except when it coats the front steps with shiny, lovely, slick ice.

So, there I was, Sunday morning bright and early, lying on my back on the slickened sidewalk, my hand less than twelve inches from the bag of salt I had been heading for. The sky was grey, the air above me was blue with expletives, and nothing was broken, not even the phone in my back pocket. I looked down the walkway, toward the little red car parked in the street -- the one which had been encased in ice -- and I had an epiphany: my friends on the left are correct: isolationism could work.

I don’t want to go outside. It’s dangerous out there. I could fall again, and not be so lucky as I was on Sunday, where I hit my head and only the stair cracked (no surprise to my parents. They knew I was hard-headed, years ago). Besides, I don’t need anything outside my house. I have a cupboard full of ramen noodles and canned chicken and spaghetti rings and other horrible indigestible things purported to carry nutrition. They will last me until spring. By then, I’ll be able to harvest... no, wait. I have to plant, first, before I can harvest. Hmm. Let’s start over again.

I have some seed packets. I can plant them now, in the pots I have stored in the garage, in dirt I can dig from beneath the ice... anybody have a pickaxe? I guess I have to go out and get one. Dang. Maybe I should just try to grow plants in the dirt of my basement floor. It looks less clayey in some places. But then, I’ll be needing to go out for grow-lights and I’ll need an electrician to rewire the basement to handle the increased burden on the wiring system of the house. And then, I will be using a lot more electrical power. And, of course, I’ll have all the neighbors and the police wondering what it is I’m secretly growing in my cellar, that uses all that power and keeps the basement glowing. That’s not exactly the best way to build trust, is it? Back to the drawing board.

It would appear that localized self-sufficiency, as a major element in isolationism, can’t really work, can it? After all, if I need iodized salt to prevent thyroid problems, I’m not going to be able to go out to the corner of my garden and dig some up, am I? And, I’m not going to allow myself to suffer scurvy just because I don’t want to be beholden to a fuel company and some shipping firm for bringing me a crate of oranges from Florida or Spain. Heck, I even have to look outside my own block to get the stuff to melt the ice off my sidewalk! If I leave the slick surface alone, I could fall again, or the mailman and anybody else who may be walking past my door could be hurt, and that can lead to bad blood.

Improvements in medicine, diet, communications, international good will, and self-defense -- among other things -- all depend upon interacting with people outside our immediate neighborhood. When, in the process of reaching out to maintain those connections, we get hurt, the first instinct is to withdraw and avoid that contact again. But cutting and running from reality doesn’t bring us a newer, better reality. All it does is isolate us, so that nobody will trust us when we offer help, and nobody will hear our own cries for help, should we need it in the future.

All in all, lying on my back -- scraped, stunned and bruised -- on the slick sidewalk beats sitting indoors and trying to swallow another can of store-brand spaghetti rings. That tomato sauce isn’t overly digestible, anyway. Plus, eventually, three cars got chopped out of the ice, that Sunday morning, five people smiled on their way out for meetings, and the effect was spread outward from there, I hear.

A cold, hard life isn’t all bad, if you’re willing to share the good parts.

Suggested reading:
New York Sun Editorial: Enemy in Our Back Yard
Victor Davis Hanson: War?– What War?

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