I’ve been thinking about the movie title, “Back to the Future.” Not about the movie, which I hardly remember, but the title. I think we are at the point in history when the people of the world have to look backward to see what we have discarded at our own peril and what we cling to, also at our own peril.
In past years people were not very concerned about the environment. However, life was simpler and less cluttered with possessions that had the potential to permanently contaminate the world. Some of the habits and ways of life did do damage, but populations were smaller so there were fewer people to cause problems. People automatically re-used what they had because it was not always that easy to replace an item. This was especially so during times of economic hardship or isolation.
People are not going back to those days, but many are trying to live more simply and learning to recycle. A new phrase has emerged to indicate that you can reuse material to create something even better: So you can now use the word upcycle when you see something valuable made from what was waste.
The world was actually smellier in years past when you consider the time of horse drawn carriages and the use of coal and wood almost exclusively to heat homes. Or maybe we have just become accustomed to different smells. Eric, our usual taxista, said that after the Tope, when the horse manure had not yet been removed from Paseo Colón, his older fares made no comments, but the younger ones were pulling out their hankies and telling him to close the windows and acting as if they were being physically assaulted.
Women no longer strive for hour glass figures, but it seems the economy has taken that shape in many countries. We have returned to the once familiar conspicuous consumption times of the high-living and high spending rich and the economizing careful spending poor, and even the new poor. And we once more have food lines and the homeless in great numbers.
According to economist, Paul Solomon, stores selling brands like Dior, Channel and Gucci are doing a land-office business. In Costa Rica I have seen new upscale stores with foreign name brands open and blossom. At the other extreme, the business at discount and low-end outlets like Dollar Store, and in Costa Rica, customers at Pali, at ferias and second-hand stores, have also increased. Meanwhile, stores that cater to the middle classes are suffering low sales or even closing. They just don’t have the customers.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, the governments of many countries were under the control of the Catholic Church. Perhaps that is why it was also called the Dark Ages. Later that church marched into Latin and South America with the Spaniards. The East Coast of North America was settled by Puritanical Christians who believed in a vengeful God, or in some colonies, Catholics who believed the Pope was infallible. Later Protestant and Catholic missionaries took their messages to distant parts of the world. Today Europe is more secular than it has ever been (even those countries that have an official religion have become more tolerant). There are more atheists and non-deists in the U.S. than at the beginning of the last century.
There has also been an impressive increase in religious fundamentalism, whether adhering to their interpretation of the Old Testament of the Bible or the Koran. Tolerance has been replaced by a demand that everyone conform to the strictures of each. Both of these religions want to gain control of governments and the lives of people, according to their theologies.
This is a scary time, and if these trends materialize, we may find ourselves in another Dark Age.
On the other hand, there are many countries (including Costa Rica) that recognize a state religion yet are more tolerant of individual freedoms than countries that don’t. Maybe the secret is to make a religion official so it can be temporized.
Whatever the future holds, on Wednesday Costa Ricans continued their partying and celebration of this important Christian holiday with a carnival in Zapote where they have a yearly variation of the Minoan and Spanish customs of the running of the bulls. In this case, it is the running of one bull and no intentional acrobatics by the runners. After the 31st we can watch the world unfold its surprises in the coming year. I hope it is a good one for everyone.
Of course, without tolerance, that is impossible.