We live in houses or apartments that are fenced or clearly delineated from our neighbours. Often in neighbourhoods made up of people similar to ourselves.
Yup, some of us live in bubbles.
We leave our homes to get into the bubble of our cars, to drive to the bubbles of our workplaces, then our gym bubbles and perhaps our chosen bar bubble to have a drink with friends who dress like us, talk like us, and are most likely of similar ages. We might even all share similar skin tones. If you look at snail trails of our weekly movements, they’ll show that the pathways that map out our interlinking bubbles are relatively limited.
We have even found a way to create bubbles in the vastness of the internet. Social media. Our social media feeds are curated. Mostly people’s posts who have similar backgrounds as us and of similar thinking and political leanings. This curation of social media has us see the world through a magnifying lens of sameness and was named as one of the contributing factors to Donald Trump’s rise to Presidenthood. Many people didn’t take him seriously because the world viewed through their facebook feed, their main peephole into the greater world outside their bubble, thought he was a joke. It wasn’t, and Donald is having the last laugh.
I saw the power of bubble bursting when I got into street performance in Europe in the nineties. Watching one of my friend’s juggling shows, hat at the ready, I saw a rare thing. People from all walks of life in the same place, laughing, relaxed, open. Lawyers in suits, next to a street person, next to a mama with a kid in a stroller next to a student from South America. It was a rare and beautiful thing.
The thing is, our bubbles are getting in the way of us having a clear view of the world we live in. They stop us from getting a clear view of key issues.
Life in a bubble can be a healthy choice if you need space and time to heal and simplify life for awhile. Full-time lifelong bubble membership is dangerous. It isolates and separates. If we share a bubble with those that think, look and are the same age as us, we don’t get pushed or challenged on our views, we become entrenched in our sameness, entrenched in our privileges.
In our nearest city, the wealthiest suburb is ten minute’s drive from the poorest. You can bet there isn’t much traffic flowing between the two. (Although I recommend the former’s garage sales are worth a visit in summer). NZ has the worst rates of homelessness in the OECD with about one percent of our population living in cars, on the street, in emergency accommodation or camped up wherever feels safest. Add to those shameful numbers the amount of people living in poverty and it’s not a good picture.
We have the people who own companies and decide the hourly rates of wages of their employees living in bubbles where private schools, snowboarding winters and holidays abroad are the norm. Then we have the people earning the minimum wage set by those affluent people. I’m simplifying a little, but you get the picture. NZ’s minimum hourly rate just went up to $16.50. A basic living wage is calculated to be $20.55 an hour. Many people are having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet for their families. There are no after-school activities, trips abroad or buffer funds possible.
This is a gross generalisation but it is not far from the truth.
To bring it back to bubbles, how can we make compassionate decisions about wages for employees or who to vote for at election time when we live in a bubble of privilege?
Many of us want to live beyond the confines of our bubbles. Bubble dwelling is a limited life. It’s a construct. One that isn’t serving us.
The prevalent old school Kiwi views of ‘life is an even playing field’ and ‘those in poverty just didn’t work hard enough’ can’t exist in a world where bubbles merge and burst, where friends circles are diverse and we learn to value other’s opinions. I was talking to work colleagues about this and one way some of them are cracking open their bubbles is by choosing a social media feed to consciously diversify. Or taking community college night classes. Or talking to random people on the train.
I loved Design Mom’s post about why and how she diversified her twitter feed, falling back in love with Twitter in the process HERE