Monday, October 08, 2007

There's no place like home- part 1-

says Dorothy in the Wizzard of Oz.

Home Sweet Home by Alie Kruse-Kolk
Home Sweet Home

Home is meant to be a sanctuary, a place where we can remind ourselves that the universe is a friendly place. Home is a place where we can be refreshed, a place of joy and from where we launch ourselves into the world. It need not be a palace it could simply be a small corner in a shared room.

In an age where we have more than a few gadgets to help us communicate I ponder on the reasons why so many people still feel isolated. What if anything has made us so rich materially and so deprived socially?

If our primary needs as human beings are shelter, warmth and food I observe that all three of these have come under pressure.

I overheard a man saying that the only reason he was going out with this woman was that it provided a roof over his head ( single men have a tough time on housing lists if they are unable to buy a home) and on the other side a girl announced that she was going to get pregnant as that seemed to be the only way to get on the top of the housing list. I say little just observe how stressful that is going to be to maintain that roof over their heads. For other young people getting a house in the UK equates to 7 times their salary in debt. How can it be reasonable to need to use 50% of your salary to pay for one of your primary human needs? Other young people can just about afford to buy a car and live in that for the majority of the summer, others sleep in other people's houses on the sofa.

At the heart of this lies the relationships and expectations we build in our homes and a fear of being homeless. Times have changed. With more destruction by nature through floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and fires, the planet we call home is going to bring with it a reduction in the available space for us to make our home. Polar bears call the icebergs their home and these are rapidly disappearing. Simultaneously, space missions talk about space stations that will be home to some human beings in the future.

School parents are buying properties for 10 year olds on buy to let so that when they are older they can have a roof over their heads, adding to the pressures they already have of mortgages on first properties, car loans etc. I guess the 10 year old might be oblivious to the fact that the parents are doing that.

The UK is an island so space is at a premium and as it appears to be a popular destination for many varied reasons, houseprices rise and rents rise, then people ask for payrises. Cadburys will be closing a factory in Bristol in 3 years and I guess they will make more money shifting production elsewhere and selling the land for development. There is a fascination with creating spaces for people to buy a house, to satisfy that need.

We do not need a house, we need shelter and the expectation of that will be different for all of us. The way we get there also depends on where we are: your parents might buy you a house or have invested in one and on the other end of the scale adding to the population is going to be your only way to assure that council flat. Surely there has to be another way to provide shelter in our lives, a place we can call home and feel secure. How did it become a status symbol first?

Can we truly live together and invest in our communities and relationships or do we continue to need our individual spaces that will sap our money and create small cubicles in which we ponder on the purpose of life?

Homeless people exist not only in cities but can be found in the young people trying to make their way in this life.

At the other end of the scale, older people are no longer visited. There are rumours that they get sedated through the food they eat in care homes. Both generations are showing signs of stress and uncertainty about the security they have in the place they have come to call home.

Our homes then, represent our mini world, a reflection of what is important to us and how we care for our homes also reflects how we care for the earth.

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