You’re a global villager? I’m a shtetl-dweller!

If I were a shtetl-dweller

I always wonder, if I lived in a small shtetl in Poland – which is where I really should be living right now…

Me if we’d stayed in Poland (and if there hadn’t been a Holocaust, of course) (“Babushka”, by Irina Gaiduk)

…would I have the stress I’m dealing with today?

There is so much talk about the wonders of globilization. We can go anywhere, be in touch with anyone, and we have access to everyone’s creations and they have access to ours!

Sounds really scary, if you ask me.

Global village my ass!

I know all the lovely talk about how wonderful it is to be living in such a “small” global village… But, um, where is this “small” of which you speak? It’s a freakin’ mega-city out there, with a web connecting each and everyone one of us to each other.

Now the shtetl – that was a small world. You maybe knew a couple hundred people and you were probably the only butcher, baker or candle-stick maker for a good five kilometers (and who ever travelled that far).

Now, with everyone being bombarded with everyone’s creations, we are not only competing against our next door neighbours anymore. Now we are competing against everyone.

I find the sheer size of it all quite overwhelming.

Global village psychosis

As a writer, every time I think of something I want to write, I wonder if someone else has already written it and if so, did they write it better than I would (I know it’s a simplified question – too bad). In the past, that wouldn’t matter because my town dwellers wouldn’t have read what the writer on the other side of the world had written. But today they have access to the other writer’s work and if it is better, why would they want to read mine?

Then when people actually do read my writing and tell me it meant something to them, the positive feedback and the numbers fall short because there is always bigger and better. My (loyal, pleasant and quite lovely) readership just can’t compare to the possibilities out there. (Dear reader, I do appreciate you. I write more about that below! Just need to finish making my point.)

Finally, every time I come across something interesting to read or watch, I find myself too overwhelmed with information to be able to concentrate on one piece at a time. I want to read it or watch it and then think about it and possibly discuss it, but instead I need to get through it as quickly as possible and quickly move on to the other information out there which apparently equally needs my attention. I find it close to impossible to focus on just one thing for an “extended” period of time because there is almost always a feeling that there is something else I should be doing because there is so much out there to do.

Greed instead of gratitude

Because the whole world is supposedly at our fingertips, many of us global mega-city dwellers become greedy. We lose the ability to feel true gratitude for what we have while we look out at the big world, drooling, hoping we’ll be able to get a nice chunk of the treasure for ourselves. So many of us have so much already – I know I do – but the belief that we could have more makes what we have seem like not enough.

Ironically (and very sadly), that belief can be absolutely debilitating.

As for me personally, I just see that globilization doesn’t really fit my personality. I think that naturally I am a slow and focused person. I feel the need to think slowly and in depth. The depth I yearn for only comes with the correct speed (aka slow) but I don’t feel like I have time for that speed because the world is just too big and I’ll never get to it if I’m slow. I don’t want to BS and I don’t want to pretend I’m something I’m not, but I find that I push myself to rush and I usually brush off the feeling that I’m missing something and move onto the next thought or action, just so I can keep up with the world.

Shtetl-dwelling is the solution

I think that the only solution is for us to pretend we actually do still live in shtetls. This isn’t totally incorrect; my shtetl is my family and friends. It is the people with whom I work and it’s my wonderful readers.

The beauty is that when I think of my closest circles as most important in my life, disregarding how damn huge the world actually is, then I can honestly love my readers unhesitatingly. I can also write all the stuff I want to write and feel good about getting my ideas out there.

And, imagine… I could come across a video and happily watch it, even if it’s something crazy like a whole 14 minutes long.

Yup, as hard as it is to imagine, us shtetl-dwellers have time for 14-minute YouTube videos.

P.S. Please share this post so I can become rich and famous. Thanks.


6 thoughts on “You’re a global villager? I’m a shtetl-dweller!

Add yours

  1. Very good points about how overwhelming is the global village concept — and you have some good ideas about filtering. The most important reminder is that we get to make choices. We don’t have to live in the global village if we don’t want to. I hope you get rich and famous!

    1. Thanks Ruti! To me the most important thing is what you said, that we can make choices, and that choosing a different way isn’t necessarily bad.

  2. Hey Deena,
    I think it is still possible to live in a shtetl-like environment today, but many people feel it is narrow-minded and restrictive. In fact, in the Jewish world we hear a lot of criticism of communities that choose to insulate themselves from the global village to some degree.
    You may have unwittingly described why a lot of people (including me) prefer the chareidi lifestyle :). Less (meaningless) choices, more community cohesiveness, less distractions, more focus on the goals of life and less on achievements, money and keeping up. Where I live, the mommies sit on the bench and watch their kids for hours every afternoon and no one checks their smartphone even once. No one has one!
    Yet there is this a fear that choosing a simpler life is somehow wrong and drags the whole society down in it’s quest for progress by failing to be sufficiently productive.
    The world is a complicated place!
    Maybe the essence of the shtetl is that people felt they had no other option, and that is something that we’ll certainly never recapture.

    1. Naomi, how funny I just did that! I think it’s SOOOOO nice that you guys can sit and watch your kids and that for most of you it is just fine. There are some repercussions I do not like at all about the global mega-city and one of them is everyone’s need to check there whatevers in the middle of whatever. I do it too but work really hard at least not to be rude about it.

      Thing is, as you can see, I still want to take from the global aspect of today’s world and so I think for me that is my challenge – to find a balance between global and shtetl.

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