“For me, Savannah’s resistance to change was its saving grace. The city looked inward, sealed off from the noises and distractions of the world at large. It grew inward, too, and in such a way that its people flourished like hothouse plants tended by an indulgent gardener. The ordinary became extraordinary. Eccentrics thrived. Every nuance and quirk of personality achieved greater brilliance in that lush enclosure than would have been possible anywhere else in the world.”
Compared to the place I explored back in April, the Savannah characterized in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a wonderland of charm from a bygone era. The natural collision of personalities rarely exists, if at all, in today’s society. Interaction is predetermined by predictive machine learning that scripts our every move. If we don’t want to interact with someone, our phones and social apps have become our failsafe. A way out.
The world is more global now. Access to communities outside of your own backyard are easy to find online which can blind us to the things right in front of us. It’s a problem that often plagues arts communities.
The cycle: creative entrepreneurs, limited in their resources, create an ecosystem for themselves to thrive in. That ecosystem attracts onlookers and opportunists looking to consume without much return, minus a few benefactors (Runaway was one of them). Some of the artists decide, “I can’t do what I need to do here. I have to move to a major metro to accomplish my dreams” and look to other cities for inspiration. The others suffer through the rise and fall of the environment they helped create only to become jaded by their circumstance, reaching the same conclusion: “what’s going on elsewhere?”
The same thing is happening to our media. The cannibalization of local news media, and the proliferation of social media, is causing everyone to look outward. We no longer have institutions to guide us through our neighborhoods and expose us to the wonders and horrors of our own homes. The outlets that do exist serve mostly as PR wires. “This new restaurant just opened. This band is playing next week. Gun victims have reached record highs.” These are the what, but the why is how we’re able to empathize with our community and invest in its future.
For Durham to remain the community it wants to be, it has to look inward. Of course, there is so much to be learned from traveling, living amongst other communities, and returning home. But for sustainability, there is much more we can do to empower ourselves and in turn help us all realize our dreams.