The situation in which we now find ourselves in the privileged postcolonial West is a new one in the postwar period, but one that is more known to more people across the world, than not known. In these places, people know that caring about your community is often the most rational, logical thing that one can do for survival and well-being. Never is this logic more evident than now.
Differing approaches to COVID-19 divided by the rolling hills and windy roads (of which there are many) of one of Europe’s most porous borders, have precipitated a personal sense of panic. To move, to cross at that moment would be to transit between contrasting regimes of existential risk, from caution to putative disregard. It has been hard to bear.
Anthropologists have long acknowledged that ownership is a far more complex phenomenon than it seems at first. What on the surface appears to be a relationship between you and an object is actually a relationship between you, the object and everyone else. To borrow David Graeber’s example: “when one buys a car one is not really purchasing the right to use it so much as the right to prevent others from using it”.
That Syria has “a lot of sand” is meant to stand in for its lack of value. As a place that is sandy, it is not worth US lives; good enough for less valued Syrians and Russians but not good enough for Americans ... But it also got me thinking about a more fundamental question. Why is it that we, in the Anglo-American world, devalue ‘sand’?