04 December 2013

The Here and There of Life in a Mobile Nation

There is Room for Debate over at the New York Times. The current topic is Life in a Mobile Nation. The central question asks "If people relocate over and over, because they can afford to or because they can't afford not to, how does that change civic life?"

Author Alan Ehrenhalt suggests that "a successful community isn’t one that caters to a particular age group; it’s one that offers every age group a chance at satisfaction." People want sociability above all else, Ehrenhalt writes, defining sociability as "the opportunity to establish friendships and casual acquaintances that protect against isolation in ordinary life."

In another segment, Syracuse University law professor Kevin Noble Maillard argues that innovations in communication technology do not necessarily mean family and place bonds are evaporating like so many #hashtags in the Twittersphere.

"The modern change of pace and place does not mean that families are suffering," writes Maillard. Modern media, he argues, provide "opportunities for people to form new ties and create new, chosen bonds in addition to and alongside the ones in which they were born. It gives people options for living, rather than mandates for cohesion. Modern mobility doesn’t isolate people. It makes them more social."

Stability, Maillard argues, is a relative term and shouldn't be used as a synonym for well-being. Ehrenhalt suggests that serial relocation is "an insidious ideal" while Maillard suggests that mobility can suit certain families just fine and that "length at present address" should not be "the defining trait of domestic stability."

From Europe to China to the good old USA, definitions of stability, purpose, and well-being are on the move. Welcome to Life in a Mobile (Global) Nation.