Boundaries have their place. They help us to define and differentiate. They simplify matters, make them more comprehensible and consistent. They can offer protection and provide security. Defying boundaries could spell trouble, create confusion and spark resistance.
But boundaries aren’t what they used to be. Persistent economic, cultural and technological pressures present a serious challenge. Boundaries are, as a consequence, bending, breaking, even disappearing. The result often is confusion, conflict, but also opportunity.
Here’s a sampling of what’s happening out there:
• It almost seems these days that everyone is selling everything. In addition to filling up the gas tank, you’re likely drawn into the attached “convenience store” to pick up food, drinks, lottery tickets, etc. Wander through Target or Walmart and you will soon spot long grocery aisles. Stay at home and order virtually anything you want through Amazon.
• “Made in America” goods remain but more likely many of the products we purchase are “outsourced,” originate almost anywhere in the world. They are likely to have made several stops in different countries along the way. Globalization and increasing “free trade” have encouraged this trend; national boundaries are becoming obsolete.
• Boundaries were once clearly demarcated when it came to holiday observance. Now publicity and preparations begin well ahead of time, Halloween “underway” a month in advance, likewise Christmas, while gearing up for “Back to School” starts just as August arrives.
• Pro sports seasons, once well-defined, now appear to extend endlessly. The Boys of Summer are around forever (March – October) while the ice hockey playoffs continue until summer is nearly upon us. Sports “seasons” have blurred, flowed into one another, spilled over formal boundaries.
• There once were seasonal fruits and vegetables, but now, thanks to imports, there’s little reason to wait – they are always “in season,” can be purchased nearly all year round.
• Once upon a time there were boxers and there were wrestlers, also those engaged in Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu, etc. Nowadays, more and more fighters have turned to mixed martial arts. Formerly-separate modes of combat have merged.
• Throughout history armies fought opposing armies, uniformed soldiers gathered together to attack opposing concentrations of troops. It’s no longer that simple or well defined. Guerilla warfare follows few established conventions. Terror attacks assume many forms and can originate anyplace and often involve “lone wolfs.” Civilians are no longer off limits, while “special ops” are increasingly replacing conventional armies. Modern warfare has erased most boundaries.
• We all know what happened to age old gender boundaries. The categories now extend well beyond male and female, with “straight” being just one of several possibilities. Gender bending has gained formal recognition even though the battle over bathroom boundaries continues. Furthermore, strict racial categories, once viewed as central to the established social “order” are also blurring, thanks to increased intermarriage, plus genetic research that demonstrates that once accepted racial distinctions have no scientific foundation, the blending of populations long an undeniable fact of human history.
No need to go on though we could talk about movies now available on your computers from such “studios” as Netflix and Amazon, automobiles propelled both by gas and electricity, and smart phones putting the whole world at your fingertips. So much today is shifting, blurred, and blended. Little wonder that Trump, who wants to build a boundary such as a wall, limit foreign goods flowing into the United States and deny gender extensions, has legions of supporters. Many find it hard to understand or accept the new fluid landscape. After all, weren’t so many of us as kids told when coloring to “stay within the lines”?