I'm just back from a vacation in Guatemala at this time. This is the country of the Maya and the pyramids are something to behold. In my travels in this mostly hilly and mountainous country I have passed many small villages and communities and innumerable cornfields. I look at the faces of the people standing in the doorways or sitting outside small cinderblock homes with corrugated iron roofs and wonder about their choices. It is easy to assume, coming from a developed capitalist society, that many there would like to move here. There may be some but surely there are others who value the pastoral life that seems to be present in Guatemala. Or is their life one of endless labour to keep food on the table? I did see that many people, even in the most remote locations, had cell phones. I have a feeling they are much cheaper than I would pay. Someone told me that in a year round warm climate most days are spent outside so housing is not a priority.
But going back to the title of this entry, I consider the issue of choice. I could choose to move to Guatemala. Many developing countries welcome westerners with sufficient funds to be financially independent. But the woman standing in the doorway of a small cinderblock house does not likely have this choice. To the contrary, many depend on remittances sent from the United States. To me, that is an aspect of my life I value a great deal; the freedom to make choices. I think that may be reflected in two of my books. In A New Premise, Manmohit sees no escape from his controlled life, at least not initially. One of the main characters in When Bees Die, Faye, feels trapped in her job and her life, especially since she remembers what life was like before everything changed. It is only the threat to her child that forces her to act.
Throughout history, individual people and societies have seemed stuck or trapped in a system or way of life that is unproductive or even desperately miserable. Issues like global warming and ecological disasters, species extinctions and climate change seem unavoidable. More than two thirds of the Mayan civilization disappeared over a short period of time some thousand years ago whether from warfare, natural disaster, excess population growth or diminution of the water supply. Sounds familiar. But one can wonder what the end result will be this time around.