Have you ever contemplated what is a given right? It had me pondering this past weekend. You see, I have found in living in different countries, that the concept of what is a given, or in essence taken for granted, really varies.
Now I’m not talking about what we shall term here the basic given, or human rights. (Which in a nutshell include freedom and the right to life, education and work.) No, what I am talking about is what we perceive as a right, or a given in some places, but which is actually an option or even luxury in other places.
Let’s start with air conditioning. Yup, you read right. This is what had me pondering in the first place. Here in France we use a shutter system, where we open and close window shutters, to keep cool air in (or out depending on the season). I received a comment from the USA ~ why not just get air conditioning?
Well… electricity is very expensive here, and running air conditioning would certainly add up. Then there is history. For France, and many southern countries, centuries have been spent on how to create ambient temperatures in the home, year round. Before electricity was invented. Head further south and you can add in courtyards with fountains to cool the air.
The given where we live is that shutters work. Why spend money on air conditioning when you don’t really need to? Sure you have to get used to slightly warmer temperatures in the home. But there is an argument that this is healthier in that you aren’t putting your body through extremes, from very cold to very hot to very cold again if you go from an air conditioned place to outside and return.
I Can See You
Then there is the ability to see inside your neighbours window. Or not. This is often a concept very foreign to people who do not live in cities. If you live in a city, or urban environment, being able to see in your neighbours window is sort of a given. Apartments weren’t originally built specifically with privacy in mind.
I grew up in suburbia, where each house had its own plot of land and the house had to be a certain distance from the next. Then people grew trees or put up fencing to give even more privacy.
I was fascinated when we visited my grandparents. They lived in an apartment building in Amsterdam (Holland) and the back of the apartment looked into a very large rectangular courtyard. There had to be at least 300 apartments that looked into this courtyard, each with a full length balcony. Having not experienced such close living quarters before with others, it gave me hours and hours of fascinating people watching.
Our home in France faces on to a street lined, on both sides, with houses. We can see into the apartment opposite, and vice versa. If the lights are on. But then that is another reason we have shutters here, to close at night against those that would see in. The level of privacy really varies depending on the place you live.
A Shower a Day
Here’s an odd one. How often do you think you have to shampoo your hair? Before there was hair dryers (and marketing) once a week, often less if at all in the winter, was more the norm. Brushing was a better way to deal with the oils. These days we wash (too?) frequently, more so the more oily we think our hair is.
I experienced a time when I had to go three weeks without a shower (travelling in Patagonia), and that included washing my hair. It turned out to be a fascinating experiment. One that altered my perception of what I realised I had been taught, mostly by commercials, to believe.
I brushed my hair twice a day, morning and night, and it grew thick and soft. And long. I have continued to wash it once a week, maybe, ever since. And boy does it grow.
I spent most of my young adult life trying to achieve long hair but it would never go beyond my shoulder blades. But since Patagonia, it’s like a race car. I honestly put it down to not washing my hair every day. It’s not something you need to try, if you never wish to, but I hope it makes you think, like me, about what is something we think we have to or should do.
Let’s move on to Cockerels. In many countries it is actually illegal to own a cockerel in an urban area. France included, even though it is a national symbol. They are considered too loud, so that actually convenes noise ordinances.
To me this truly shows how much we have moved away from understanding where our food comes from. But more so, when did it become a given right to expect silence in an urban environment? It’s rather a misnomer. We put up with car sounds, motorcycles, house alarms, boom boxes, church bells (every fifteen minutes in our village)… but not cockerels. And yet they would protect the livestock we are allowed from natures predators. I suspect it is simply a matter of not wishing to wake up early.
Can’t forget the Ducks
Well you know if I am considering chickens, I am going to have to mention ducks. Or ducks as pets. For that matter any sort of non-typical animals as pets.
There is an assumption by the majority that a pet is a cat or a dog. Occasionally a guinea pig, hamster or rabbit. And I was in that camp too, purely out of lack of knowledge as well as joining in with the crowd of what is the norm.
And then Maggie came into our lives. She taught me not only that ducks can be pets, but to reconsider my thoughts on other types of animals. Which, as you may have noted here, has also led me to look at other aspects in life.
Since Maggie I have discovered pigeons, rats, snakes and lizards as pets (usually through Instagram). I am certain there are probably more. And by pets, I mean real pets, not just ornaments sitting in a cage in the house. Don’t believe me? Check out the eye opening video below for simply one example.
I guess my conclusion on what is a given right is one should question, question, question. It is very likely that what we take for granted in our day to day life is not in fact a given somewhere else or for someone else. This does not make it right, or wrong. It simply is not a given, right.