Once the finches were all very different from each other. Not so long ago, one could travel the globe and encounter an astounding variety of them. Their songs charmed the listener with ceaseless invention. The range of colors they displayed appeared inexhaustible. The very pattern of their lives changed from one land to another. Truly, acquaintance with the finches was an unending series of discoveries and amazements. In what seemed a very short time, however, all that changed. Finches everywhere began looking, sounding, and acting increasingly alike. This fact may explain why they became the poster birds, as it were, for the new “globalism.” One Op-Ed piece after another in leading newspapers cited them as proof that globalization was an irresistible force at all levels, and some journalists made quite a reputation being interviewed by other journalists about how the finches demonstrated “the evolution from the old internationalism as an accommodation of differences to the new internationalism as an endorsement of borderless uniformity, with all the advantages to be expected of that change.” The advantage of this change for the finches themselves was hard to dispute. All of them having become essentially identical, they had no difficulty adapting to each other’s environments. Finding a niche and fitting in regardless of location or circumstances ceased to be a problem. For that matter, though, there wasn’t much need for migrating from one place to another anymore. With every finch in the world soon to be indistinguishable, there was obviously less reason to think a change of locale would offer anything new or require any alteration in behavior. And yet, curiously, the more the finches were seen to resemble each other in even the smallest detail, the more they clung to what they believed was different in themselves. The more individual and diverse, in fact, they proclaimed themselves to be. “Regardless of how much we may look alike or sound alike or act alike,” they insisted, “we’re not the same at all.” Apparently, you could have it both ways.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans