Saturday, September 17, 2005

Soulful Culture - Misery endured solely for the benefit of the tourist   posted by TangoMan @ 9/17/2005 02:07:00 PM

Help me out here. A year or so ago the blogosphere was abuzz about a blog post some British tourist wrote in which he lamented the loss of native culture in Africa and India as modernity encroached. He felt his experience as a tourist was diminished because he couldn't witness the ancient traditions of the villagers and he couldn't block out from view the store bought food, clothing and health-products of the villagers.

I'm reminded of this story by a comment at the feminist blog, Echidne of the Snakes:

I am afraid that the New - New Orleans will come to resemble the early days of rock and roll. Black culture/music subsumed and regurgitated by whitey for the consumption of uber-whitey.

That is why I find myself in the uncomfortable position of mourning the loss of crack-addicts, poverty pockets and the like. They made a poignant and effective buffer against the blanc-mange gentrification of everything with soul.

No matter how "negative" you might find that "social capital", it is infused with deep spiritual and artistic depths as is abundantly clear to anyone who has enjoyed (and LOVED) the amazing music and the confluence of Christian and Santaria spirituality.

We need to keep the magical, ethnic stamp on that city. The Wild Tchoupatoulas should not be replaced by Abercrombie and Fitch and the "second line" should not be replaced by the "bottom line".

Update: Ok, we found (thanks Razib) two more examples, beyond the excellent pointers in the comments section, that touch on this issue, but still not the one that I remember. Conrad noted Ian Mote's insights about North Korea:

It was nice to see no Starbucks there, no advertising, no branding.... They were completely shut out and were self-reliant, and I have certain respect of their determination of their ideology.

Check out some of the comments that follow:

"Yes, brand names, marketing, etc. represent a certain amount of wasted effort in an economy. The North Koreans are much more efficient; if you're hungry, just peel some bark off the nearest tree (unless you're in the good graces of the party)."

"But wait; it's sustainable starvation! Wonder how many readers of the article will figure out that there are no brands because.....There's nothing to put brands on."

Once again Conrad mines this rich vein, but much closer to home with this report: (Here's the original post - this is a rant that you've got to read to believe, and the comments are something else too.)

This left me deeply moved, and in love with Cambodia. Completely different from Thailand where, as in Europe, everyone is too rich , too congested with people, and ignores you.

[. . . .]

They live more in communities, and haven't had their soul sucked away by television, and by more wealth than they know how to organise as a society in a sensible way. All the travellers seem to like the countries which aren't developed more than those that are, because of this warmth and friendliness. What are we developing?

Godless' comment at the end of the post captures this type of thinking spot-on:

""Too rich" - that says it all. This is the actual position of many "environmentalists" and self-proclaimed connoisseurs of "indigenous" cultures. It's a thinly veiled racism - I've got my air-conditioner, but you're so *cute* in your pre-modern village that you don't need to have one..."