Saturday, August 15, 2009

Triumph of the Bourgeoisie: a sturdy railing between you and the jungle

I was struck by this banner ad, which I saw on the site of the San Jose Mercury News:

Nice clean white people separated from the jungle by a sturdy wooden railing. They aren't sweating. They aren't in the sun. Their L.L. Bean sportswear is still perfectly pressed, dry and free of stains from grease, sunscreen or bug repellent. In fact, they might as well be watching a DVD of the Panamanian jungle from their condominium -- and why didn't they, instead of contributing to global warming by flying down there just so they can stay as far away from the jungle as possible?

Yes, I went to India two years ago -- and I stayed in the city, as opposed to a friend of mine who went a year later. He was never in the city, he boasted, but always out in the countryside, seeing the sites, whatever they are. I did not say: and every step of the way, your whole presence was an insult to the bitterly poor populace (and they are much poorer in the country than in the city), reminding them of the hopelessness of their lives.

I can't imagine traveling to a third world country just to lord it over the locals, who would be able to size me up at a glimpse and tell that my annual income is 10000% of theirs. So I don't understand the appeal of such trips to the American bourgeoisie (of which I am definitely a member; make no mistake, it's not like I'm trying to say that I'm not). What is it that they're going for? Scenery they can't see in the US? Cheap prices? To practice their language skills? I really don't get it. I hate the fucking jungle, I hate getting hot and sunburned, I hate sweating, I understand completely. My point is, why go at all?

So I won't be going to Panama (or anywhere else where the standard of living is below that of, say, Argentina) anytime if I can help it.

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