Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rant: Poverty and Cultural Authenticity

Short version: you don't need the former in order to have the latter.

So tell me, ye judges of authenticity: am I "authentic" enough for you?  Maybe my smartphone and laptop and high heels disqualify me as a "proper" Taiwanese.  Should I be back wading in the rice paddy and wearing a coolie hat with a baby strapped to my back?  Does that better meet your laughably ignorant expectations?  Would it make you feel better if all the businesspeople and computer engineers of Taipei knock down the high-rises and go back to living in villages?  trade in their cars for wagons and water buffalo again?  ARE WE ANY LESS TAIWANESE BECAUSE WE'RE NOT POOR?  How insulting.

Oh, and heaven forbid that anyone say that the greater issue is whether quality of life is better.  Let me tell you: on my last visit to "the old country," one of my elderly aunts started telling me about life 50 years ago when she knew that "culturally authentic" poverty firsthand.  I won't weary you with details; suffice it to say it was horrifying and included phrases like "no running water" and "no indoor plumbing."  Then she smiled, gestured around her comfortable modern home, and said, well, thank goodness that's all over with!  Indeed.

Lord, give me patience with those horrible people who argue about "authenticity" ... or, better yet, Lord, give me the self-control not to punch them in the face.  Why, one might even think the authenticity police's breathtakingly arrogant behavior is ... raaaaaaaaaaacist or something.

OK, OK, how about something like this for a solution?  Wealthy tourists want to see "authenticity" from the ethnic locals while the ethnic locals want a better life with modern advances.  Why not take a hint from the brilliant Gary Larson's cartoon?  

No comments: