Everybody in the modern world has been following the story of the Chilean miners who were stuck in a 100-years old totally unsafe copper mine for a couple of months. I was initially bored by the initial reports, as all of a sudden these miners were everywhere as if there were only thirty-three miners on earth, and this was the first time that some of them got stuck underneath several hundred meters of earth crust, forgetting about the fact that despicable working conditions like theirs exist all around the world, and have existed in the Western civilization not as far as fifty years ago… Read the description that Orwell has made of a coal mine in the UK if you want to have a good idea of what it is like…
I am glad that the end of the story turned out to be a good one, mind you, but it was the way the information got treated that was irksome to me. The newspapers were describing these miners as good believers, happy to receive their individually blessed Bibles by Pope Benedict XVI himself (as well as their iPod blessed by Guru Steve Jobs). So all of a sudden it was not thirty-three men down a mine, it was thirty-three Ned Flanders. And that just disgusted me.
The disgust and disinterest stayed till I heard on the French radio a series of shows about Chile, including a part about the miners, with the following anecdote. When the all-too-happy local president (short, tanned, whitened teeth, with ratings going down like the miners every day) announced that money would be given to the miners families while they were stuck underneath and unable to provide financial help to their significant ones, it was not thirty-three but about a hundred women who showed up. Of course some of them were swindlers, but some were not, and some of the miners had in fact completely secret (to their official ones) families, including kids.
All of a sudden they became real people, and I loved them. I loved them also for the fact that while interviewing their coworkers, who were up there running all the equipment to dig them out (and who were elegantly fired the day their coworkers were released), the journalists learned that once a week, said coworkers were allowed to talk to the radio with the thirty-three. And they were not talking about the latest sermon, but asking news about their mistresses and generally sex conversations. Those are real people… the way I like them. Rough and honest, under the varnish of god-abiding family-caring and generally boring image that the newspapers had happily applied to them in the first days.
The second case of real people breaking in the news I would like to talk about is this recent news about a video showing a tourist wedding in the Maldives. People go there, pay more than a thousand dollars, and supposedly have a traditional wedding. Then they go and plant a coconut tree on the beach (I guess this could be a good solution to repopulate the rainforest in some areas). The big scandal evoked in the news nowadays is that of a video where the words spoken by the man acting as a preacher in his so delightful language (for the tourists) have been translated to English and posted online. All of a sudden, the o-so-delightful language starts to contain swear words, and despite what most media have reported, mostly curses and few references to the local religion (which is Islam in that area, hence the scandal of being called an infidel swine).
The man is in fact reading a working contract for the expensive hotel where he works, and adds random insults in the middle, with a funny introduction about the fact that the groom should practice anal sex with many men. (sorry people ready to see jihadists everywhere, but to me that’s just buddy talk, nothing to do with Bin Laden in there).
Of course it is too bad for the couple in the video, now everybody knows that they have been had, and they dropped 1.3k on a fake ceremony. Yet I doubt that I would call the thing legitimate anyway even if the ‘proper words’ were spoken. To me this kind of wedding, and the overall vacation in general, is nothing but cheap thrills for tourists. The good white man going to visit the good savages and telling how nice it is to live so close to nature (read the books by Claude Lévi-Strauss to know what he has to say about that).
In fact under a pretense of authenticity, people doing this are just showing that they feel so superior to the others that they are the ones deciding that one’s tradition is worth of interest or not. If they did respect the local people they are so admiring, they would not ask for a parody of a traditional wedding in the first place. How would they feel if someone would come over to their local church and ask for a wedding because it is ‘cool’ to do so? With no knowledge of the religion and language whatsoever?
Overall I was proud to see that there are some people who do resist the pretenses that are such trips, although I was sad to read that the people involved in the parody of parody were put to jail for a couple of days. Sure enough, the local government wants to attract tourists and their green bills, but nevertheless they should understand by selling cheap their cultural inheritance, they are also losing their soul. Culture remains alive because it is something that unites people while making them different from tourists who come here to get cheap alcohol and sunsets. It cannot be artificial. Otherwise you become Las Vegas or Dubai.
I love real people. And I hope there will be many more stories of mistresses and swear words in the mainstream media in the future, to the horror of the victims, and for my egoistical reading pleasure.