Friday Ephemera
Friday Ephemera

Elsewhere (258)

Tim Newman on the bigotry of low expectations: 

When I was in Melbourne, some government body or other put on a display of “Aboriginal culture” in Federation Square and advertised it all over town. I guessed in advance that it would consist of a bunch of primitives sat around bashing drums while metropolitan white folk looked on as if they were visiting a zoo. Child-like art would be on display wrapped in copious quantities of mumbo-jumbo. I passed by one Saturday afternoon and sure enough, that’s exactly what it was.

And somewhat related, William Buckner on the ‘noble savage’ fantasy, and the rather less charming realities: 

Comparatively little attention has been given to the risk of ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ common among hunter-gatherers. For mobile groups, infants, the elderly, and other vulnerable individuals have little opportunity to develop resistance to local pathogens. This may help explain why infant and child mortality among hunter-gatherers tends to be so high. Across hunter-gatherer societies, only about 57% of children born survive to the age of 15. Sedentary populations of forager-horticulturalists, and acculturated hunter-gatherers, have a greater number of children surviving into adulthood, with 64% and 67%, respectively, surviving to the age of 15.

Ah, but we must politely overlook the tedium and illiteracy, the malnutrition and dehydration, the alarming levels of child mortality, murder and infanticide, the sharply truncated lifespans, the child rape, and the delights of stone-age dentistry. We must see only how egalitarian and vibrant these exotic creatures are, if you squint and tilt your head, and then carefully turn away while the other stuff takes place.

And if you think such fantasies are confined to the distant past, consider the Utopian ruminations of Guardian columnist George Monbiot, whose urge to romanticise The Other - especially if The Other is brown and poor, and unable to challenge his bizarre worldview - is a thing to behold:

It is impossible not to notice that, in some of the poorest parts of the world, most people, most of the time, appear to be happier than we are. In southern Ethiopia, for example, the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls.

That’s right. Forget about sanitation and drudgery, and the limited options in life. Think instead of how happy these Ethiopian peasants are, these beings we should emulate, with their quaint little shelters made of leaves and packing cases. It’s just so adorable. And not a single remote control to harsh the egalitarian buzz. Like his Guardian colleague Oliver James - another anhedonic hypocrite stressed by the contradictions of being a well-heeled middle-class lefty – Mr Monbiot wants us to believe that “wealth causes misery.” Yes, wealth is bad for “us” – by which of course he means bad for you.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.