Something I forgot from last time: Our sharply dressed desert guide, Hassan, is also endowed with an incredible presence on the dance floor (or at least the packed sand we were dancing on). Picture the man I described previously, cigarette clamped firmly between his lips, floating around in circles with a serene expression on his face, his turban bobbing slightly and the desert wind giving life to his flowing grand boubou. He was a sight to see, with arms outstretched, feet shuffling, and fabric coming alive. (I also forgot the long and tight black curls of hair that would sometimes peek out from under his turban.) We had happy discussions in the van about this man whose style, dress, and presence more than made up for his weaknesses as a not-very-informative guide. He has earned the designation of B.A.M.F. in my opinion. (I do not include the meaning of that acronym for fear of hurting sensitive ears, though I think most of you know or can figure out what it means.)
Okay a couple more additions to the list of universal things:
-The desire for vacation. By that I mean everyone needs a means of escape, a break from reality. Some find it traveling their country or the world, others find it in exercise or hiking or climbing a mountain, still others find it with mind-altering drugs (you can read here television). I thought about this when the Sheikh, that we shared lunch with on our excursion, told us he and his people go out in the desert to drink camel’s milk, sing and dance and get away from the stresses of life and the government. And there we were listening to this story while we were on our own vacation (within a vacation, I would label studying abroad an extended form of vacation) to the desert. Pick your poison, “man it don’t bother me ‘cuz we’re all on something” –John Butler Trio.
When I reread “the desire for vacation” it made me think about soma from Brave New World, the ‘perfect’ euphoric drug with no side effects that has been developed by the controllers to keep the masses happily sedated when they are not at work. They go on ‘soma holidays’ by the ½ gramme tablet, but make sure you don’t take too much or you won’t wake up for work the next day. A good (albeit literary) example of a manipulation of our desire for vacation meant to prove a point about a lot of things, including how we can be deceived into being content. Gah that book makes me think about so much, it really makes you question your motivations and your emotional state and what this world is coming to. I probably sound dramatic sometimes, or naïve or idealistic, but its how I feel. Lots of things that we accept as normal, that go on every day, seem just plain wrong to me.
For example, why are there American soldiers in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any other country besides our own? Couldn’t our massively inflated military budget be used for a million other more positive things than killing people to secure our interests in a polluting and nonrenewable resource? And oftentimes its things that are so imbedded in society that we don’t see them going on. We wonder why 1 in 3 Americans (2 in 5 African Americans) born after the year 2000 will develop type II diabetes, or why we have a national epidemic because 1 in 5 Americans is obese? Its not because we don’t get enough exercise, though more of that would help everyone. However, it might have something to do with the fact that we let greedy mega-corporations soak their fat fingers in every honey pot of every facet of our daily existence, including something as fundamental as the way we eat.
I am ranting and I am generalizing, I know. But while reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma (another must-read for you all, I don’t know how or why I waited this long) and having read other books like The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein, and A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, by Howard Zinn (may he rest in peace), and hearing lectures by Howard Zinn, John Perkins, the author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman (which I have not read but intend to), and others, well it all seems to make sense. And what makes sense to me is that the root of most, perhaps all, of our problems today comes from the fact that, not nominally but in practice, corporations rule the world. When you let the greedy interests of big businesses and the minority of people who control and profit from them become more important in the eyes of the law (businessmen and politicians being often interchangeable) than everyday common people and the natural environment, with its laws and finite limits, that supports the existence of us all, well I guess that brings you to the situation we have today. I’ll let you decide if you think they are doing a good job.
-That brings me to my second point, concerns about money. This one I am ambivalent about, but I feel that it belongs on the list. Some value it more than others, but you can’t escape it in this day and age. Sometimes I wish I could live on a farm and barter for everything I need. Or that I could be a nomadic camel herder in Morocco. But all in all I am happy being me.
Time to finish up my site of memory paper on the Sheikh and his tribe and get to bed before the sun rises. I will post it sometime soon for your reading pleasure.