Monday, April 27, 2009

Noble Savages?

The notion that peoples on the margins of what we take to be advanced civilisation are somewhow leading lives that are more authentic and 'natural' first took hold properly in the West with the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau. It was tosh then and it's tosh now. But judging by that Revue article I commented on last week, it remains rather tempting tosh.

Guatemala has always been my rabbit hole: "an improbable world inhabited by many strange characters," according to Wikipedia. There's no question that anyone who has grown up in one of the world's leading metropolises is going to find that things are done very differently here.

In the picture above for instance, our neighbour Doña T is providing refreshments (soft drinks and filled rolls) to the Muni workers laying down the new road surface outside. It's a gesture of community spirit of the purest kind, one that will surely leave a dent in her weekly budget, and one that I can hardly imagine seeing the like of in London. But hold on, a Guatemalan archetype she might be, but just how arche-typical is this behaviour?

Fresh in my mind is the nightly road-watering activity of another local denizen who makes sure that not a single drop of water from his hose strays across the half-way line of the street in front of his home...or indeed passes laterally into the zone of his own vecinos' territorial responsibility.

On balance — sad to say — the extreme of self-centeredness is more commoplace in this little Guatemalan neighbourhood than its heart-lifting counterpart. For every noble savage there are after all usually several who want to eat your eyeballs for dinner after shrinking your skull. That said, nowhere in Panorama do you encounter the quite frightful attitude problems that prevail just a block or two away in Jardines de Antigua!

1 comment:

Mark said...

Hehe. I'd like to see the hatemail you get after this one. If you don't get any, that should be evidence that you're writing above the heads of anyone who might disagree with your discourse.