Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pleased with themselves

The other day my neighbour told me about a group of ex-pats in Antigua, all of them ex-military and some of them formerly quite senior officers, who gather to chew the fat in the Parque Central. Other than the fact that entry is barred to him for not having once belonged to the Army, the Suck, the CIA etc, what really irks my neighbour about this little clique is their steadfast refusal to ever lower themselves to speak Spanish in Guatemala. 

This comes as no big surprise to me. I had only been living here for a few months when it occurred to me that the ex-pat community in Antigua was probably collectively the most self-satisfied group of individuals I had ever come across. I long ago gave up trying to have any regular contact with this group. 

Long-term browsers of this blog will remember Mark Francis of GuateLiving, now serving time back home in a Federal penitentiary. It used to surprise me how popular his brand of nonsense seemed to be with the wider ex-pat community, including those who appeared to regard themselves as secular or liberal. But then I realised that many could not help themselves but to identify with the gladsome arrogance of the man. 

Mark, like many foreigners residing down here, was on the run from something.    It's not always the long arm of the law. Many seem to be fleeing more stringent economies. Others might be said to be trying to distance themselves from their own mediocrity. How many terrible artists are there in Guatemala posing as great masters, how many small-time businessmen posing as great entrepreneurs?

Many possibly like to think of themselves as big fish in Antigua's small pond, even though they are probably never fully comfortable until they form part of a mutually-supporting school of likeminded fishies. 

Strangely enough perhaps, the one or two exceptions I can think of are also Americans. 

Most of the northern Europeans that one comes across are a reminder that the EU's present travails are as much a consequence of their stubbornness and lack of contextual awareness as any kind of lackadaisical culture on the shores of the Med.

The Germans often present the most absurd spectacle, with their dogmatic conviction that everyone has to do things their way. As you can well imagine, this is a land which will tends to test it to breaking point. 

1 comment:

elgordo said...

I'm happy to see you post again. I think you are correct in your observations. It's easy to reinvent oneself in a foreign country. It's like that old joke about the greatest educational institution in the world - Aereolineas Argentinas. Busboys and waitresses embark, and doctors and lawyers disembark.

Unfortunately, Guatemala's culture of humility and service give these type of expats a heightened sense of superiority. They don't realize know how little their pretentions matter ultimately. As long as these pretentious windbags don't cross the line, people will accept their douchebaggery, along with their dollars.