Friday, December 14, 2012

Le Monde 100: Tristes Tropique

I'm not sure I was prepared for the AP level of of hanging out that the Bourbons were accustomed to at their megalith of opulence at Versailles. 

The design process of the architects and decorators, no doubt, had a strict default-to-opulence policy. Not sure about what to do with the hedges? Default to opulence. How should we set up the back entry stairs? Default to opulence. Where should these mops go? Default to opulence. You can just imagine the designers jolting awake in the smallest parts of night from ghastly dreams involving overlooked un-gilded corners of the east corridor and hidden alcoves tragically un-muraled.

Can't you just feel the overwhelming message that's being sent as you stroll through this?


The Hall of Mirrors. Private opera theaters. Regime-change inspiring Bedchambers. There was no soft spots to this place. 

But, for all the extreme wealth pouring form every orifice of Versailles, it's majesty had to compete for my attention with a fellow tourist wearing this:



It was jarring that in the context of being a visitor to Versailles, one of the most glorious palaces in the world, I was traveling in the same strata as this t-shirt. It really brought to mind a term that stands out in Claude Levi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques, - monoculture.

As Levi-Strauss traversed the continents, despising travel books, and searching for authenticity, he lamented the corruption of the purity of traditional cultures by the homogenizing influences of colonization and what we basically know as globalization. He is venomous as he writes:

"The first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown in the face of mankind."

This is a concept that I would instinctively align myself with as I viscerally despise the diminishing returns of mass market culture. When everybody adopts the same thing as part of their identity, then it takes away from the identity of the individual. 

However, on the larger scale, there is something terribly adaptive about having a culture determined by the market forces at large. Markets are composed of adaptive and flexible elements and it is only through adaptability that humanity can ultimately survive. 

I am a great believer in technology and the human ability to change in order to meet any challenge. The only time that change in humanity may seem dis-favorable  is if this impedes on the individual's personal experiences, biases, prejudices, conveniences, and, not least, existence. If global warming wipes out a majority of humanity, there will be a lot of unhappy individuals. But, those that adapt to the change, those who survive, and those that allow it to become the new reality by letting go of old presumptions about what should be, will be the ones who will enjoy the overall net happiness by flowing with the circumstances. 

As much as I can't stand corporations and monoculture, they must exist in order for the cumulative resources to be available for technological advancements, which will ultimately allow for the amplification and implementation of the human spirit. 



 



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