April 28, 2005

Anti-Prosperity Propaganda: MTV's Trippin'

Starring Cameron Diaz and some of her idle-rich movie star friends, MTV's show Trippin' sets out to do what's impossible for any rational, fair-minded person: make the meanest, poorest and dirtiest conditions on Earth look not only honest but superior to the Western and American standards of freedom, prosperity and convenience.

Basically, they travel around the world in planes and SUVs (they claim to have offset the anti-environmental effects of their travels by buying carbon credits, which are based on the somewhat dubious notion that pollution will simply cancel out if only we just plant enough trees, bogs, etc.) and they try to make it look like the poor people they're showing you are living these great and wonderful lives.

As though the poor subsistence farmer with vitamin deficiency, complete illiteracy and a total lack of any functional knowledge of the world more than ten miles outside his village CHOSE to live that way. Don't you think he'd rather be a cabbie in New York or a janitor in Nebraska? I mean, not getting rickets and dying of a staph infection at 34 is pretty hard to compare favorably with having access to medicine, luxury, technology and convenience.

But wait! It gets more moronic! Read this article for some of the dumb things Diaz and Drew Barrymore said. What I found interesting was this bit, from the same article:

    "That is so awesome. I like Bhutan," Diaz said, noting that the country has "maintained a careful balance of Old World tradition and modern convenience."

    "Life moves at a different pace here in Bhutan," she said. "The fusion of religion, tradition and a genuine respect for the environment give the whole country a peaceful balance."
Bhutan, which is ranked unfree by Freedom House, is a tiny little country - the first to ban smoking nationwide in public places, with a penalty the equivalent of two months of the average Bhutanese salary.

Apparently the "different pace" that carefully balances tradition and convenience is the same regime that started a cultural assimilation policy against Nepali-speakers that ended up in displacement and even soldier-led rapes. From Freedom House:

    Reversing a long-standing policy of tolerating cultural diversity in the kingdom, the government in the late 1980s began requiring all Bhutanese to adopt the dress of the ruling Ngalong Drukpa ethnic group. Authorities said they feared for the survival of Drukpa culture because of the large number of Nepali speakers, also known as Southern Bhutanese, in the south. The situation worsened in 1988, when the government began using a strict 1985 citizenship law to arbitrarily strip thousands of Nepali speakers of their citizenship. The move came after a census showed Southern Bhutanese to be in the majority in five southern districts.

    Led by the newly formed Bhutanese People's Party (BPP), Southern Bhutanese held demonstrations in September 1990 against the new measures. Accompanying arson and violence led authorities to crack down on the BPP. As conditions worsened, tens of thousands of Southern Bhutanese fled to Nepal in the early 1990s, many of them forcibly expelled by Bhutanese forces. Credible accounts suggest that soldiers raped and beat many Nepali-speaking villagers and detained thousands as "anti-nationals."
No doubt it's a lovely place... as long as you don't speak Nepalese.

Of course, what's so horribly condenscending about the whole affair is the idea that the poorest people in the world choose to be so. You know what we call people like that here? Freaks and zealots. Seriously; how many people seriously want to emulate the Amish when they take a stand against modern conveniences or who really finds something valuable when Christian Scientists or Jehovah's Witnesses die without needed medical treatment? Even if we respect their commitment, we don't find it advisable to share it. That's because it's stupid.

Unless you have doubts about the efficacy of modern medical treatment, you ought to accept it when you can. But the people living in remote New Guinea or the Andes peaks aren't choosing to forgo modern living because they read a few works by Whitman and Thoreau; they're just poor. It's not a choice, it's not a lifestyle decision and it's not brave. Everybody lived that way when there were no other options, and if not for technology we'd still be living that way - though billions of us would die in our early years and hundred of millions would be felled by disease, broken legs or simple infections before reaching thirty-five.

Show me the honor in turning down anti-biotics to cure a basic infection. Why should we respect people who are forced to frink from water that hasn't been sanitized, to prepare most of their food a few days before consuming it, and that spend almost all their time just trying to keep their houses from falling apart and making sure they will have enough food to scrape by. That's not noble; that's deprived.

I don't blame them for being poor, but I'm not going to put on green-colored glasses and call it anything else. They are poor, and it's stupid environmentalist policies that help keep them that way by crowding out jobs, making consumables too expensive, and making development too difficult. If it weren't for poilicymakers who think like the writers of Trippin' there would be considerably less objective poverty in the world.


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