Saturday , May 25 2024

Shed tears for this world

Many years ago I was walking across the fields of southern Anatolia watching the men scything wheat in the shimmering heat. I sat to drink. A song of loneliness and yearning came from a minaret half a mile away and the men in their baggy trousers came and sat next to me offering flat bread.

I remember sleeping in Normandy in a hotel above a bar on a bowed bed.  In the morning walking to the boulangerie for hot bread, queuing behind the housewives who were loudly joking with the owner.   Late in the evening joining the argument in the outdoor restaurant, the wine having turned the meal into a general symposium as tables ceased being boundaries and everyone discussed the world.

Many years ago I sat on a camel cart sharing a conical indian rollie with a scarcely clad teenager as a Sarangi player came from nowhere in the desert. He sang about the gods as his little son came up to him holding his own Sarangi made from a coca cola tin.

These things have largely gone.  You might think “good”.

Why have the differences in the world been disappearing?  The most extreme example of people giving up their culture and community is that of St Kilda. In 1930 the isolated Hebridean island of St Kilda was voluntarily abandoned.  The whole population moved to the mainland.  Mothers could not bear the thought that their children might die without medical services.  Once on the mainland there were serious regrets:

They wrote repeated letters of complaint to the Scottish Office, a typical comment being that included in one letter from John Gillies, saying “This home is worse than the cattle byre I had in St Kilda. I understand from Nurse Barclay that we were to be situated in better homes, but this is worse than a dungeon hole.” (‘Abandoned Communities’ by Stephen Fisk).

Many people are racist and afraid of difference.  This has led to the dream of the whole world being unified and homogenised.   As the differences expire they are celebrated as cheerful tourist ghettoes in major towns and acceptable cultural artefacts are merged into global culture as a self conscious homage to difference.  Once consumed the cultural difference is gone forever.  

France was such a pleasure.  Spain was so different.  Turkey was breathtaking.

Is cultural imperialism inevitable now that the religions that demarcated the greatest differences have been defeated?  Will our modern globalism be seen in a millennium from now as any more than a godless religion, godless like Buddhism but replacing the inner life with the outer narrative?  When stripped of the inevitable self-righteousness of its supporters will it be obvious that globalism was just another empire wrought by a federation of states with money, industry and heavy artillery?

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About John Sydenham

Dr John Sydenham has worked in International Pharmaceuticals and for one of the "big four" International Consultancies. He ran a successful company for 15 years and after selling the company devotes his time to travel, science, black labradors and freedom.

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