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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oh Lookie! Barbarians!!

I was was waiting for my doctor's appointment when I watched this documentary about "coffee hunters" that embark on an adventure to Papua's mountain to get the best coffee. And I was like, "Dude, seriously??"

Adventurers are always welcome in my book, and nothing excites me more than watching or reading about adventures in faraway land etc etc etc. But this documentary seriously give me the creep. He made it sound his journey looked so dangerous and alarming, at one point even "sneaking in" to a coffee warehouse and dramatically cut open a sack of coffee to find the precious coffee he was looking for... only to be greeted by the manager afterwards which happily divulged where he got the great coffee from. D'oh. He described the dance/war cries like shrieking and moaning as if someone was getting tortured, complete with the "horrific expression" (this was supposed to be one of the climax/pivotal moments of the documentary). He also kept saying "Third world country", and even go as far as criticizing the farmers for not having a combined coffee plantation/handling to achieve better quality coffee and thus making more money. Uhhh......

It is my biggest pet peeves to when people act like underdeveloped countries are staple for so-called nightmarish experiences and so, well, underdeveloped. Hello, it's 2013 dear. True that these places (in which one of them I called home) is not exactly New York or Paris or Geneva, but it is not exactly lawless and "uncivilized" as well. On the contrary, these people more often than not have a set of rules that will allow them to live together peacefully side by side, and also rules to save and preserve the land they are living in. They don't have big strong government on their side which ready to bail them out anytime, it's either they obey the laws they set for each other or face unpleasant direct consequences. 

Take Bali for example, Miguel Covarrubias explained in his 1937 book "The Island of Bali" : A "bad man" does not have a chance in the strict communal Balinese system. Everyone is so dependent on the co-operation and goodwill of others that he whose conduct is not good, or who in some ways fail to be in harmony with his community, becomes a boycotted undesirable." How is this for a change, a community where the rules and law are uphold for the good of all and not merely because the-law-said-so; where people govern themselves in order to achieve desired sustainability and secure future for their offspring? Is it not an ideal situation? Pray tell which "Civilized" country in the world that have been able to achieve this utopia?

If fashion is your idea of civilization, let's stop and ponder that the all-fashionable summer bikinis in the western countries are considered by these people as alien (and perhaps also as barbaric) as the traditional dress that they wear in your opinion. Especially true for us that are born in tropics, there is nothing more weird than seeing an orange-ish fake tan and the concept that someone actually pays to look like that. To be fair, you might think that our tooth filing ceremony is horribly unhealthy too. So? If art is your thing, please consider that the ancient kingdoms in Java, Indonesia built monumental temples such as Borobudur or Prambanan in the 9th century. And it still exist right now, high and proud and enchantingly beautiful. The art of weaving cloth, the songs and lore that is handed from generation, the beautiful object of offerings made for their Gods, is it not Art just because it is, ah, old? Yet the incorrigible musics and abstract paintings and sculptures are hailed as art, the greatest symbol human expression. Why does an ancient song for praising spirits and ancestors be described as "shrieking, moaning, horrible sound" when you can easily hear a number of songs filled with violence and called it a "cool stuff"?

The so-called-underdeveloped countries probably do not have the same amenities as the developed ones, but that does not mean they have a lower quality of life. On the contrary, one might find their life quality is significantly better than their developed-countries fellow human. No rat race, only a leisurely life where you are content with what you have, which is enough to ensure a comfortable life for you and your family. The TV guide's demand (err suggestion?) for an organized coffee handling so they can have similar quality coffee and more money is killing their good quality of life. A better coffee for who? For the customers who want that prestigious coffee both for pride and glut. The people in Papua does not need a better coffee for themselves. True that they will get more money, but who will be benefited? The merchants most likely will. When you have increased amount of money in circulation the price for items and services will definitely increased as well, this is called inflation and is a basic rule of economy. So they will spend more time to cater and work on their coffee farm and less on their family and enjoying their normal quiet life in order to provide some coffee-lovers their daily dose of caffeine and padding up merchants with more profit. Sounds just right.   

The list can go on and on. The worse is of course the exploitation of these so-called uncivilized people in shows like the one I told you about, exaggerating their condition and shamelessly incorporating them as "extra" in the big badass documentary just like old Hollywood will create a thorough set and hires extras to make their colossal movies. In the end, it was just a bunch of pathetic lies, down to where they can always find someone that speaks English to assist them in their journey. Seriously, English is not commonly use in Papua New Guinea, and those that do speak it most likely have spent considerable time with Westerners/ English-speaking natives. This means that this dude is in the hands of "friends" all the time, yet still need to "spice" things up for the audience. (On another note, you don't get killed just for having different color skin or for being an outsider; the reason why you need a guide to enter tribes such as the one in Papua is out of respect for the community and to prevent you from doing idiot disrespectful thing that might cost you, or heaven forbid, tainted the whole village. It happens.)

As my husband said, this is just a made-up movie, no need to get bent out of shape because of it. Too true, and to be fair these documentary makers also exploit and exaggerated other people such as the real housewives of, or the (now-not-so-young) youngsters of jersey shores. It is unthinkable to think real people act like the one they portrayed in the those TV series. They were merely being poorly captured like their fellow human in the third world country (How I hate the word! Come on, these tribes has been around longer than the western civilization and they actually prevailed instead of being devoured by another countries!). However, if by the end of this article you still believe that you are much better than those third-world-country-uncivilized-barbaric-sorry-humans I can't really blame you. After all, as the picture above beautifully illustrate there are people that actually think foreigners expected to be picked up by John Wayne-esque cowboys on horses upon arrival in LAX. They even write articles about it! So yeah, all is forgiven. Evolution is a picky bastard.

PS: I have no idea who John Wayne is, but upon my arrival in LAX I do think I would see people dressing up so free and crazy. I mean, this is USA, the land of the free. My husband takes me to Walmart that night to shop, and I saw this young woman in Supergirl costume (complete with cape) and sunglasses (with the price tag still on) driving between the isles on some kind of motoric vehicle that the elderly often uses. My wild accusation and vivid imagination did not disappoint me.

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