I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my recent trip to Turkey, reminiscing about the adventures and the friends I met, sharing stories with loved ones who didn’t follow along here or who just want to hear the tales complete with my unique performances. But tonight I want to rein in the excitement and “1, 2, 3 Be Serious” for a moment because I’ve become aware of an interesting phenomenon that I’d really like to discuss.
I’m calling it my “Dirty Adidas Theory.”
Its the moment when every nation comes army crawling into the developed world, suppressed by heavy clouds of smog, weighted down by chains of factories along the waterfront, and beaten into submission by shipments of western products dropped like air bombs on a scattered populace, herded into the open arms of a brand new mall.
Sorry. Too poetic?
Let’s talk about Istanbul. Istanbul was once a beautiful city. A thriving marketplace, at the crossroads of the east and the west. Full of strange things and strange people. They built beautiful palaces and mosques, they celebrated their Ottoman background and their long cultural history.
Now, Istanbul has let itself be influenced by western nations, like the artsy nerd type is pressured by the “cool kids” in the lunchroom. Right now Istanbul is in that awkward pimply adolescent stage, where it can’t keep up with all the strange oils and smells oozing from its body. Seriously.
In the beginning, non-westernized nations chug along fine. They have a system that works for them. They have local art, and culture, and cuisine. They have a pretty balanced relationship with the environment. Then the western clique rolls in, for whatever reason. The non-westernized nation wants in. Eventually the nation THINKS it has finished developing. It has that sophomoric attitude of success. But what has really happened is this: industry and commercialism has caught up with the western world, but infrastructure hasn’t made the switch yet. So they flounder along for years, without environmental policies or emission standards, without enough roads or reliable forms of public transportation, and without any means of cleaning up or processing the already released pollution. But they do have all the most popular western brands, marked up even more than the absurd prices set in the west. They have Nike, Adidas, Apple, Dior, McDonald’s, Coke, Coach. You name it, its there.
Their cities get dirtier. Their beautiful stone buildings are covered with layers of black soot. Their people scrounge around in the dirt and are scoffed at by clean “high bred” western tourists, who can’t understand why anyone would “choose to live in such filth;” not understanding that it was their need for the new Sony camera, iPhone, and L.L.Bean jacket that has forced the nation into this state.
Eventually the newly westernized nation looses their art and culture, much like the nerdy kid who puts away her paint brushes and violin in favor of a video game controller. They import cheap Chinese imitations of their once beautiful arts, so that tourists can still feel like they’ve bought an appropriate souvenir; which they will wave like a victory flag in the faces of friends and family when they return home. They develop versions of their traditional meals that are more palatable to the western tongue, a tongue drunk on processed sugars and “natural flavors.”
Why?! I scream. I wail. Why must the west always win! Why is it western culture that always rises victoriously? When will we appreciate diversity, real chaotic diversity, diversity we yearn for and which inspires us to travel, diversity that we seem to squash at every moment whenever it tries to rise its head in defiance of the ever encroaching amorphous blob of western culture.
Sorry. Too poetic. Rein it in.
All I’m sayin’ is, strange cultures and historic traditions- I’m on your side. Stay strong. Carry on. And stay away from things that start with “i”. It’s a slippery slope. Its like a gateway drug that will leave you lying on your broken sidewalk, gasping for air in a smog smothered world.
Here’s to individuality.