Friday, August 25, 2006

Have Complaints, Will Travel


I came across this map thingy via Karmyn R who comments on Spooks' blog and couldn't resist using it. One of those pointless excercises that are designed purely for idle amusement. You click on the countries you have visited, copy the generated code onto your post/template et voila... erm...

I fear I must make a few qualifications here since:

  • the only place I've been to in the U.S. is Galveston (eeuww!)
  • I have not been to the North Pole but it seems to be allocated as part of Norway
  • my travels in Namibia (South West Africa at the time), Angola and remote and shitty parts of South Africa were at the enforced behest of my dear friends at the South African Defence Force under P.W Botha and the Aparteid Regime.
Otherwise I have either worked, lived or holidayed in all of these countries.

I find it interesting to observe that what makes a country feel like somewhere foreign is not necessarily its natural landscape. For example, driving through New Zealand’s North Island has very strong similarities to rural Central Scotland.
To me, what makes a country feel foreign is the visual representation of the national personality in the chaos of it’s cities.
For example the character of the French is visible in the way they build their roads, their buildings and street markings, and the way they negotiate traffic (scary but entertaining).
Conversely there is an element of the physical landscape reflected in the national character –Norway’s climate is manifest in the stolid outlook of its people and their generally psychotic drinking habits. (This doesn't make them bad people I hasten to add.)
All of this can only be a sweeping generalisation of course, since larger countries, like India; USA; China and Brazil may contain a myriad of landscapes and cultural variations. I worked in Galveston for a while and upon hearing where I am from, a young Texan asked: “So where exactly is South Africa then?”
What can you say to that? Amusing, yes, but I do not believe that this sort of ignorance is necessarily representative of someone from New York or California. Nevertheless, enter any US city and you would not be able to mistake it for anywhere else.

It's like everything happens in the corner of your eye. When you visit another country, you focus on it all; the differences; the similarities - it's all there in front of you - but seeping in via the edges comes the personality of the people who live there.
National Character is a reality; we are different! It is only the gone-too-far concept of political correctness that demands that we make no comparison for fear of being branded 'racist'* (A crappy fear anyway, since we are not different because the tone of our skins is different; we are different because of our National Character).
At the end of the day we are all descendant from tribes - what we should not forget that every tribe must have started out as a handful of misfits breaking away from the herd and striking out on their own.
- And before anybody starts off telling me about the ol' pioneer spirit; just don't -
The problem with tribes is that they get pissed off when some stranger comes along talking about how shit their tribe is; how back in the other tribe they got much faster internet and their wummins is much more purdy aw shucks. Next thing you know tribe A's kicking the shit outta tribe B; raping their wummins and stealing their jobs. Dirty foreigners.

From The Far Queue dictionary of home-grown bullshit:
  • National Character: tribal traits - we've all got 'em I guess.
  • Nationalism: National Character perverted for political (and usually violent) ends.
All this aside, the irony is that I'm not one who ever wanted to travel - all I wanted was to get away from the country in which I was born.

But that's another story.

8 comments:

Spooks said...

What's a Kiwi ta' do?
Next stop inner space...Oh wait, your already there ;D

Zatikia said...

Traveling, the places we have been. The places we want to have been.

Traveling and living in the Orient I saw places where the very air and mystery of it was like being in a different world, and then, at times, suddenly back home again, so similar. Leaving behind where I was born for something more is what opened the world to me. The more one sees, the more one can know. The people everywhere are so different, one can get a feel for their country by watching as a whole. You can sense the places on a person that has traveled and really seen.

Karmyn R said...

First, thanks for quoting my blog! aw, shucks....

Secondly, nice words and I wholeheartedly agree!! However, I wish that we all had enough similarities to be peaceful. It's our damn differences that cause all the problems!!! And yet, I wouldn't get rid of those differences to change it. (That is what makes traveling so worth it)

gregrandgar said...

We all see different things with different eyes for different reasons. It is our only commonality. Eradicate those differences and nature will eradicate humanity, the whole cannot balance on one point. We are born to different parents (genetic predisposition) in different places (cultural biases) in different times (temporal pressures) and spend the rest of our lives, unless completely hypnotized by our cultural myths, seeking love and belonging in reenactment of the genetic inclination to find security in numbers against a common predator. Modern man, having preemptively extinguished all possible species of predator, has only to flock for protection against predation by other flocks and lying scoundrels within their own. The USA was founded upon such scoundrelous lies when it declares that it “hold(s) these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal ...” and then proceeds to fill its prisons with, make war upon, and train their equally created children to not become, exceptions to the lie. All governments need prisons, killing and education to maintain control of their brand of lie, I just happened to have spent my life seeking love and belonging in the USA. I found love and belonging - it is the government that doesn’t belong here!

Pisces Iscariot said...

Welcome to The Far Queue, Karmyn & Todd.

barbara flaska said...

"You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline — it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."

Frank Zappa

Pisces Iscariot said...

Yup, at the very least I need a beer.

jams o donnell said...

I like the Zappa quote... and you can do a lot worse than Steinlaget!