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Bad manners

13 May 2014

After our interview, Pepe showed me around the rest of his property and then brought us back to the courtyard. He answered a call on an old Nokia brick phone — urgent state business. After he hung up, I asked Pepe whether he minded if I smoked a joint. I fully understood the implications of smoking weed in front of a head of state, but of all presidents, I thought, he’d be game. After my translator relayed my request, Pepe smiled broadly and exclaimed, “Por favor!

Krishna Andavolu, “Meet Uruguay’s Charismatic ‘Robin Hood’ President

Vice News (10 May 2014)

Call me a stick-in-the-mud, or an old fart, but one … does… not… light up a joint in the home of a head of state, even if he has the good manners to allow what is, very much, an illegal activity to occur in front of him.  While the article started out well, focusing on President Mujica of Uruguay’s background as a florist turned guerilla-fighter and political prisoner… and then leader of his nation… one with a surprisingly modest  (for lack of a better word) life-style … discussions of Mujica’s vision of a more equitable and just Uruguay give way quickly to the one thing that seems to matter to outsiders about the country — not Uruguay’s long tradition of progressive legislation (the first nation in the Americas with Social Security… going back to the 19th century!) — but that DESPITE its unpopularity, the president and his party pushed through a bill allowing URUGUAY CITIZENS to purchase marijuana, under strict regulations.

I have no objections to either people using marijuana or its legalization in user countries, though I do have reservations about the effects legalization in the largest user on the planet would have on our agriculture here.  I do, like Mujica himself — and most Latin American bourgeois — see marijuana use as … well… tacky and sort of stupid.  Mujica himself had been talking about the conservative (again for lack of a better word) culture in Uruguay, and resistence to plans for opening up the traditionally agrarian economy to include mining operations.

But, apparently all that takes a back seat to what rich hipsters really care about… themselves and self-gratification.  Be honest… would Vice, or any other rich country media… “give a shit about the place” (to quote Richard Nixon on Latin America) … if it didn’t involve their immediate concerns, or — in this instance — suggest that others “buy” whatever it is they see as somehow important.  No… that U.S. media stories can talk negatively about PEMEX trying to hold on to 30% of any new oil discoveries (as if, of course, any reforms in the oil laws here mean that the U.S. should have first dibs on Mexican resources), or simply ignore mass protests in Chile demanding free education other than mention that taxes might go up, which might impact some U.S. businesses doing business in Chile.  No… we don’t count, but we DO have marijuana and foreign hipsters think that’s great.

It could be worse...

I suppose an ill-manned reporter wasn’t the worst Canadian that could have shown up…

So… what does the reporter do? Not just light up a joint, but report on it.  While Vice is a Canadian publication, and appeals to the “hipster” market,  the incident… and the editors’ decision to leave it in the article… oozes with the contempt and self-indulgence of the “northern” media when it comes to Latin America.  Would a U.S. or Canadian reporter smoke a Cuban cigar in front of Barack Obama?  Would a Uruguayan reporter?  Whether Mr. Obama is as well-mannered as Mr. Mujica is beside the point.  And Mr. Mujica may very well not be bothered by marijuana smoking in his own home (although, my sense is, that like most Latin Americans, he’ll tolerate tacky behavior before he would complain and possibly offend a guest).  Apparently, Vice’s editors, and their reporters, have no compunction about assuming their “right” to overstep the bounds of hospitality, and seem to be of the mindset that Latin American leaders aren’t important enough to be given the deference due any head of state.

Moreover, there is the sense that — coming from a rich country — one can not only violate the laws, but is entitled to do so, and that — again as a representative of the wealthy nations’ media — such behavior is to be celebrated and reported upon.

Tacky, tacky, tacky.  And imperialist to boot.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca Ore permalink
    15 May 2014 7:16 pm

    See this a lot in Nicaragua, too, with people treating NIcaragua as the US’s back yard, and expecting the Nicaraguans will continue being gracious and welcoming. An expat who was in Nicaragua illegally (US citizen, German national) murdered a Nicaragua in Jinotega, a small mountain city. Several of the gringos wanted to figure out how he should get off, but wanted anyone who harmed an American to get the death penalty (pretty rare here).

  2. Dan Dunn permalink
    16 May 2014 7:33 am

    I’ve been a subscriber to your blog for some time, but this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to comment. I’ve been reading about the rise of the Nazi’s in the 1930’s (I’d refer your readers to the books “Hitlerland” by Andrew Nagorski and “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” by Jack El-Hai). This type of “in your face” behavior reminds me of the deliberately obnoxious antics of the “Nazi thugs” who would engage in childish bullying whenever possible–a tactic which (supposedly) demonstrated their faith in “action” and contempt for “the intellect.” Today, certain people whom you refer to as “hipsters” behave in the same way–for no better reason than to appear “hip” to the notion that “action” trumps “talk” if you’re a dedicated materialist and don’t care about anyone but yourself.

    I feel a chill when I read about this kind of “knowing” behavior. The Nazi’s seemed childish and silly until it was too late. I sincerely hope we are not condemned to repeat a past that we’ve stupidly forgotten.

  3. 1 June 2014 7:35 pm

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or
    if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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