In my communications classes at the University of Southern California, I was taught that there is perception and there is truth. Take the case of all the stray dogs roaming the Philippines, passing their fleas, ticks and rabies to people whilst helping recycle garbage into fertilizer that too often ends up where people walk, and kids play. These mangy creatures, of no observable breed, are generally skinny and lethargic, as we would be if we were uncared for and starving. Filipinos don’t seem to notice the dogs. It’s as if they were just a part of the natural landscape, like plants in pots. Foreigners notice. It is one of the first things, along with chickens flapping about in the bus, that smacks them in the eye and causes them to mutter, “Oh my God, this place is backward”.
Now is that perception or truth? For myself, backward is relative to some ideal, but I have a hard time holding the US up as any kind of ideal, for the relentless consumption, the veritable eating, of the planet being done there, and the loony rationalizations that emerge as nobs there hob for favoritism and votes. I read that Neut Gingrinch has declared that global warming is not an issue, that, indeed, dinosaurs thrived when the planet was a lot warmer. No need for us to worry. And with icons of virtue like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin leading the pack, for sure the notion that Americans are an intellectually advanced species disintegrates.
And frankly, I get nostalgic for the good old days of my youth when we walked to school through rain and snow and the heat of the radioactive cloud that hung over my town from the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear playground. We wrote letters to people far away instead of e-mailing them, and it would be hard to say the excitement a letter would generate is more backward than the impassionate greeting of an e-mail “ding”. I learned to type on an old Underwood with keys so heavy that I never had to work out with weights; I just typed. Now I sit at my Chinese made flat screen flipping words into the internet black hole as if that really mattered to anyone but myself. We have advanced so far so fast that we are now behind where we started.
I like all the tricycles plying about the streets of my home town. I know a bunch of the peddlers personally, for they worked for a time building my home. They pedal for pesos between construction jobs. It is hard to say that they are more backward than all those Harvard trained stock brokers in starched shirts laboring at their computer screens to find every informational advantage that the common sucker does not have access to. Sweat is at least honest.
Oh, people moan about how Filipinos have raped the land and chopped down all the trees, but that is just evolution. I read that pine trees in America are actually a recent phenomenon. They have not been there “always”. Plants move in and out as God repaints every few millennia. I figure Filipinos are just one of His brushes, and so we have mountains with coconut trees and coffee plants instead of jungle trees and vines. So they slide down into the sea now and then, mixing some of God’s creatures into the mud, washing them to Indonesia. We all gotta go sometime, and why pay money to ride Raging Rapids at Knotts Berry Farm? This notion that we have to pay $500 for a jolly family day at Disneyland is backward to me. It is more honest to go to the beach and watch the naked boys doing backflips into the surf.
So I guess I agree with Neut. Bring on the dinosaurs.
As for all those dogs on the National Highway? I just pretend I am in the 50’s in some musty corner of the bowling alley, working the pinball machine. Instead of flippers, I wield a 3,000 pound chunk of metal. Instead of bumpers that light up, there are tricycle drivers that shout “eeek” and head for the rice field as I barrel toward them doing 110 KPH. Maybe it is more like Donkey Kong, now that I think about it. Indeed, I am going to start putting decals on my car for all the livestock I’ve slaughtered here with my vehicle. One dog, two chickens, three hats, a bird, three tricycle handlebars, one flower pot, and 783 million mosquitoes.
Backward is perception. Living real is truth.