The 2016 Olympic Games: An example of the apotheosis of hysteria

August 31, 2016

Immanuel Kant

The coverage of Team GB’s successes in the 2016 Olympics makes a fascinating case example of a cultural shift from the legendary British stiff upper lip to an embrace of emotional reactions to change. It may also help understand the persistence of charismatic leaders and their unconditional acceptance by cult-like followers

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Bolivia’s cholitas take an elegant step forward against discrimination

March 19, 2014

Cholitas of BoliviaBolivia’s indigenous cholitas are overcoming the worse excesses of discrimination

Indigenous people are victims of deliberate discrimination around the world. Some respite is earned as a modicum of economic wealth and cultural change occurs.

One such story from Bolivia is recounted in a BBC documentary [february 2014].

With their high bowler hats, puffed skirts and coquettish demeanour, they may look like they have stepped out of an early 20th century television costume drama, but cholas – or as they are affectionately known, cholitas – are very much a driving force in modern Bolivia.

Until recent decades, these indigenous Aymara and Quechua women – who can be easily identified by their distinctive, elegant outfits – could be refused entry to certain restaurants, taxis and even some public buses.
For generations, they were not permitted to walk freely in the capital La Paz’s central square, Plaza Murillo – home to the presidential palace – nor in wealthy suburbs like the city’s Zona Sur. Predominantly rural peasants who had migrated to the cities, they were seen as a lower strata who stayed in the home, or worked as servants or hawkers.

“They used to say, ‘chola, no no!” when we tried to go to those places,” says Carmen Mamani de Espejo, who sells flowers every Saturday at La Paz’s Rodriguez Market. “Now it’s much better for cholitas. We have more confidence now, we can walk where we like.”

After Evo

The culture change in Bolivia has accelerated since 2005 with the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous President. Leading the change are the traditionally dressed women now acquiring the cool status of the fashion designer’s models. Interestingly the culture change seems, according to the BBC, primarily through the women who are more regularly to be seen in the up market area of La Paz where they were once excluded, cruelly barred, on racial grounds.

now they are stepping out making a political as well as cultural statement. Interestingly, the style has not spread to their male consorts who cling to their Western style suits.

the cool dudes from the Congo in a recent Guinness advert. gentlemen-of-bacongo-5[1]

Remember the sapeurs?

A gender reversal, but other ways with echoes of the fashion statement made by the sapeurs.

More images

You can see more images of Cholitas in this Fox News item

Guy Fawkes Wrecked my Dinner

November 6, 2009

Foggy Woodford after Guy Fawkes Night

Dinner was nearly wrecked last night [Nov 5th 2009]. I set off to get an essential missing ingredient from The Bottle Shop in downtown Woodford. Shock horror. Traffic was at a complete standstill. In Woodford. At eight o clock in the evening. Unprecedented

What had happened was a community firework display which had brought families out in numbers that had exceeded expectations. Our one main road could not take the sheer weight of traffic. Eventually I did a Uie and returned home much later with requisite provisions.

Grumpy Old Rant

So why was I cursing Guy Fawkes for wrecking my dinner? In defence of my aging childishness, here’s the explanation. The firework display was, as most readers will have guessed, to celebrate the foiling of the plot to blow up Parliament by that national hero villain Guy Fawkes, many years ago. No Guy Fawkes, no fireworks in Woodford. Simples. It’s all that guy’s fault.

A more rational explanation

But there is a less petulant thought emerging from this grumpy old rant. I set off noting to my surprise that there was far less evidence of individual little celebrations. No fireworks going off, lighting the sky from streets and gardens. Why was that? It seemed the unexpected quiet had been noted from Waikiti to Woodford. Yes, half a globe away New Zealand had reported the quietest Guy Fawkes night in years.

The obvious idea is that there just isn’t as much money around to spend on fireworks. But that alone doesn’t quite stack up. When times are tough there is often a special effort to hold on to a much-loved ritual (let’s see what happens to incidence of drunk-driving accidents over Christmas). The other idea is that Halloween is replacing bonfire night as a marketing opportunity in the UK anyway. That may have been strengthened by public awareness that being tricked or treated is a lot less dangerous and disruptive that having half the nation’s young people tooled up and ready to let off improvised explosive devices where they cause the most inconvenience. Parents, shop-keepers, marketing executives find common cause in the switch.

So there we have it. A neat economic explanation of why there were people other than Guy Fawkes contributing to my delayed dinner.

The Morning After

Some things don’t change. The morning after Guy Fawkes night is usually foggy and damp. It was fog as usual in Woodford, as the photograph shows.