Friday, December 31, 2010

A View from the Andes

Another delightful posting by the Internet's foremost curmudgeon, the 65-year old Marine Corps combat veteran, freelance journalist, and American expat globetrotter, Fred Reed.

Fred's observations are, shall we say, piquant, fresh, caustic, and uproariously funny. Sometimes they are a little raw (reader discretion is advised) - but they are laced with common sense wisdom, cultural wit, and impish wordsmithery. 

Fred's latest offering is a look at American culture from the perspective of an American living abroad who is walking the streets of Cusco, Peru.

Here is a teaser:
As almost everywhere south of the Rio Bravo, the church dominates the plaza, huge and solid, lasting, Catholicism being a universal language as much as Spanish, a glue uniting the continent and north to Texas. In every town and city and country, the Mass is the same, the symbolism, the saints, the sign of the cross.  The Church is an imposing thing, old, very old, passing from the world perhaps in Europe but alive here. While the liturgy is the same, the style, the flavor and ornamentation of churches are idiosyncratic. Before the Industrial Revolution, the world was not designed at corporate.

There is a universality about the old sections of Latin towns, both geographic and temporal, in their narrow and winding streets, their arcades and fountains. Cusco is nothing special as towns go. For most of time most of the world has lived thus, with a certain chaotic anarchism of architecture and layout. It isn’t particularly Christian. You find the same walkable and unplanned streets in old Jerusalem, Taibei, Istanbul, Delhi, Katmandu. The new parts are of steel and glass and Toyota dealerships. I do not think it a good idea.

Cusco is the world until recently. There is nothing of Houston here. No towering indistinguishable office blocks or great roaring highways uncrossable by humans, no gray sprawling expanses of outlying parking lots and identical malls. America is not the only manifiestation, but it is the progenitor, a land without a past, a present it doesn’t like, and no faint idea how to arrange a livable future. But it is what the world will be. The United States has usually gotten first to what is coming, for better or worse....

As people today pop Prozac and drive along crawling freeways to bacteria-free developments with neighbors they have never met, they can thank God that they do not live in a primitive town with lovely fountains and the familiarity of years. How we progress.

That's Fred for you.  Fun, fascinating food for thought.  And free.  But you can pay if you want to.  If there is any blogger worth tossing a few pesos to, it's Fred.

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