25 May, 2007

London's TRAFALGAR SQUARE is the New Wimbledon: Please Step on the Grass

Turf’s up! London’s Trafalgar Square goes green. Pip pip!

I can’t help noting the cultural assumptions and double standards lurking behind London’s publicity stunt of carpeting Trafalgar Square with 2000 square metres of lawn-grass. No wonder poorer countries feel resentment against the West for such wasteful profligacy and flippancy. Am I just being a ‘goody-two-shoes’ party-pooper? Read on…

Yeah, the London city Council cheerfully admits that it’s a thinly-disguised tourism promo. That doesn’t change my argument, but in fact adds fuel to it. Could the same stunt ever happen in Nairobi, Dhaka, or Addis Ababa? Who would supply the $$ and resources? It points up yet again the widening discrepancy between Rich and Poor due to Globalisation, but western readers of newspapers probably just chuckle at the “Eton schoolboy” humour and flip to the Comics page without a moment's deeper thought. They're not sensitive to the fact that poorer countries have to prioritise spending away from tourism and watering unnecessary lawns, and into basic infrastructure like drinkable water, electricity for lighting, and malaria prevention.

But some more aware folks do retain a grip on the grim reality of England’s (and America's and Australia's) hypocritical and uncaring stance on Neo-Colonialism, Globalisation, eg, this act of defiance by members of FunkyPix2 in London:

A 'pre-lawn' photo of blood-stained Trafalgar Fountain after a demonstration against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. England is still fighting wars in order to increase its wealth at the expense of poorer countries. Globalization is merely the freedom to move Capital around the planet in order to maximize company profits. You didn't imagine Bush actually meant Freedom for people, did you?
Our western priveliged lifestyles admit of luxuries like recreation time, holidays-on-full-pay, welfare safety-nets, maternity leave, and sickness benefits. People in poorer countries don’t know what these things even mean. I recall grounds and cleaning staff at an English Language school in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) being utterly confused when told they had holidays for 3 weeks - on full pay. They thought it was a trick to sack them, and all faithfully turned up the next day with their hair brushed carefully.

“Village London”, as the Trafalgrass event is being labeled, has placed deck-chairs on the newly-watered lawns so people can relax and have picnics. That in itself is not intrinsically a bad thing, as long as we remind ourselves of our enormously privileged advantages which make possible these fun little parlour games in the first place. Millions of poor people must gape in envy that we have sufficient spare water to sprinkle on grass which cows will never graze!

(I wonder if there are Kurdish words for “picnic” or “lawn-watering”).

On BBC World or CNN, we beam images of our wealth onto screens throughout the Third World, shamelessly flaunting our advantage, rubbing it in their faces. They are force-fed our grief during nauseating annual 911 memorial services... but who among us ever gets to experience their grief, their lost children? We've already forgotten the Israeli bulldozer massacres of Palestinians at Jenin refugee camp because there are no ghastly images on our 40" plasma TVs. If these are available, they're suppressed by Big Brother George because we westerners don't like to look at crushed bloodied bodies - we're "civilised", remember? A Convenient Untruth.

…and as usual, FunkyPix2 presents a wheely idiosyncwatic option to the Twafalgar stunt - the Pwe-emptive Porta-lawn:

( How the heck do you calculate the carbon-footprint for this?)

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