Sitting in the Plaza de Armas of Carhuaz, a small town of some 3,000
inhabitants, almost all Native Americans, one is struck by the contrasts
of cultures and world-views. It is not quite a Clash of Civilizations,
except as the last echoing aftermath of the Indian wars of the previous
500 years. But it is one of the interfaces between emerging, all
encompassing Global Economy and Culture, and something much older, more
mature, and as different as living on another planet.
Sometimes it can be incredibly impressive to see how many of the accoutrements
of the Global culture are available in this tiny town on the absolute
periphery of Globalization. For example, we are posting this from a cybercafe
right on the colonial plaza. Within a few blocks one can purchase Brittany
Spears CDs, knockoff VCD’s.of recent Hollywood blockbusters not even out
on DVD yet in the states, newspapers, lottery tickets, Purina dog food,
barbed wire, wine, whiskey and beer, Ramen noodles, bicycles, disposable
batteries, a dozen brands of cigarettes, imitation Bic lighters, ketchup,
Nikes, Coca-Cola, automatic drip coffee machines, and telephone calling
You can find all of the major medications; antibiotics, analgesics,
tranquilizers, antipyretics, ointments, syrups and salves. You
can get your hair cut, dyed and permed, call or send a package anywhere
in the world. It is really a tiny miniature node of western civilization.
None of these products or services or habits are available to the Indians
living in villages or isolated groups of farms further up the mountains.
But this same ubiquity of fashion, this deep penetration of concepts,
memes and paradigms, can at times seem depressing, even deadly. As the
local population is sucked into the sights and sounds and sensations
of the Global Culture, mesmerized by cheap knockoffs and flashing Christmas
tree lights, we can’t help but feel that something important, even essential
and irreplaceable, is being lost in the process.
People are in danger of forgetting that life is possible, even in some
ways advantageous, without capitalism, consumerism and a hyper-stimulated
We keep seeing a re-run of the same New World-Old World story that has
been playing out on this continent for the past 500 years. The
actors change, and the scenery and staging, but the story line is repeated
over and over. Is it the inevitable march of Progress, or are we watching
the terminal phases of an insidious virus that has finally managed to infect
the furthest reaches of the collective consciousness of the human race.
Time will tell…