The reviews are worth reading on this one over at Amazon
You know, “American” would be a better description than “White”. If she was black or hispanic it would be no better. (Speaking as someone who isn’t from the US.)
Wow. I just… wow. The level of self-entitlement and imperialist privileged mind set of this whole thing is astounding.
The sickening part is how she decided she would be a “warrior princess” - a whim based on a fake sounding conversation with a guy named Winston. She then spent lots and lots of money on personal trainers instead of working to get in shape for this, and then spent lots and lots of money finding a different chief agree (Winston said no based on what I’ve heard in interviews) to take her on a shortened not really real right of passage where she killed a couple animals over a summer.
It’s quite obvious that this lady is clueless and comes from affluence, and her trying to force the story line that the women of the tribe asked her to do this is terrible.
Also, her website says that 25% of the profits are going to preserve maasai culture under the lovely heding of “Your purchase empowers”.
Warrior Princess: The Maasai-ah Complex.
Budgor of Arabia.
I think the fact that she’s a white American is very relevant. ‘Hispanic’ is an ethnic not racial descriptor (you can be a white or black or brown person and be Hispanic), so it wouldn’t really be descriptive or useful at all, and obviously a black American doing something similar would be coming from a very different place, in terms of colonial history and inherited privilege - even if it were still deeply problematic, it would be problematic in a very different way.
That’s an insult to T. E. Lawrence.
Lawrence wasn’t some entitled white guy out to find meaning in life by trying to “save” other peoples and cultures, he was a bastard son who left England to pursue a career of archaeology in the Middle East and ended up being liason to the local Arabs revolting against the Ottomans for their independence during the first World War.
The Ottomans were conquerors, foreign invaders, who had even worked to stamp out the Arabic language and culture. Lawrence wasn’t some bored idiot trying to save a people who didn’t want or need saving, he was an educated, knowledgeable, philosophical man who fought side by side with freedom fighters seeking their own autonomy and self determination - even if that just so happened to be of benefit to Great Britain at the time.
Most of our modern image of Lawrence comes from the highly stylized 1962 film about him and the sensationalist reporting of Lowell Thomas, who turned Lawrence into a piece of imperial propaganda to help fuel the fires of war. But Lawrence himself had a profound respect for the Arabs aside from his own nationalistic or patriotic beliefs as a son of Britain. By all accounts, the respect seems to have been mutual.
And you would be American?
If you seriously believe that, you’re almost certainly white yourself.
Reminds me of http://www.amazon.com/Going-Native-Naive-Shamanism-Neo-Noble/dp/0761824952 , I guess appropriating US native cultures through becoming a “neoshaman” isn’t hip enough anymore.
Buying yourself an “authentic” culture is loathsome, these people make me long for the slightly more sincere cultural tourism of hipsterdon.
Oh, I’ve loved Lawrence since seeing the film as a boy, and much more having read about him, my interest sparked by the film. I don’t see his white savior and colonialist issues as separate from his sincere interest in and love of the cultures he visited: indeed, as with many of the more interesting British imperialists, a great number of whom were incredibly “educated, knowledgeable, philosophical” people–one thinks of Burton, Bell, Thesiger–they went hand in hand. Throughout Seven Pillars of Wisdom he emphasizes his desire that the Arabs win freedom as much as possible on their own terms and without British or his help. Of course, that’s not what happened: and his sincerity aside, as you admit, his work was wonderfully useful to the empire.
To me it’s not so much how inherently good or wise or whatever one is, whether one is a Lawrence or a Budgor. It’s more about how patterns of interpreting other cultures that were laid down centuries, if not millennia, ago, continue to influence cultural attitudes today, right now, this minute. And, of course (and this is the Boinger element), the incredibly silly and venal and derptastic permutations these attitudes can take in contemporary culture, and how this relates to our consumption of the same via digital technologies, etc. Said’s concept of Orientalism is a helpful lens to view both figures, in my opinion.
Also, a jokey photoshop isn’t necessarily a comment on a historical individual’s complexities, over which reasonable intelligent folks can disagree widely (as we seem to regarding Lawrence the Orientalist). As you say, Lean’s film helped to popularize (and maybe polarize) the white savior/colonialist issues already present in Lawrence’s life and career: it seems fair to use the image and its life in the culture to make a joke about a historical figure (herself rapidly becoming legend) who raises, in wonderfully Bizarro-world ways, similar issues to Lawrence–cultural imperialism, appropriation, sensitivity, etc.
So LOL no insult.
I guess even Masai tribe (at least one of many that eventually decided to do it) could sell her a bit of a ritual for whatever they bought with the money. After all, while it is a hassle, they don’t lose anything here.
I don’t know about “privileges”, but she has to be extremely ignorant. Even the photos alone pretty much bury her “great experience”. What are those clothes, jewelry or make up? It’s obvious she’s just playing out her fantasy, but she’s not even doing it right. Someone should drop her at a village where they’ve got an agreement and leave. Let her stay there for a month just acting as much like a regular Masai as possible, than do the rite, than go home. Put some effort into this and most importantly lose the life-line to home for a while (no phone, no camera man, no tent etc). This still wouldn’t make her a warrior let alone warrior princess, but would be at least act out the dream.
Did you mean “American and white”, which is what Americans mostly mean when they say “white”?
Why would being American black make any noticable difference to those outside of the US? She’d still have American privilege. I mean, clearly, it would make a big difference to Americans, because they take “American” as read and ignore it.
Except that one must make certain allowances for the times. Lawrence lived and fought literally a century ago. Given the world he lived in, the values he grew up with, and the understanding of the world that existed at that time, he’s actually remarkably progressive compared to his contemporaries.
Now fast forward a hundred years. We’re not at the height of Nationalism and Imperialism any more. We’ve not only had the horrors of the First World War to deprive us of blind zealotry, but also those of the Second World War, all the smaller wars since, and even the Cold War. We’ve advanced in science, technology, government, economics, everything. Our basic understanding of the world is vastly different. We’re becoming Globalized, we have instantaneous trans-continental communication and cultural exchange. Everything has changed.
Consequently, Budgor’s actions of today can hardly be excused by the systemic ignorance or narrow-mindedness of the past. At least in the early 1900s, we could admit that most people didn’t have access to alternative modes of thinking - you can hardly blame someone for believing something if it is essentially the only viewpoint they’ve ever been exposed to. But in today’s America, alternative viewpoints are everywhere, and they’re relatively easy to seek out. Really, there’s not much excuse for this sort of thinking or behavior any longer, except willful ignorance, purposeful self-delusion, or a desperate clinging to the past.
Was Lawrence’s world view and personal philosophy flawed from our modern viewpoint? Certainly, but at least he has the defense that he was brought up into a world where that was the predominant mode of thinking. Budgor wasn’t, and what’s worse, she also lacks the circumstances and personal qualities that make Lawrence such a captivating, fascinating, and likeable figure despite his flaws. Budgor isn’t a scholar turned soldier fighting for the freedom of an entire people from tryanical oppressors, she’s a wistless gobshite taking on the trappings of another culture purely to amuse herself. On those grounds alone, it is insulting to compare Lawrence to her and her ennui inspired stunt.
You can take our gringo trail, you can sell us your ‘authentic cultural experiences’, but you will never take our ability to assume our own superiority!
I think I was on my second ‘backpacking’ trip of self discovery when I realized what any reasonably self-aware privileged westerner must find with a modicum of thought. Basically, stop being a douche and treating all of these countries and people like a backdrop for your own ‘personal development’. Watching a privileged American (or German, or Canadian, or British, or whatever) asshole haggle with a poor cab driver in Guatemala over the equivalent of 25 cents is like a slap in the face, once you start paying attention.
It is still possible to travel and appreciate the incredible diversity and awesomeness of our world. But doing it right means more effort and less privilege, and most of us lack the capacity (I may include myself in that category).
No, I meant specifically white, and not necessarily American; possibly British, for instance. When you say that ‘most Americans’ mean white when they say American, you should actually be saying “most white Americans,” because PoCs are not so likely to do that. We know we’re American too; it’s white people that forget.
Obviously a person of color in the same situation would still have some American privilege; but it’s very different to be black and exploring the culture of what might be your own history, and one more white person stomping around another culture for some fleeting personal enlightenment. The narrative is simply a lot weightier when it’s a sort of echo of colonialism and invasion.
No, I mean that when Americans say white, they mean “American white”, and black is “American black”. The whole “American” thing is pretty shared, but they tend to miss that: there’s more culture in common between American whites and blacks than there is between American and European “whites”, in my experience. Obviously differences too, but they’re not as large as you think.