We had delectable seasoned lamb in sensual roasted chili sauce, pillowy onion rice, and cactus nectar, with a pound cake made of creamy ground nuts. Fresh flowers, and plenty of heated conversation and skipping topics. Cesar and Marcos sang their favorite French ballads, wondering aloud about what it is about the Industrialized World that I loved. I learned another dimension about the Southern Mexican artisan and indigenous culture.

The intellectual debate over dinner and dessert showcased one aspect of how the philosophy of Chiapas is in general: I remained with the impression that no matter what perverse behaviors or unproductive habits continually plagued the poor, there was always going to be plenty of idealist defenders—especially idealist Western academics—who made them out to be innocent victims of circumstance. That the indigenous should preserve their “traditions”, even if they were the root cause of the poverty, malnutrition, low life expectancy, violence, and death. The other impression is the sense that their entitlement to “human justice” means that the richer “have’s” somehow has a moral obligation to help them fix these problems of poverty for them (because otherwise there’s inequality, see?) but the poor should be left alone to celebrate their ancient customs and live without contributing goods or services back to the outside world… except in the preservation of the traditional ‘who-they-are’ as a cultural specimen. This responsibility imbalance gets me irked sometimes. In plain words, they argue the very poor should have access to the best medicines and equipment that the industrialized societies has to offer (reason: of course it’s inhumane to deny people of proper vaccines, roads or information) but the First World should back off and quit trying to tell them to be more efficient or adopt international ethics and habits.

Odd. The Mexican socialist philosophy seemed to interpret things very differently than I do: immediately criticizing the rich of sequestering information and money, that this country’s economic inequality makes ten percent of the population own everything while the rest of the nation is mired in the conditions of fifty years ago. That phenomenon might be true, but I disagreed, because in the past centuries almost 99.99% of the population were living under in peasant conditions with a few noblemen who didn’t even have the comforts of what the lower-middle class of today have, whereas now the inequity is a result of an increasing segment of the population becoming more prosperous. Would we rather have the “equality” of Sudan, where nearly everyone is destitute? Surely peering into this inequality, we’re actually moving toward a trend where more and more percentage of the population are reaching a comfortable living due to technology, efficacies, and international trade, albeit reaching it at different paces.

Mentioning this launched an argument against industrialization. My dinner companions and many Mexican-Mayans were convinced that factory conditions were always inferior to true artisan work, and handmade organic was always better than standardized mass-produced… that character and individuality were paramount in products. They were proponents of artistic expression and considering the maker’s own input into each thing, which justifies the much higher cost. (Note: from consumer standpoint, living in San Cristobal’s artisan circles is much more expensive than buying products in bulk quantities in suburban USA)

*Sigh* That’s considering that the artisan is a conscientious being that infuses his/her input into the final product…but from what I had seen in real application, this was not always the case. What was often called artisan work was only called such because the production was very slow and imperfect, but not due to the handmade element that lent character to it. Most artisan production seemed more like a very medieval factory.

I had written a very long journal about my deeper thoughts on this matter, about how I felt this was unfair, and how I perceive beauty in industrial machinery and also in the imperfection of artisan works for aesthetic and sensorial appreciation. (Because… not all industrialized processes are drone, unchallenging and unhealthy to the line worker’s satisfaction in life, and many artisan work conditions here have been more dull and repetitive than factories I’ve worked in. Industrialization has given us all wonderful things for cheap prices. And for what it’s worth, while I appreciate quirks and character in chocolate and clothing, I wouldn’t like a handmade Macbook Pro, or organic brakes and suspension system on my car, indeed or artisan Coca-cola. Precision and standardization has a role.) But I’m not quite prepared to post my thoughts here until I’ve considered it some more.

As for me, although I am enamored by the artisan life here in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, originally I came from a more industrial background and experience. Achieving efficacy, organization, and better performance is something I treasure as a universal human trait. However, the literature that most fascinates me seem underappreciated and absolutely ignored—often vehemently rejected—in Chiapas, even among the intelligensia and worldly sophisticates. But still, I honestly believe if they could open their minds to these ideas it could be immediately applicable:

Organizational Health and Prosperity

Individual Articles That Have Influenced Me

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” — Samuel Johnson

a course on how to make organic paper


Martina McBride – Anyway

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing…
One storm can come and blow it all away. Build it anyway
You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach…
And you know it might not ever come your way. Dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good.
And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway. Yeah, I do it anyway

This worlds gone crazy and it’s hard to believe…
That tomorrow will be better than today. Believe it anyway.
You can love someone with all your heart for all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away. Love ’em anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good.
And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway. Yeah, I do it anyway.

You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in..
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang. Sing it anyway.
Yeah, sing it anyway.
Yeah I sing, I dream, I love…anyway.

Spanish Words of the Day:abetos” fir trees | “abedules” birch trees | “cingaro” gypsy | “hilera” row, line | “escudriñar” scrutinize, scan, examine | “macarrónico” to have atrocious or awful taste