Never underestimate the delights of local ignorance [pt.1]

Much is made, for the sake of marketing and clever advertising campaigns, of the power of local knowledge. The billboards exclaim that one should «Never underestimate local knowledge» and then make some inane bi-lingual pun that would have the locally ignorant business exec look as though he just farted in the middle of a PowerPointation . Local knowledge, all hail, even if that simply means accessing it via the latest iPhone app or hiring a corporate anthropologist to give you the run-down on the local (business) culture of her or his expertise [phony e.g. Due to the emic cultural priority of harmony and face-keeping, as well as ancient Confucian socio-ethical codex, addressing actuarial or other business-relevant items within the initial 180 minutes of first contact is considered a significant taboo violation and might result in severe sanctions, possibly even of an economic nature…there would be several high-volume calls with the corporate anthropologist as to exactly what-the-fuck this means].

Equipped with one or two bullet-pointed pages of Do’s and Don’ts the jet-setting marketing whizz confidently strides into the Far Eastern or Sub Saharan or Western or Middle Eastern or South American or TAZ[1]-ed  conference room, ready to smoothly slalom around the solecisms particular to that time zone and latitude. Or so s/he imagines, all the while thousands of indigenous points of micro-social protocol are getting bum-raped, the native business folks tugging at their much-too-tight ties, struggling to keep their belly-whopping laughs down. Indeed, do not underestimate the power of local knowledge!

However, as anybody who has spent more than a couple of months on this rock knows, the relevant factor is rarely knowledge and much more frequently ignorance, the supposedly blissful absence of knowledge. Dave Graeber [go ahead, read it] has some interesting things to say about this topic but we’ll just sample one

“[…] opens the way to a theory of the relation of power not with knowledge, but with IGNORANCE and stupidity. Because violence, particularly structural violence, where all the power is on one side, creates ignorance. If you have the power to hit people over the head whenever you want, you don’t have to trouble yourself too much figuring out what they think is going on, and therefore, generally speaking, you don’t.”

So he shows the link between ignorance and violence, a thesis, which it is not hard to agree with. Just the same as it is not difficult to see the benefits about being informed on the local ways, customs, etiquette, etc.

But certainly there must be in the richness of reality, room for some other approaches to knowledge and ignorance. Before you curse and stop reading, thinking that some philosophical treatise lies ahead, stop, NO, that is not what this is. I am just making the point that bits of beauty can be found in local ignorance.

This minor insight comes courtesy of, drum roll – TRRRRMPMP TRRRRRRRRRRRRMPMP TRRRRRRRRRRRRRMPMP, BUUBUUBUUDUUU BUBUBUBUBU BUUBUUDUUU the Internet! More specifically the Blogosphere. I had been pathetically reading my own blog when I decided to go a’venturing outwards and see what other people had to write about «Lake Lucerne». To little surprise I landed on the blog of a U.S. of American tourist who had bounced up and down the city’s cobbled streets for 36h and now was giving his com-patriots the run-down of how to cost-benefit, mini-max the living day&night-lights out of such a brief spell in the city of lights. I mentally prepped for a shitstorm of clichés but instead found myself pleasantly surprised, actually amused.

Two things stuck: that «the indigenous populace» [say my family, friends and I] believe that there is a friendly dragon making his secret lair somewhere around the peak of Mount Pilatus and that his breath is the cause of fire-expectoratingly red sunsets blazing from behind the summit [no volcanic involvement, just a lindwurm]. I have been vaguely aware of a medieval myth relating a dragon to the mountain but I am unaware of anybody who takes it to be the truth and nothing but the truth. Though I imagine that it would be soothing at the archetypal core of my inner life to be undecided about the matter, now and then resolving in my heart of hearts that I will undertake a lonely, perilous journey to find the fire-breather and become friends with it [as has been done by many a whippersnapper, in legion awful movies ]. The dragon-circling-Mount-Pilatus image might be lodged before my mental eye for some time to come.

The crude sub-point of this is that my ignorance about local folklore was a benefit as it let me reconsider an everyday point of reference, majestic but taken-for-granted, from a new or forgotten or Other standpoint. It is a matter of conviction for me to try and [as it is often expressed] keep a «fresh eye» but this tortured act of baggage-free visualization of one’s daily habitat often deteriorates into mental gymnastics: I’ll end up projecting something from a book or a highfaluting anthropological treatise onto the familiar sights and sounds and see if something new is shat out. Listening to or reading what experiences other people have made in one’s urban/national backyard is a much easier, often more social way of getting over one’s own played-out eyeballs .

But burrowing its way even deeper into my cosmos of ideas and daydreams was what Tourist X had to report about his culinary explorations.



[1] Temporary Autonomous Zone [an anarchist practice]


About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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