Thursday, February 8, 2007

Opposing views

Already as I read rickshaw related content on the internet I am finding this a hugely controversial subject. Coming from my western perspective living in an age of global warming and unprecedented environmental destruction I see the rickshaw as a symbol of the way I'd prefer the world. (Slower, quieter, more friendly...) However the rickshaw represents different things to different people. Through it's history it has also been a symbol of colonial power, oppression and a class system that devalued the lives of those who performed any menial, labour intensive work.
In no way would I condone these attitudes and I can understand why Asian countries would want to distance themselves from these images. However as with most things there has also evolved a culture independent of the oppressive exploitation that the vehicle had come to represent.
Rickshaws have also been used to perpetuate Asian stereotypes in western countries and therefore represent some kind of conceptual shackle; stereotypes create limitations and who wants to be limited? But these things are never straight forward and one man's stereotype might to another be his greatest source of cultural pride. There is also lack of cultural understanding or a lack of knowledge of the history of certain symbols. However I believe that history would also show that the meaning of symbols can change or be changed by the will of the people.

I am unqualified and under informed to debate this matter but I can say that I am aware of it's complexity. There was an ongoing debate on the net about the way a Christian organization advertised one of it's events. The following article gives a little of the picture.

I think the use of comedy is always good for turning the tables and satire can sometimes reverse the scorn in seconds. The sketch 'Babakiueria' on the ABC program BASICALLY BLACK is a great example.

From the ABC's 50 years Indigenous TV

NARRATOR: In 'Babakiueria' the move towards satirical comedy was extended further through the complete role reversal within society.

ABORIGINAL MAN: this place?

CAUCASIAN MAN: It's a barbeque area.

ABORIGINAL MAN: Babakiueria? They call this Babakiueria. Nice native name... colourful. I like it.

Of course stereotypes will always be created and used to offend or demean others. The rickshaw is not the cause of injustice it was merely a symbol, maybe it could become a symbol of liberation and freedom. By riding my bike my conscience is released from taking responsibility for many environmental and social problems...

P.S - 5:30 pm

Todays news
IBN Live India New Delhi

Rickshaw tracking sensors and new rickshaw policy

Interesting commentary on Mental Floss

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