That’s what the billboard said in Manila. And it’s true. In Taipei. In Hong Kong, In Singapore. In Shanghai. In Manila. Well, just about everywhere. Homogenity rules. The same stores, the same restaurants, the same pumped-in music, the same billboards. What was once local passion— the folks plying their craft, the vendors singing out their wares, the street food sellers, the street musicians, the street itself— has given way to global fashion —designer clothes, pouty lips, curved hips, Self, Self, Self in an electronic reflecting pool that would make Narcissus feel ashamed. It’s comfortable, familiar, comforting in a weird way, safe, clean— and wrong!
The nooks and crannies and curves and wriggles of this precious planet are all being steamrolled under to one brightly lit homogenous Flatland. The nesting birds displaced for Gucci, the wildlife evicted for models strutting down runways, the cluttered planet made more muddled by stuff, stuff and more stuff, sent out in designer shopping bags or stuffed in the suitcases of the tourists wheeling away their purchases in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong. The Soul headed out for the hills away from the blaring lights and disco beat— if any hills can still be found. People asleep to the soul’s needs are fueled by desire pumped up by ads and they’ve done their work well— we are none of us whole or complete without this product or that and when the purchase doesn’t heal the gnawing emptiness, why, it’s time to go shopping again!
In my tiny music class, I advocate for character, uniqueness, self-expression that touches far beyond Self. Why bother when all the students will leave class and go to the Mall? (And the teachers too!)
I invite the students to locate their passion, but not a simple task when it’s blown away by global fashion. We’re suckers for the Super Bowl— hell, even Bob Dylan is selling Chevrolets between plays!—and lost touch with the neighborhood pick-up game. We love the glamour of the Oscars and are missing the beauty of the school play. Rome reveled in spectacles and look what happened to that Empire! I just have to wonder—when the entire planet is one contiguous spectacle, electronically inflated and amplified, where will it fall? And who will be left to pick up the thread of human culture?