Friday, June 02, 2006

Photos coming soon

I have added text to yesterday's posting and I tried to add the photos but Blogger is messing with me again. Check in this evening, I'll try it again.


At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll start by saying that I normally
enjoy your blog a lot. The subjects
are interesting, the pictures are
great, and the horses in NW are
awesome. But I think some of your
latest stuff is a bit questionable.
I was disturbed you even mentioned
the Chiapas broom-seller's
reluctance to have her kids
photographed, let alone offerred
your own opinion on this.
Especially since "she'd never see"
what has been said, her dignity
should have been protected. But it
seems the almighty dollar still buys
an awful lot in Mexico, not least
this ironic display of gringo
condescension in a blog about
cultural sensitivity! You're right
of course that we're not all the
same and that this is an important
message. But we're not all colorful
specimens for sale, either, and
north americans, more than most
need to get that message too.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger kate gawf said...

Thanks for writing in! I appreciate your response, but I’m afraid I don’t follow you. You say you’re disturbed that I “even mentioned the Chiapas broom-seller's reluctance to have her kids photographed, let alone offered your [my] own opinion on this.”
Well …. I am a writer, which means I write about things. And I’m a thinker, which means I think about things. I feel that you are viewing me as a crass spectator while in fact I made it a point to make a genuine connection with her. Apparently that didn’t come through for you in my blog entry.

I did ask permission to photograph her kids rather than just start clicking away as if they were there to be photographed. I then respected her wish that I not photograph them. I’m not sure whether you’re displeased that I took any picture at all, or that I gave her money for it.

As for your comment that “we're not all colorful specimens for sale,” I didn’t even take any picture of her. I was mainly interested in her cart. Should I not have photographed that?

Ordinarily I would have asked her permission even to take a picture of her cart, as I did when I photographed the weaver’s cart. He was completely fine with it, by the way, and I didn’t feel it was necessary to offer him money because I bought some of his merchandise. I didn’t at first see the owner of the broom cart, so I went ahead and took the picture. Then I offered her money as a way of thanking her for providing me with the photo op. Is that what you find objectionable? (What does anybody else think? readers?) She sits there all day and someone approaches and she thinks she’s got a customer and then she’s probably disappointed if all the person wants is to snap photos. She’s there to make money. I would’ve gladly bought a broom if I’d needed one.

As for “the Almighty dollar” you mention, even the poorest people know that it’s the most stable currency in the world and that it’ll hold its value long enough to get to the bank and exchange it. That’s what I meant when I said people don’t mind getting them. As for the US’s role in the world economy, I have enough concerns about that to fuel another whole blog.

What would you have done in my place? I’d love to hear other readers’ opinions as well, especially those of my Mexican readers.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Griping Anonymous again ... Yes, all your points are well taken. And yes, I
exonerate you of major crassness (which I should have made more obvious -- sorry -- perhaps saving you some time and possibly blood pressure). But I've been struggling for the last hour trying to figure out what did in fact stick in my throat in the original post. (You should take this as a tribute to your writing, by the way. The average blog doesn't invite you to chew on its contents to any extent, let alone swallow: on the contrary. I hope this is obvious.) I think what it comes down to is that what you bought with your greenback was her mind, or at least her freedom to speak for herself. (If she doesn't want the world to see her kids in the dirt, you shouldn't be telling the world that. You shouldn't be using her reluctance to illustrate a narrative on cultural sensitivity. Your words then belie their meaning. Epimenides rulz! Us deconstrukshun sharkz notiz thingz like thiz.) Now, hold on to that blood pressure and let me amplify.

I think this was certainly inadvertant, and, the more I think of it, may even be a function of the medium. What did you do? You took a small incident involving another person casually met and used it as a bridge to more general reflections about the world, bringing to it your own experience in various cultures. On the face of it all quite in order and in the venerable traditions of journal writing. Yet something hit a wrong note (at least with me) and that's where the medium may come in. In a novel, or even a published journal, the subjects are possibly far away and certainly long ago. Even something as ephemeral as a magazine interview is decently framed. But a blog is by definition casual, for everyone, here and now ... except, evidently, the Poor Person From Chiapas, who gets diminished in consequence to the status of a specimen. We can see her, but she will never see herself in this way, and therefore, us. All too one-sided. Now you're undoubtedly sprinting to the keyboard to tell me that this is inherent in all writing, to a greater or lesser extent, and you're right. But the transaction is usually more decently hidden than it was here. Which is interesting. Maybe blogging, hype apart, really is something new and global internet access, which I've always thought was a sales ploy by Microsoft and I***l (hush! we are in Po****nd after all), really is important.

Enough. I don't mean to hog the blog. You're obviously a busy person and Blogspot already takes up enough of your time fighting with the pictures. Looking forward to the pictures soon, and more input. Keep it coming.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger kate gawf said...

No, that’s not it. I know I didn’t buy her mind because she still had one when I left, and I haven’t found myself to be in possession of an extra one since I got back. Nor did I rob her of her ability to speak for herself. She spoke for herself quite well telling me not to photograph her kids and will no doubt go on to a full life of saying no, yes, or maybe to hundreds of other people. As for writing about her without her consent, please observe that I didn’t use her name or take her picture, so the chances of anyone identifying her are slim.

I don’t think either of us have figured out what the disturbing element was, but you’ve got me really wondering whether I behaved badly, or if one sole person (you) thinks I did, or if any decent person reading that posting would think I did. Below is a list of some alternative behaviors I could have adopted. Please select which of these would have eliminated all doubt of ethical and culturally sensitive intentions.

I shouldn’t have photographed her cart.
It was ok to photograph the cart but I shouldn’t have given her the dollar.
It was ok to give her the dollar but I shouldn’t have written about her.
It was ok to write about her but I shouldn’t have written about her kids.
It was ok to write about her kids but I shouldn’t have written about giving her the dollar.
It was ok to give her money but I should have given her Mexican pesos.
I shouldn’t have written about my experience of interacting with her at all.
It was ok to write about her but I should have asked her why she didn’t want me to photograph her kids instead of speculating about it after the fact.
I should have then included her opinion of my opinion of the reason she didn’t want me to photograph her kids.
I should have pretended I didn’t wonder why she didn’t want me to photograph her kids.
I should never have gone to Mexico in the first place.

And now, a few questions – to which I don’t know the answers, but if you do, I think it could help us figure this out.

What about my mother?

Did it bother you that I wrote about her dirty kids? Does the fact that I’ve revealed her identity make things better or worse? What if I told you she doesn’t read my blog? What if I told you that she doesn’t know she’s in my blog? Has my mother been diminished to the status of a specimen?

We have to resolve this or all the sociologists of the world are going to be out of a respectable job.

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agreed with anonymous comment writer #1; the blog didn't sit well with me either. What disturbed me was your speculation as to why the mother declined to have her children's photographs taken. It doesn't matter to me why she made this decision. It is enough that she made a decision which you honored.

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Presumptuous, the reasons given felt presumptuous.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger kate gawf said...

Readers who would like to continue following this discussion please note that it picks up on the bottom of the blog posting after this one.


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