This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the category “travel”

Friday Ramblings: The Elitist Edition

The cultural phenomenon of grossly overrating the mediocre never ceases to fascinate me. Some of these are easy targets: Spectator sports. Weddings. Traditional family values. But there are some rather meh people, stories and cultural widgets that have truly achieved the status of sacred cows, and I would like to devote this Friday to tearing some of them down. And so, a random selection from my list of horribly overrated, but actually mediocre, people, events, places and phenomena: Read more…

When Multiculturalism Becomes Bigotry

A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine took a trip to Uzbekistan, a small land-locked country in Central Asia. The people who inhabit it speak a Turkic language, are predominantly Muslim and possess a rich and ancient cultural tradition. In centuries past, their position along the Silk Road and the fertile Fergana Valley made Uzbek khanates rich. It was then that Tamerlane built his gleaming blue-and-gold palaces at Samarkand, and the area became renowned for its scientists, mathematicians, poets and artists. Today, Uzbekistan is a poor country, with a crumbling infrastructure and a low standard of living. And yet, it rewards the traveler intrepid enough to venture into that part of the world with sights of exquisite beauty and ornate ancient cities that represent, I think, the closest anything in the real world comes to resembling the idealized, nostalgic East that we think of when we read the Arabian Nights.

Notwithstanding the splendor of places like Samarkand, Kokand, Bukhara and Khiva, my acquaintance was disappointed. Read more…

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