Monday, August 9, 2010

Eat Pray Love: the racial historical subtext is Exploit Pillage Loot, where White is the New "Back" and this white male talks about traveling in the Caribbean

photo of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love is from here
White is is the new back. As in "We're baaaaack!"  

There is a new film out starring Julia Roberts, titled after the best-selling book whose author has been a guest on Oprah's talk show. The movie is called Eat Pray Love, and it is based on a U.S. class-privileged heterosexual, slender, light-complected, blond, blue-eyed, white woman's journey through Italy (where she finds delicious food), India (where she finds spiritual riches), and Indonesia (where she finds romantic love). Do you get why the story is so appealing to class-comfortable white Amerikkka yet?

I'm not saying Elizabeth Gilbert is a horrible person. I'm saying her book is well-received because she's a blond, blue-eyed, slender, heterosexual, class-privileged white woman who fits Oprah's audience demographic well, and who the media will love to speak with while heavier and/or dark-skinned women of color and/or lesbians and/or homeless prostitutes will be ignored as not fit to talk to about how they Eat Pray Love. Even though their story is more socially important and in need of hearing than hers could ever be.

The title, if it were to be politically and historically accurate, might just as well be Eat Exploit Pray Pillage Love Loot.

There is a vampiric assumption among white class-privileged U.S. people that the rest of the world is, variously: our backyard; our playground and war (battle) ground; our swimming pool; our diamond mine; our lumberyard; our petrol refueling station; our garbage dump; our marketplace and mall; our international cafe and restaurant; our summer home and winter resort; our sea-shell collection site; our South Pacific and Caribbean get-away paradise; out dating hot spot; our sex club and brothel; our predatory child-, transgender-, and woman-rape is-not-a-crisis centers; and our wage and sex slave trafficking post--actually there are hundreds of international stop-and-shop "trading" locations.

Earlier this year, on a television program called The Bachelor: One The Wings of Love, U.S. white pilot Jake Pavelka proposed marriage to Vienna Girardi. (He was also very interested in the blond, slender, white Ali Fedotowsky, but she gave him up so as not to lose her job, thank goodness. Because she returned as The Bachelorette and met and got engaged to a truly lovely man named Roberto Martinez. Ali is also a wonderful human being and it appears to me that the two of them will be very happy together. As for Jake and Vienna, if you want to see where that romance went in a hurry, see this post.

The locale for the final date for Jake, the "exotic" proposal locale, for the deepening of romantic heterosexual white love, and for the proposal to marry in front of millions of people, was St. Lucia. (For Ali and Roberto it was Bora Bora.) To watch the program, you'd think St. Lucia is a paradise. St. Lucia is geographically stunningly beautiful, and you cannot go there without encountering extreme levels of poverty and exploitation by the West, which has settled on St. Lucia as a regular stop for cruise ships, the CEOs of which will argue that tourism is important to St. Lucia's economy--it's far better for their own personal pocketbooks, to be completely honest here. No one in St. Lucia will get as rich as the CEO of a cruise ship fleet no matter how many ships come to port, no matter how many white folks buy various things for sale there. And if you, do have the decency to buy things, and don't try and get the prices down. If you're on the ship as a passenger, you can afford the stated prices for the goods. Don't skimp. Be generous and courteous. And, for the record, the country's name is pronounced San LOO-sha.

St. Lucia would fare far better a more sustainable local/regional economy, not dependent on the white West for anything at all, especially cruisers taking photos of the gorgeous landscapes if only the depressingly impoverished darkies would get out of the scenery. Throughout the broadcast of the last two or so episodes filmed there, we saw no Black people at all. You would have thought it was an island of well-designed hotels, made for only white people. Down the hillsides that were featured in almost every shot, by the coasts, are shacks where economically poor people live, work, eat, pray, love, and die without you ever hearing about them--or seeing them.

I knew one woman from the island nation who was working on her French degree so that she could teach and give lessons, boosting her own earnings allowing her to better provide for herself and her children; she and they were abandoned by their father. She was working longer hours and working harder than the rich white men I know--with considerably fewer resources, far less assistance, and with no health care. Her beloved father was a French speaker from Martinique and that was part of the appeal of learning the language for her as he had passed on.

But the more practical reason was because the French colonised various islands in the region and left their bloody devastation and lovely language behind, people need to know French in that region, as well as English. With a plan to generate some savings and once her children were grown, she, like the tourists, could also leave and teach elsewhere, and travel to places she longs to see. She longed to get off the island which she saw as kind of a prison. A stunningly beautiful prison.

To earn money she gave excellent tours to the whites who poured through in awe of the vistas, unless some poor Black village people were in view and then the whites often felt "bad". The feeling of badness is not too helpful. What might be helpful would be assisting local entrepreneurs and college students in finding ways to earn a living there and to otherwise invest in the local economy.

The land of St. Lucia is magical, but its magic has been made into something less-than-joyful by the White Man. It's been made into a place where people have few opportunities to enjoy the culinary delights of Italy, the spiritual riches of India, or the opportunities for love in Indonesia, that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about so successfully.

If you go to St. Lucia, imagine not being able to leave. Consider that as the primary reality of most St. Lucians, with regard to traveling abroad. Unlike those, including myself, who have been cruisers, they will not even likely get to see the island nations to their north: Barbados, Antigua (pronounced Ann-TEE-gah), and the U.S. Virgin Islands--the gorgeous St. Johns, owned and run by rich white men for rich white people, still exploiting the labor of poor Black people who also live there.

Cruise ships, for the paying passengers, are an experience of beauty, indulgence, and comfort. There's a lot of eating and a lot of loving but not so much praying going on because people--the passengers, not the cabin, cleaning, and wait staff--generally feel like they're already in heaven. The CEOs, or even the ship's captains, won't tell you the truth about where all our white trash, garbage, and filthy sun-screen-filled water goes. (Here's a hint: think "Caribbean Sea".)

A neighboring nation to the north and east of St. Lucia, Haiti also needs to be white-washed in the sense of whites getting washed away. The same for all the Caribbean island nations that Europeans invaded, genocidally mass murdering the many Indigenous people who lived there, colonised with slave economies, and gave up when various economic-political factors conspired against European interests, such as a slave revolt in Haiti. As you may well know, for approximately 7000 years--yes, that's thousand, not hundred--most of the Caribbean had been inhabited sustainably and non-ecocidally by the Arawaks, Caribs, Tainos and their ancestors many of whom originated from Venezuela. But wherever there is wonderful darkness, you can be sure wicked whiteness is sure to follow, stomping out the darkness, with mythologies and religions declaring this "a good thing to do".

Yes, white is is the new back. And the old and new cause of "blood red" across Asia.

Just when people you thought it was safe to go back to venture into the waters of sustainable regional economies, U.S. white folks come back to re-establish their whiteness as the visitor-invader. It would be a mistake to think this is genetic, now matter how much it appears that it's in white people's genes to return to formerly violated vacation spawning grounds. The problem is political, structural, institutional, and a product of enforced social ways of being, acted out currently by a globalised economy that requires whiteness exploit and invade everywhere it can be. To exploit, pillage, and loot.


  1. Finally, FINALLY somebody analyzed the cultural imperialist underpinnings of this annoying eat-pray-love phenomenon!

    I linked to your great post because more people need to start thinking about the ideological underpinnings of this book/movie.

  2. Thank you, Clarissa!

    I only recently finished writing the post, so you must be one of the first readers of it--and I may have changed it a bit since the version you read.

    Yes, I agree: there's been far too little analysis of what that book (and now movie) is ALSO about.

  3. Thank you for this perspective on tourism and the cruise industry, etc. in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean. I live in Barbados and I understand exactly what you are talking about. I also saw The Bachelor episode when they were in St. Lucia.
    NB: I blame the Caribbean region's politicians and leaders for this mess just as much. The majority of them are a useless bunch, quite frankly.

    Something I try to do with my own little business is to teach Caribbean people that they should be using their own natural resources and sustaining themselves. For example, we should control our own coffee industries(Jamaica, Belize), chocolate (Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia), from growing the crops on the plantations to making them into the finished products and selling them overseas as well as trading among ourselves. In places like France, Italy, etc. it is the French and Italian people who control their own cheese, wine, olive oil and textile industries from start to finish. You would never see a bunch of Caribbean or African people allowed to go into France and Italy and take over their wine and cheese industries while the French and Italians work for a pittance in the soil. It is simply unheard of and would NEVER happen.
    But here in the Caribbean whenever we have something valuable - like coffee, chocolate or sugar, it is never Caribbean people who control it - it is always outsiders, usually Europeans. This is simply ridiculous and needs to stop.

  4. Nia,

    I am SO VERY GRATEFUL that you wrote what you did. THANK YOU so much for sharing your experience from within the Caribbean.

    I obviously wholeheartedly agree with you--YES: no white country would let Black people from another country (or, well, even within a country!!!) take over anything at all, let alone an economic system that benefits whites and exploits Black people globally and regionally.

    I really hope that people like yourself and my friend from St. Lucia can rise to take control of local governance, so that things can turn around on that level.

    As you know, this has been done much more successfully in many countries in South America. I heard a great story that SO relates to what you wrote here.

    I have been quite inspired by the leadership in Paraguay, where Fernando Lugo has made great strides in respectfully representing all the people of his country, including the most marginalised--the most poor and the Indigenous population as well. Unfortunately, I hear he is battling cancer. I wish him well.

    Here is a quote from him:

    "Without doubt it is possible to resurrect a country like Paraguay. We are people of hope, of faith, and I won't be the one killing that hope of the people. I do believe we will resurrect this country, a country deeply drowned in misery, poverty and discrimination. Because I do believe Paraguay could be different. I do not lack faith in this flock. Where there is a scream coming from the poor people, where there is sweat, where people are shoeless, we will be there. Because in such people there is a resurrection; if that exists there, then there is resurrection for Paraguay."

    — Fernando Lugo

    And it may be him or another leader in South America who said, when the U.S. officials asked if they can set up a military base in his country, "Yes, sure. As long as we can set up one in Florida."

    No deal.

  5. P.S. to Nia,

    If you have written more about the economy and culture, and the politics of globalisation, Western domination, white supremacy, patriarchal abuses, and the rest, or any aspect of that, and you'd like to share your writings here, I welcome you to send anything--by you or by any other woman you know in Barbados or any of the other island nations of the Southern Caribbean (or any other place, for that matter).

    I'd also like to just keep in touch, so please write to me if time allows.

    I was in Barbados once, and I've heard the local government structure is far more stable and humane there than in St. Lucia, in terms of providing basic social services, education, and so on.

    It is so discouraging to hear how ill-equipped regional leaders are to lead effectively and humanely. And while things always appear to be so much better in the U.S., many, many people here are out of work, cannot find work, and unemployment benefits have finally run out, so I'm not sure what the people will do to survive. Many will lose their homes and be on the street. And the plight of Indigenous people on reservations here is and has been quite dire for many, many decades. The genocide continues here, basically. But this never makes the news. And anti-Black racism and anti-Brown racism is as strong as ever.

    And, of course, our "good president" (and I was no fan of G.W. Bush, believe me!!), Barack Obama, is largely controlled by white men's corporations and military leaders. Or so it appears, given many of his decisions.

    As far as I can tell, it is in South America and in Scandinavia that some progress towards more humane democratic rule has occurred, but things have gotten worse in Scandinavia over the last few years, so the struggles are always on-going.

    Again, feel free to write to me, Nia, and I'm wishing you well in every regard.

    And if there's anyone else in South America, Central America, and among the Caribbean nations who can share their own stories of struggle for democracy, justice, and sustainable economic development, I welcome your stories. I welcome your voices being heard by an international audience--here on this blog, at the very least.

    Peace with democracy, human rights, and sustainable regional economies.

  6. Julian,
    Thanks so much for that example you gave about Paraguay and South America. It is very important for the Caribbean (and other marginalized regions) to see real examples of how things can work and how things should be done. Part of the Caribbean's problem is that we have always come along seeing things done in one way, and we just accept it. It is a shame about the Paraguay leader being ill. Our own Barbados Prime Minister is also suffering badly health-wise at the moment and has had to take an extended leave of absence. It is really sad because I find him to be one of the better regional leaders - who genuinely wants the best for his country. Oh well.

    Thanks for the insightful post and I will definitely keep in touch with you concerning these issues on this side of the world.

  7. Nia,

    All my best wishes to you, your loved ones, and to those in your community, across Barbados, and in the Caribbean region.

  8. great post. I'd never seen the movie or read the book, so I didn't want to say anything, but the trailer made me roll my eyes each time I saw it on TV.

  9. Hi Jihad Punk 77,

    Yeah, and any mention of either makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

    It's truly a disgusting promotion of white U.S. imperialist cultural values.