In prepping scenes, the sheer weight and volume of things, an essential part of the North American experience for a while now, is recorded and imagined in a different time. Things are arced from abundance to scarcity, reinvented with meaning, imparted with an aura that they do not have in our present even as they endlessly proliferate on the difference between wages for labor in the global south and the prices supported by the credit-fuelled, consumer economies of the global north.
No room in this history for settler colonialism and slavery, none for the importation of cheap, easily exploited labor in the “on” periods, for the racial exclusions of the “off” periods expressed in a preference for white European populations.
If, in some counterfactual universe, the Maharajah of Jaipur had married the Queen of England and sent their progeny to study at Harvard, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, which ran over the weekend, is exactly the sort of cultural jamboree you’d expect the multicultural royal wastrels to come up with.
If one of the functions of writing is to make the reader see, and see again, here is a brief list of what John Berger made visible. Paintings, photographs, advertisements, motorcycles, swimming pools, the aging body, migrating workers, and mass demonstrations; the intricate pattern of colors in the roads of Lisbon; the shit of cows in the French Alps.