Rome, avocados, and post colonial thoughts

Today we went to the ‘ethnic’ market (the place where liberal States frame their acceptance of the ‘other’, and let him sell his goods). Avocados looked nice at one particular stand but I was quickly repulsed by an etiquette saying that they came from Israel. Call it an ‘Arab’ reflex, this little chill down your spine when you something or someone baring the mark of ‘the Israeli’, but hey, can’t help it. How many countries produce avocados around the world? And its Israel who gets to have its avocados on the lucrative EU markets. I don’t think this is what economists call ‘competition’…

So why oh why do the Europeans import their avocados from Israel? Because of something called a ‘preferential trade agreement‘. There seems to be a petition to suspend the EU-Israel agreement (not that I believe in petitions but you could go sign it).

Anyway so I quickly stepped away from this vegetable/fruit place and went to another one whose avocados looked nicer. As I could not find a country of origin displayed, I asked the guy if he knew where these avocados were from. The guy diligently started looking between boxes until he finally claimed triumphantly pointing his finger to one label that they were from South Africa. I couldn’t help but think of the once prevalent Apartheid regime and all that, but then I’m like, the hell with it, it is still better than buying Israeli, and as I am paying the guy, he asks me where I am from, I answer him and return the question to which he answers: Bengladesh. And so being a bit surprised, judging from his light color of skin (forgive my quick stereotype here), I tell him that I thought he was Spanish or something. He immediately screams with a huge smile: Thank you!

Ok so what was this all about? Bengladeshis wanting to be Spaniards or anything else European for that matter. This is what it was all about. The ‘colonized’ wants to be like the once ‘colonial’ and today ‘European’. Antonio Gramsci (being in Rome I should refer to Italians) once explained that Marxist revolution in terms of the appearance of working class consciousness was not going to work just like that because ‘the poor’ wants to become ‘the rich’, to emulate him, to identify to the image he makes of ‘the rich’. This could be extended to any type of social distinguishing group (so instead of class we could thing of any ‘type’ of social group). The colonized/colonizing, first world/third world, us/them basically, given that ‘them’ looks more afluent or powerful, more at ease etc.

8 Replies to “Rome, avocados, and post colonial thoughts”

  1. Don’t be silly.

    The petition means that the second biggest market for Israeli exports is Europe (after the US market). Just think about it for one second. Israeli exports as a percentage of US or European total imports is very, very, very tiny.

    Quel Arabe! … 🙂

  2. For a quick though non-permanent fix to the ‘Arab’ reflex to anything israeli, try dating an israeli chick.

    Enjoy Rome. If I weren’t as lazy as I am, I’d have taken a train down there. Oh well.

  3. M.,

    Bech does not need encouragement on that front … 😉

    As a side comment and being the imperialist pig that I am, I used to joke in Lebanon that I enjoyed the post-modern capitulations — capitulations being the preferential privileges provided to European traders during Ottoman times. Basically, I could engage in egregious, even anti-social behavior and not meet with any reproof from the locals due to my skin color. I also called it white-man-walking.

    Now of course, the great irony of ironies is that I am but a in-bred peasant from some Gallic cave, while many of my Lebanese friends, incuding one artful avocado aficionado, are proof-positive blue-bloods of the very highest order. Or couldn’t you tell?

  4. Anecdote from last night: was out, met some girl who thought I was Spanish. Now, I was about to jump up in joy, when I remembered this post, and decided to give a lecture riffing of your last paragraph. She wasn’t too happy, but I was rofl.

    You know, when you white men do something that us natives find weird, we accept it. After all, you are all “ajanib.” And the “ajnabi,” or white-man-walking, has weird behavioral traits 😉

    d – i *may* be in DC mid-october. are you still within a decent radius from the place?

  5. M,

    Yes, I will be here and will send you an email with my contact info.

    Part of the reason w-m-w worked was cause some Lebanese — even if their lives centered around a remote village — would not dare betray any interest or curiosity in the fact that ‘he’ is obviously not from here.’

    Call it Lebanese cool, if you will. That some of us ajnabis would take advantage, well … see above about the strange marriage of imperialist piggishness and lebanese vanity … 🙂

  6. And while the whole city of Rome is slowly roasting on the beaches of Ostia Antica for the coveted tan, the bangladeshi is probably trying to smuggle in fairness cream from back home. The “Fairness creams” segment has been among the most spectacularly performing product among consumer goods in the south asian region. So while sub altern scholars were still grappling with how to understand the post colonial shadow of the Raj, the market was already raking it in!

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