Motorcycle Nomads

Roseann sent this insightful piece on the use of motorcycles by nomads in Tibet. I have seen the same thing in Mongolia.

It got us to musing on some westerners’ desires for “purity” in the Third World, which often translates into “stay romantic for OUR sake”. Says Roseann:

“I loved that photo – over the years I’ve totally changed my view of other cultures’ need/desire to be modern like us. So many of us only have Western eyes that only want to see “quaint” and “indigenous” and “noble” cultures – I have to think, 20,000 years ago (or whenever the horses showed up when man was schlepping around the steppes) and they were walking nomads and they saw horses and said, “Cool! Gotta get me one of those!” – were there cultures looking at them from afar saying “Oh no! You can’t get HORSES you’re WALKING nomads – we like you the way you are!” I picture some yoga-precious types with “Free Tibet” bumper stickers heading over there for a spiritual experience and meeting these guys who greet them: “Dude! Can I have your Ray Bans? What’s your email?”

“Why do first world modern cultures cling so tightly to their romantic view of primitive life?

“Perhaps the answer – or yet another riddle – lies in the recent Sundance catalog, filled with all manner of overpriced goods to satisfy the yuppie consumer’s need to go retro and “primitive.” It makes sense that a Tibetan nomad would want a motorcycle. But does it make sense that a multi-degreed, six-figure-income WASP would want an $1800 pre-distressed used-looking “distillery table” with um, “matching” unmatched chairs described as, I quote, “thrift store chairs” for $595 a pair – because god forbid they wouldn’t just drive down to the south end of town and buy 6 for $75 at the Salvation Army. Who’s the stupider or more backwards culture?”

2 thoughts on “Motorcycle Nomads”

  1. I am not one to become dewy-eyed over ancient customs, nor to wax censorious over nomads adapting to motorcycles, but do sometimes, as a private American citizen, feel stalked by remote peoples who seem to expect Americans to be involved in their lives. I hazily remember a scene from a V.S. Naipul book wherein the author expresses the feeling of being drained by a resentful Amerindian, and, thanks to our ubiquitous media, sometimes feel the same thing long distance.

  2. Okay, I have no problem with a multi-degreed, six figure income WASP buying “thrift store chairs” for 5 bills. If they stay the heck outta the thrift stores, then there’s more there for me.


Leave a Comment