Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Peter Tieryas Liu is so totally Rain Taxi Review of Books interview.

And right here at that. Excerpt? Word.

BE: In Bald New World democracies like Europe and the U.S. aren't doing very well, dictatorships like China and North Korea seem to be doing much better, and market forces control everything. Do you see this hyper-consumerism as a bad or a good thing?

PTL: First off, North Korea is pretty horrible in Bald New World. The NK spies that hide in Beijing have it better just because their job is to kidnap people for enslavement to North Korea by luring them with the promise of beauty and bliss. But, without delving into plot spoilers, what happens to one of the spies later in the book makes it clear they live under brutally savage conditions. On a deeper level though, this is a fascinating question because it gets back to a question of identity. While I’m ethnically Asian, I view myself as an American. I grew up here, am indebted for all the opportunities I received, and I love the culture of e pluribus unum (I might also point out that in Asia, they all viewed me as a Westerner). In that sense, it may seem like I’m more critical of aspects of America I don’t like, but it’s only because I want to see change for the better (in Bald New World’s case, rampant gun violence and obesity being two issues I specifically target). Because I’m a foreigner in Asian countries and I’m mainly there as a tourist, I don’t feel as comfortable making broader judgments, especially without being aware of the full social and cultural context (why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your neighbor’s eye?). That’s why I often cringe when I read non-Asian accounts of Asia because, even if well-intentioned, they’re so full of broad generalizations aimed at caricaturing and mocking things they don’t understand, they feed a stereotype that, unfortunately, has ramifications for Asians living in America who are globbed together. In terms of hyper-consumerism, I don’t think I’ve ever met one person who thinks it’s a good thing, not even marketing people I know. Consumerism itself isn’t bad, but when it becomes the end-all of anyone’s existence, the dehumanizing cycle that ensues makes life one dreary hell. To quote Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.”

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