Friday, 11 July 2008

Tribal Wives

Been watching "Tribal Wives" on BBC2. Each episode shows a British woman spending a month with a tribe. Last week it was about a woman visiting a Muslim tribe in Ethiopia. In the tribe each woman is circumcised. I can't say I know too much about female circumcision, but they took away a lot more than I expected! - not just the clitoris - the whole thing was just flat! (Have I said too much?!) This made childbirth hundreds time more painful than it is anyway. Women were routinely beaten as a matter of course by their husbands. And the women did hour after hour of hard labour while the men lazed around. It was pretty horrific - a lot of the other tribes that have been shown have not been at all like this - it is oppression pure and simple - and yet...'s the thing. The woman who visited them was a deeply unhappy, recovering alcoholic, and she commented on how happy and contented these tribal women were. Why is it that they can be so happy, despite such bad lives? Or, more to the point, what is it that has made people in the UK so deeply unhappy? What forms of oppression is being imposed on our population to make them so perenially discontented?

I guess it is part of the problem with choice. The Afar of Ethiopia knew nothing else and they had no choice. They accept their lot and don't know what they're missing. We are presented with a vast array of choices and the array itself causes unhappiness because we ask: what if we had chosen something else? If I can have anything I want, why haven't I got it?

And who sells us the choice myth? Well, predominantly advertising. By giving us the illusion of choice and fanning our sense of need we become constantly dissatisfied.

So who's up for a bit of serious subvertising?

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