Monday, January 16, 2006

The Dakar Rally: a culural collision worth noting on so many levels...

We here at The Bow and Grimace are all very conscious of the benefits of a good work out, body and soul, but we're a bit skeptical about the benefits of off-road racing, as far as sports go. Then again, fishing's a sport.

We must also admit a guilty pleasure in watching the Dakar Rally from Lisbon to Dakar. If we had the money to buy one of those big trucks and we had an entire continent in which to bounce and tossel, we would likely gleefully let the romping begin. However, we don't pay much attention to offroad events, we just pause for a second before we change the channel when there's a story about one of the races.

That said, we were shocked a couple of days ago to see a news report about a boy who was hit by one of trucks. Up until that point, we had only seen fleeting images of thirtysome boys who were paid millions of their respective currencies to drive cars quickly over hills.

This report (which we can no longer locate) was about a Senegalese boy hit by one of the passing trucks as the race went through town, yet the images in the report were incredible. The contrast was almost palpable: hundreds of people with skin blacker than tar lining the sides of a dirt track that seemed to slice straight through their village of circular huts made of sticks and tree limps. The report showed many of the women who seemed to have walked straight out of National Geographic with all their colorful tribal garb. Then, like a giant mechanical Cheetah, comes one of these 21st century behemoths, churning up the rust-colored dust behind it.

As expected, the trucks just sped past the hoards of people, and we're not criticizing that. What we would agree with though, is some of the criticism we've seen in researching this race. It's incredible the way these people can just hurdle themselves as they wish across Africa. One French journal notes, "To give credit and good conscious to this indecent rally, the organizers have evoked a certain word of valour to Europeans and especially dear to the French: Humanitarian." This is obviously a reference to the humanitarian efforts outlined by the organizers outlined here.

The idea that this race is a tradition "ind├ęcent" is echoed by many French organizations and websites.

We don't want to be overly symbolic or presumptuous, but this seems to be a good example of
a cultural collision that is no longer acceptable (not that it ever should have been, but it was). Imagine if the organizers had said, "We'll give you a new street sweeper if you let us fly through Paris one day next week. We're not sure when exactly, but sometime." There would surely have been some sort of outcry about the audacity of the organizers to think they could just buy Paris like that.

Perhaps, it's a bad comparison, but the point is there.

This is more of a note than an article, perhaps.

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