Thank you, Anthony Bourdain

I’ll repeat. Thank you, Anthony Bourdain. I’m rather a neutral fan of this TV host, but I occasionally catch snippets of his show on CNN called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. The show explores other cuisines, cultures, and politics of a particular area. While channel surfing one evening, I caught and watched his show on Africa; his journey into the country of South Africa and then into the Republic of the Congo. In light of today’s current political climate, stirrings of overt racism, and unsavory remarks from national leadership, I followed him willingly on this journey.

Most of all I was struck by a remark made by a local man Bourdain visited with as they ate in a small South African eatery.

Put something in your mouth to get your ears open.

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Gardening by Lazarus Ramontseng

Bourdain’s purpose is to explore a culture and its politics through conversations held over a meal of local food. In this particular exchange, the talk was about the South African nation, its history, and ongoing recovery from apartheid. The eatery was one of several small house cafes with five or six tables he visited in the township of Soweto, south of Johannesburg. Soweto is where Africans once were forced to live. He also ate in the cafes of Johannesburg. One thing the eateries seemed to have in common? They bustled with multicultural people, with blends of language and attire. They also had one other thing in common. The people, while eating, were all engaged in civil discourse – people with different backgrounds and experiences and ethnic heritages. They enjoyed good food, made with pride, and each other.

Put something in your mouth to get your ears open.

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Bus Leaving Town by Peter Kwangware

From there Bourdain journeyed into the Congo. Viewers were shown a complex map of the areas occupied by various warring groups. We learned of the ineptness of its President and government. Bourdain continued to eat in cafes and homes, talking and listening. Then he and his guide rented a boat and explored the Congo River, at once becoming a curiosity to locals who gathered along the riverbank. We were shown the remains of the railroad system, the research facilities, and cities hurriedly abandoned by the Belgians in the 1960’s. The railroad and research facilities are still manned by skeletal crews of African workers waiting for the government to make things operational again.

Put something in your mouth to get your ears open.

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Collage by South African artist Benon Lutaaya

During his narration, Bourdain made several references to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The title has several meanings. One refers to a journey into the heart of the  then dark continent of Africa. The other refers to the base nature man can keep in his heart. As in the rape of Africa. As in racism.

Let’s see … civil discourse and listening to each other … done enjoyably over delicious food of the area … an opportunity to appreciate, understand, and learn about each other. I’m in.

Currently, in our national discussions, we are talking about immigration, other ethnicities, cultures, and religions. We are uniting behind the repugnance of racism which has raised its ugly head. While such a complex issue cannot be solved by this one simple and civilized act, the positive subtext is obvious. It’s time to diffuse tension, and enlighten and expand the national consciousness. And listen. I’m looking for an equitable legal immigration policy, national policies that embrace diversity, and moral leadership, based on civil discourse and respect.

Put something in your mouth to get your ears open.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King which has resonated with me for many years:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” From Dr. King’s Strength of Love, 1963.

Progress is slow. But, as I recall, the tortoise eventually won. It didn’t quit.

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About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
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9 Responses to Thank you, Anthony Bourdain

  1. Danielle Cook says:

    Great article as usual. Civil discourse (in politics) has become so vile that I am almost ashamed to be an American. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we cannot hear each other when we are shouting at each other. This includes conversations about race in America. Part of my life was spent in the South (my teens and 20’s) during a time when racism was institutionally accepted although technically against the law. It was a dispiriting and evil time and I am glad that those days are over. While we still have work to do on eliminating racism (and the poor economic outcomes of many African-American families) in America, the work will not be effective if we do not agree to have civil, non-partisan, fact-supported discourse on what the root causes are and how to fix them.

    I do not belong to either major political party so I am an outsider looking in and both parties, in my mind, have activists and leaders who make me shudder. If everybody would just take a deep breath and decide that they need to stop the name-calling, knee-jerk accusations of racism against anyone conservative, coarse language and threats against candidates & the family members of the opposition party, denigrating character attacks against those of the opposition party, painting all members of progressive groups with the same broad brush (ie Black Lives Matter) because of a few bad actors and violence against people because their political positions are different we would be able to have a much more civil discourse.

    Unfortunately, we have a current President who instead of bringing the Country together on this issue, seems to fan the flames of discord. But Presidents come and go. What WE THE PEOPLE can do is decide right here and right now that OUR OWN voice will no longer join the chorus of discord and disrespect for other’s views and instead treat each other with dignity and respect. I support a great group in Washington called No Labels. These government and civilian leaders are problem solvers who reach across partisan lines to find common ground to address and hopefully fix the racism, immigration, cultural and religious issues which have proved so contentious. My mouth is full of admiration for these men and women and my ears are open to anyone who is willing to change the current poisonous discourse.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful and illuminating blog!

    • cmwriter says:

      Great response, Danielle. I grew up in the north in what was then a WASP neighborhood. Thank goodness for education and travel and just plain living to learn respect and admiration for the diversity of our great country. In the late 1970’s on a trip into the south I was in a small town and needed medical assistance. I found a doctor. I walked up to the door of the office. As I put my hand on the door handle, I was shocked to see a sign saying Colored Entrance. I can still feel the jolt, the anger, the eerie feeling. The white entrance was around the corner. Brings added meaning to No Labels and cheers for the non-partisan problem solvers you cited.

  2. Excellent response and insight into all the heightened insults of late. Behind it all are many real people to listen to in Africa and to understand some of our past legacies and current ones that keep or make people suffer.

    • cmwriter says:

      I would like to see this program of Bourdain’s again because it was so revealing of past injustices and continued suffering. Appreciate your comments. So glad you stopped by.

  3. thefolia says:

    I saw that episode and his comment stuck me as well. Most leaders need to focus on eating and make it the priority for meetings, what a better place we would all be in if we spoke less, listened and oh yeah not worry about domination. Happy feasting to us all.

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