My photo
Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life in Austin

Another year, another country. No, not really. But at least another US state. Texas. Austin to be precise. I work far too much to have gained a proper perspective on this place and I've also barely spent two weeks here, still a few first impressions are in order.

Texas evokes a certain kind of imagery of course: Conservatism, the death penalty, George W Bush, endless landscapes, cowboys, cattle. All of that undoubtedly is valid to a degree, I won't get into that here, but it also applies very little to the city of Austin. The place (house and area) I live in is in fact dominated by tattooed hippies - in its modern, inflationary meaning - all of whom seemingly play in a band while paying their bills through crappy day jobs. Life is dominated by concerts and cheap Lone Star beers. The atmosphere is great, too many outdoor bars to count, friendly communicative people (they are American after all). That's the personal side of the story.

On the other side you have the supermarket around the corner from my place (Fiesta) which few non-hispanic (not to say Mexican) customers seem to frequent. A harsh racial divide with my arrival in a black, family-run barbecue place surprising far too many people. My colleagues and friends here are white, disparaging comments about especially hispanics common. This is nothing new of course, but I had semi-forgotten it and economic differences perpetuate the racial separation in a manner here which is far less prominent than in most East coast cities. And keep in mind that the people I know and meet are the open-minded ones often boasting astonishing international experiences.

Finally, and this of course is a common theme of mine, aintellecetualism - even antiintellectualism - is a cultural trait far too popular in the US for my taste. Male and female roles are of stereotypical nature it is almost comical which is all the more shocking considering I know how reflected and intelligent people can be when prodded. This is not limited to gender issues evidently. One also sees it in the preponderance of fecal, sexual, racial and other pointless jokes; the obsession with asinine drinking games and in general the need to always do something. Quiet reflection is not popular. The TV has to be turned on, music blaring, a game to be played here, a video to be taken and viewed there. It's all about getting the most out of a short-lived moment of activity and anyone not up to said game, quip, joke, or simply looking to disengage himself from a group movement is not fun or at least weird.

I realize that most of this post is of a rather damning nature. Let me put a bit of a disclaimer on this thus. Austin is a great town, from what I've seen so far, Texas is a very interesting state that I hope to see more of, but, as one of my new friends put it, deconstruction, criticism, is the order of the day - I cannot for the life of it remember which philosopher he attributed this to. Was it Nietzsche? Accordingly - or not, seeing as I had been doing that for a long time and before he ever quoted this to me - I rarely praise and often attack.

No comments: