David Byrne’s Malaysian Childhood.

by David Byrne, from his book Strange Ritual

When far from home, the New Yorker or Los Angelino, feeling a pang of homesickness, may desire Thai food rather than his or her indigenous corn on the cob and Jello. With so many of our cultures being made up of bits and pieces of other cultures, our sense of self becomes confused with our sense of the “others” who have joined us. The Parisian may long for an evening out at an African nightclub when visiting America. The Japanese visiting Burma may long for McDonald’s or fresh spaghetti. Are our changing palettes a taste of what is to come? Will we eventually imagine ourselves as someone else and appropriate their history, their tragedies, their manners and foibles? Will our identities become so thoroughly confused that what was once our original “base” culture recedes to a dwindling remnant? We are they and they are we. Will we dream of imagined childhood in Dakar? Of lost loves and departed friends in Malaysia? Will our consciousness be a complete pastiche? A patchwork of sounds, smells, and tastes–colonized by whatever attracts us? By delicious foods, sensuous textures, and beautiful men and women? Will we be consumed by our favorite things? Will we miss the smells and dust we never experienced? Will the “exotic” eventually become so commonplace, so much a part of our culture, that the word will become meaningless? Will the old Europe, the old America, be the new exoticism? It is already, isn’t it?

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