On my continuing India kick, an extraordinary three-part series on YouTube, Welcome To India 2012, about poor Indians who are trying to make more money. And I mean really, really poor. (Cellphones, however, abound.) What is so amazing about it is the relentlessly upbeat and wholly un-condescending attitude toward these people, as well as their own completely un-self-pitying attitude. And a lot of the work they do is, by Western standards, filthy and dangerous and degrading. But no transcending the world of illusion here; these folks are hustling. And they smile and laugh. A lot.
You could easily take the same stories and, with a different musical background and a different voiceover narrative, make them out to be hapless victims of some horrible something or other, capitalism, global inequality, whatever. Pope Francis would take you on a looooong guilt trip.
But nope, the approach is completely un-sentimental and chock full of Indian boosterism: Look how tough and inventive we are as we go after money, money, money. Even more amazingly, the BBC --the drearily leftist PC voice of dying Britain-- is involved. And not a hint of negative judgment in sight. Amazing.
You get to see a wholly different set of cultures and you get to see India completely absent the gooey spiritualizing haze that some Westerners like to lay over it. Family is hugely important. These people are tough, competitive, not at all above doing whatever it takes to make a buck.
The "poor" in America, by comparison, live like Byzantine royalty.