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Let's think about the cultural imbalance in a globalized world like ours
Year after year, the Miss Universe beauty contest is the object of attention due to the hard work of the international press that promotes it and, especially during the last years, for gaffes that occur during its development. We still remember Steve Harvey, the American presenter who in 2015 was wrong to give the name of the winner on that occasion. In 2018, again an error gives importance to an event for many overrated, sexist and superfluous.
Leer en español: Miss Universo 2018: un análisis después del certamen
What the queens said
During the event that gave the crown to Catriona Gray, Miss Philippines, the entertainment journalism recorded the existence of a video in which the candidates of Colombia, Valeria Morales, and Australia, Francesca Hung, seconded the views of her colleague of the United States, Sarah Rose Summers, on its similar ones of Vietnam, H'Hen Nie, and of Cambodia, Rern Sinat. On the first, the American said: "she pretends to know so much English and then you ask her a question, after having a whole conversation with her and she goes..." Summer said, proceeding to nod ad smile. "She is adorable". And on the second, she said "Miss Cambodia is here and doesn't speak any English, and not a single other person speaks her language. Can you imagine?"
The criticism of Summers's words and attitude trio of queens did not wait. Now, on the one hand, it is difficult to ask the participants of a contest in which the physical and the appearance are fundamental than offer transcendental statements. Note that in the video Summers, Morales and Hung appear in a relaxed atmosphere, closer to a chat with friends than to an international summit on Human Rights. The superficiality of Miss Universe permeates all its elements and members, which, to a certain extent, if it does not justify in any way, at least explains what happened in this case.
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Are the contestant's ambassadors of their country?
It is often said that the winners of the national beauty contests that attend the "universal" contest become, in some way, ambassadors of their places of origin, which supposedly gives them responsibility. But should be Miss Universe understood as a true encounter between the countries of the world on that scale? Even more: is this event a stage to show the realities that hit or that adorn our world in depth? There is the feeling that only those participants who arrive at final instances can have this privilege of diffusion and, in reality, quite limited.
If the Miss Universe contest has a structure that prevents the most pressing or valuable realities of world events from being treated properly, it is difficult to ask its participants to behave as serious ambassadors. Certainly, for the organizers of the event, the key of the matter, of the business, is not that the young ladies have a Malala Yousafzai attitude. However, it is necessary to reiterate that in no way is the lightness of the behavior of Summers and company justified. And the episode is another element to think about the meaning and suitability of the event as such.
However, is it possible to get some kind of positive, or at least pertinent, booty from the words of the Miss United States? I think so, because perhaps without realizing it, she was telling an interesting truth, especially in the case of Miss Cambodia.
The cultural imbalance in Miss Universe
If we are going to believe Summers, the way she paints the situation, the fact that Sinat does not have anyone in the event that speaks Cambodian or Khmer is a sign of the tremendous cultural imbalance that our world suffers and that is reflected in Miss Universe. It is not about demonizing the English language or its speakers, but certainly, the fact that Asian does not dominate it, isolated in some way among English speakers, is an example of how multitudes of people across the planet have to face linguistic hegemony that prevents an adequate balance between cultural manifestations.
Why is not so important to speak Khmer as to speak English? Is there nothing in the written texts, in the legends told in that language, that deserve to be known by the rest of humanity? Even more: Cambodia is a country that has been severely punished in recent decades by wars and genocides. Why cannot its inhabitants tell the heartbreaking stories about the terrible events they have suffered and their longings for change in their own language? Because no one is interested in talking or listening in Cambodian. Because the global education system is oriented to unification, but not to diversity. It is more convenient to manage a single language than to work to know several. There is no time or resources for it. And it is better, more profitable, to know the languages of the countries that mark the stop in the economy.
Umberto Eco, in the Name of the Rose, made his character Guillermo de Baskerville say that the first duty of a sage is to know languages. Well: for those of us who are ordinary people, it would be interesting to at least worry about knowing basic elements of other cultures, especially those referring to languages that, in themselves, help in this purpose. Above all, to have a richer way of seeing reality and understand that differences, on many occasions, are artificial walls that do not contribute anything positive.
Finally: candidate Summers made reference to the linguistic abilities of women from two countries who, many years ago, suffered the consequences of the politicking and irresponsible decisions of the American government of the time, which still cries out to the sky for the magnitude of the facts. Has anyone noticed this detail?
LatinAmerican Post | Carlos Novoa Pinzón
Translated from "Miss Universo 2018: un análisis (lingüístico) después del certamen"