Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rick Steeves on Iran

I happened to catch the second half of Rick Steeves, the PBS travel guy, speaking to the Commonwealth Club of California (now called the CC of Silicon Valley?) about his recent travels to and filming and writing about Iran. I think of him as mostly a friendly, jolly guy whose TV programs often move so fast through interesting places that just when your curiosity has been piqued, he has moved on to somewhere else! But this talk, clearly accompanied by images (I almost said, "slides"--how neolithic of me!), was longer, more in depth, seemed to me more intimate and frank than his TV pieces, and included the bending and breaking of lots of American stereotypes of Iran. He clearly lives and breathes the horizon expanding possibilities of travel.

The program ended with some real feistiness on Steeves' part as he responded to questions from the audience, suggesting that much of the world has reasons for thinking of the United States as having some of the hallmarks of "empire," which he says always gets people riled up. He spoke of the "travel writer as political activist" and again and again held up a mirror to his American audience to better illuminate our own biases and lopsided perspective on global topics. (Also, our tendency to vote as leader of a minority of four against a hundred and forty-something nations on many United Nations initiatives aimed at solving global issues. Our regular allies? Israel, the Marshall Islands, and Mauritius, I think he said.) If you can find it to listen to on line, I highly recommend it. I guess there's a PBS show that may already have aired (if so, I missed it) or is about to. It sounds like worthy of viewing (he even spoke of wanting to get a copy into the hands of every member of Congress!).

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