In those rare times when Mongolia does happen to make it onto the pages of global newspapers and magazines, there is something that the well-trained editors and writers sitting behind the desk invariably do. They emphasize the incredible(ly trite) contrast between the old and the new as evidenced by any number of things around Ulaanbaatar. “Ah, yes, the earthy Buddhist Temple with the polished Blue Sky Hotel as a backdrop. Oh my, a herder with a face blackened by the sun and hardened by work riding a fully functional motorcycle across the steppes. What’s this? A satellite dish and a solar panel next to a silly little ger, oh stop it Mongolia, you’re just too much! It’s almost like you are part of a global trade system!”
I really think they get some perverse pleasure out of it. And most of the pieces I’ve scavenged about Mongolia seem to take that route as their main angle. Even news sources I respect like the BBC, the New York Times (I’m so disappointed) and the Financial Times are not innocent of this obvious cop out.* And it’s SUCH A COP OUT. Because it is SO OBVIOUS. And not unique AT ALL to Mongolia. The same analysis could be made for most developing countries. See: all developing countries.
Look, Mongolia traces its history back t0 1206. It’s freaking 2014. During that long expanse of time, a lot has happened. Empires has risen and fallen. Do you think there wouldn’t be contrast between the old and the new?
And The New York Times. GAH, the New York Times…
Here is an excerpt from the article, “In Mongolia, The Skyline By the Steppes” by Josh Weil, published in the travel section of the NYT last summer: “This is a city of smog and snarled traffic, of 50 Cent blasting from a screen opposite the State Department Store; a place where a Versace outlet encroaches on the square where Lenin’s statue stood until last October, when it was hoisted away and auctioned off.” To understand why I heavily, heavily disliked this article, see all of the aforementioned.
Let us not even begin to talk about this, when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to Mongolia was overshadowed by a horse. What was the purpose of his visit there? What did he accomplish on his visit? You won’t find out from this article, but you do learn that he now has a new horse named Shamrock whom he is very sad to leave behind 😦
GET IT TOGETHER NYT. And let’s all take a deep breath. Now as you breathe out, get over the fact that Mongolia has the traditional AND the modern. Because I think we all understood it by now.
*OK the FT isn’t as bad, but they could be better. But boy, the NYT…