Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Absurdity of the "Seven Wonders of the World"

So, the new Seven Wonders of the World were just named. I suppose I shouldn't care about these things so much, since they are virtually meaningless. But both how the sites were named and the sites themselves bugs me a lot.

Here are the named sites:

• The Great Wall of China
• Petra in Jordan
• Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer
• Peru's Machu Picchu
• Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid
• The Colosseum in Rome
• India's Taj Mahal

No doubt all of these places are really cool. The only I've been to is the Jesus statue in Brazil. It really sets off the city. You can see it from almost anywhere. It adds a great deal to Rio's atmosphere and helps make it one of the coolest cities I've ever visited. But I have problems with it's inclusion on the list. First, there is no way that it should be on there over Angkor Wat. Second, when it comes down to it, it's a goddamn statue. That's it. It's a cool goddamn statue, I'll give you that. But how it is a wonder of the world? I don't really know and I can't think of a good argument for it's inclusion.

I also protest it's inclusion because Lula and the Brazilian government made its inclusion part of a nation-building project. Evidently, the same thing happened in Jordan. You couldn't look in any direction in Rio without seeing a damn sticker telling people to vote for Christ. That these things get involved in national politics is hardly surprising. I half-expected Americans to be up in arms because the Statue of Liberty wasn't voted in, which would have been absurd. But this leads to a larger question: should these questions be voted on by the general public? Answer: no.

UNESCO has distanced itself from the vote. The organization runs the World Heritage Site program. The Christ statue is not a World Heritage Site. Yes, that's right. Evidently, it is a wonder of the world, but according to actual experts on these matters, it is not worthy of World Heritage designation. This is no snub of Brazil. That nation has 17 World Heritage Sites. Thus, not only is UNESCO saying it is not worthy of its designation, but that Brazil alone has at least 17 other places more worthy. Nor is UNESCO biased against architectural sites. Among other recent designations was the campus of UNAM, the big public university in Mexico City. Brasilia is a World Heritage Site, as are buildings, both historic and modern, around the world.

So, the Seven Wonder vote is a joke. It was influenced by the tourism industry, nation building exercises, and already existing knowledge of places. All of these places are already heavily overtouristed, and no doubt it will only increase. Meanwhile, if you really want to see some cool stuff around the world, check out that World Heritage Site list. Wow, I'd love to check some of that out!