It’s always a happy day when Santa Barbara gets a visit from Pico Iyer, our sometimes-resident global soul and internationally celebrated thinker and writer. This coming Saturday, May 8, at 8:00 p.m., Iyer will appear at the Unity Church in an event sponsored by the Institute of World Culture. The institute’s headquarters are right downtown, but its aims are global in scope: to affirm the universality of the American Dream, to promote forums for fearless inquiry, and to foster fellowship among all people.
In keeping with these themes, Iyer will speak about multiculturalism and how recent changes in American leadership point toward an increasingly global culture. He’ll be joined by journalist and radio commentator Marc Cooper, who will share his thoughts on the ongoing digital revolution. For information and tickets, call 967-1055 or visit worldculture.org. Below, Iyer shares a few of his thoughts on the topic.
1) AMERICA, THE MELTING POT: “I’m very interested in the way our language and our literature have grown so much richer and more exciting in the past two decades, with new rhythms and new stories flooding into our midst,” Iyer wrote via email last week. “Many of the most prominent writers in America today are from—and telling the stories of—Korea and Nigeria and the Dominican Republic and Cuba. I love the fact that we can’t even pronounce the names of many of today’s great young American writers, and that language and culture are going the same way as World Music and fusion cuisine.”
2) EARTH, THE EVER-SHRINKING PLANET: “I’m also struck at how Americans of European ancestry are traveling the world as never before, and bringing back the stories and concerns of Cape Town, Prague, Buenos Aires, and Saigon, as was not happening even 10 years ago,” Iyer noted. “Dave Eggers, say, has moved from writing an all-American memoir of family tragedy to channeling the stories of embattled immigrants from the Sudan and Syria, so as to remind us that they are Americans, too, these days.”
3) OBAMA, THE POSTER BOY OF GLOBAL CULTURE: Iyer sees our new president as a reflection of these changes. “All this seems perfectly consonant with the fact that we have, for the first time in history, a president whose sister is a Buddhist, who grew up in an Islamic nation, who has half of his family in Africa, and who has shown himself to be the most eloquent and incisive global writer of our times,” he wrote. “Regardless of what he does or doesn’t do as president, he has already set a precedent of trying to understand the Other.”