Minority Report

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john.stevenson@foundationU.com

It’s in the new mall in Dumaguete, the first real full-sized mall in the City, built on a field of grass where, only a few years ago, cows were grazing.

From the looks of these three boys wandering around in it, the mall might as well have dropped there from outer space, it’s so alien to anything in their previous experience. They walk through enormous empty spaces, gigantic rooms, with endless brickwork and polished tile beneath their feet, all enclosed within huge bright cement walls 10 times their height, a thousand times their weight.

All the surfaces they encounter are hard and unyielding to the touch, concrete, glass, metal, brick. Mansion or nippa hut — wherever these boys live, certainly does not resemble this place. It was not designed with them in mind. It was not designed with anyone in particular in mind.

Coming from America, malls are impersonal spaces designed to attract generic consumers. The concept was so successful that they have sprouted all over the world in more or less the same form. They are cool, clean, spacious, simple in appearance, easily accessible — like cell phones and computers. And together with cell phones and computers, they form the universal look of modern life, no different in New Jersey, New Delhi, or Negros Oriental. The people walking about in them all look about the same as well, most of them wearing the standard world uniform of
t-shirts and jeans.

But people around the world are not the same. In spite of “globalization”, what people want and think and do in New Jersey is very different from they do here. These boys go to the mall, and use their cell phones and computers in these huge spaces at high speed — not to search for new information or discuss world events, but to say the same things, make the same arrangements they always did in Dumaguete.

Even so, they are increasingly attracted by an environment that has nothing to do with who they are, and they are lost in it. What this will do to their thoughts and feelings as they grow up is hard to say. On the lower left in this picture is a photo exhibit showing a traditional scene, a woman holding a child by the sea at sunset. The boys aren’t looking at it; it’s not their world. Their world is the mall.

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