Decay, Gorgeous Decay!


In the middle of this reasonable, by-the-numbers Jacob Weisberg argument against Bush's Cuba policy, the Slate editor tosses off this observation (italics mine):

It's hard to imagine that Castro would still be in power today if Havana had spent the last couple of decades awash in American tourists, Cuban-American visitors, and development-driving entrepreneurs (though walking around Havana's gorgeous, tropical decay makes you perversely glad it hasn't).

At the risk of objecting to the aesthetic responses of others, this common sentiment has always irritated the hell out of me. Oh, the crumbling, no-longer-beautiful houses! Ah, the lovely two-feet-deep potholes, and rickety Chinese bicycles (because the 50-year-old Chevys and 30-year-old Ladas don't work, and at any rate there's no gas). How people can derive pleasure from evidence of the suffering of innocents is beyond me, and few sights are more unseemly to my eyes than seeing a Lonely Planet-waving travel snob whine about how some current or formerly misgoverned hellhole has been "ruined" by all that yucky reconstruction, material success, and (worst of all!) tourism. Oh how pretty! The baseball players make $20 a month, and they live on a prison, but at least there's no annoying electronic scoreboard!