VICELAND’S Jungletown is the epitome of white privilege

Two privately schooled kids go to Panama and set up a new town

Last week, VICELAND aired a trailer for its new documentary series called “Jungletown.” After watching the trailer, I thought to myself, “this looks a lot like the beginnings of neocolonialism.”

In a nutshell, Jungletown is a bunch of seemingly privileged white people going into the jungles of Panama, and living off of the land. Essentially, they’re creating the same kind of life the natives of said nation had, before they were forced to assimilate into western ways of living by the Spanish occupiers at the time.

After a quick Google search of the cast and a trip to their LinkedIn pages, I found out Jungletown is indeed formed primarily of privately educated, Ivy League alumni, who seem to have gone on a mission to ~make the world a better place~, but with privilege as a blinder.

The two heads of the series, a real estate entrepreneur and Yale alumni film maker, got together a cast of people who all have quite similar backgrounds to their own. While it has good intentions, the series is created with awful execution. In the trailer alone, they speak about the fine line between a revolutionary new way of life and the fact that they’re teetering on the cusp of colonialism. This is particularly jarring – to be aware of that parallel, but decide to proceed anyway shows how truly disconnected the Jungletown cast are from the wider context.

Not only that, Jungletown seems eerily reminiscent of the beginnings of Jonestown. The hopes of creating a new, utopian-like community can been seen in the insemination of both Jungletown and Jonestown — the parallels are astonishing.

Native Panamanians, and citizens of other underdeveloped nations, have had Americans, similar to the ones on VICELAND’s “Jungletown”, come into their communities, and force a western lifestyle on them with, as they say, missions, for centuries (i.e., the Panama Canal Zone). In the 1700s, the biggest entrepreneurs went to other countries, took shit and enslaved people. Now in the 2010s, with the exception of enslavement, they’re back. What they’ve actually been doing, though, is imposing complete and total sovereignty, whether intentional or not. They go into these nations, and impose their western way of life onto the citizens who don’t ask for it, and believe they are doing just fine.

While on the surface it seems like they’re doing a whole lot of good — building roads, schools and homes — a lot of the time they do more harm than good, creating poor infrastructure by unskilled workers, and in turn placing bandaids on “issues” that actually need an entirely new solution all together. The savior mentality that drives these missions, and shows like Jungletown, doesn’t actually take into account the effect on the people of the nations they “pioneer” into (but is it pioneering when there are already people who live there?) and what happens when they leave, and that’s part of the problem.

Two incredibly privileged, and more than likely well-off people believe their “new” way of life is the “right” way of life, and so instead of implementing it in a nation they are citizens of, they travel into a nation they know cannot tell them no, whether it’s because they need the money, the exposure, or both — and that’s exploitation. This is the new way of life to them, a new trend they can hop on to, so they’ve gone into a land that isn’t theirs, to live like the natives have for so long, and call it revolutionary.

While the idea to create the most sustainable city in the world is a great one, their execution is far off base. By fleeing a nations issues they’ve more than likely contributed to, to start a new city in a new nation that doesn’t belong to them, instead of fighting like the rest of us here to make our nation a better place and a leader to the rest of the world, they’re using their privilege that many don’t have in the most ass-backwards of ways. After the trailer aired, many on  social media were as confused about this so-called revolution as I was. I’m not here for it, and after scrolling through Viceland’s mentions, I’m obviously not the only one.

The Tab Florida State