The quest for paradise often ends abruptly when tourists end up with cowdung on their clothes, writes David Nicholson-Lord, author of The. Greening of the Cities (Routledge), in The Nation.
What makes people want to travel? The short answer centers on the concept of escape. According to Jost Krippendorf, the Swiss academic who is one of the leading authorities on modern tourism, people travel because “they no longer feel happy where they are -where they work, where they live. They feel the monotony of the daily routine, the cold rationality of factories, offices, apartment blocks and transport, shrinking human contact…the loss of nature and naturalness.” MacCannell argues that mass tourism is a product of the “most depersonalised” epoch in history.
Well, maybe. It´s true that people with gardens, or those who live in small towns, take fewer holidays than apartment-block residents or city dwellers. It´s probably also true that what we casually refer to as the “pressures of daily life” – work, family, commuting – are more intense, in some respects, than ever before.
Yet people have always felt a desire for something more than their life routinely offers them -something, well, different. It´s partly because humans are naturally inquisitive and exploratory but also, and more significant, because we need the unknown, what historians of religion call “otherness,” to lend our lives significance. So we conceive of ideal worlds – Paradise, the Golden Age, Heaven, Atlantis, Shangri-La – and dream, sometimes, of attaining them.
Modern tourism routinely, and often shamelessly, exploits such myths, as the most casual glance through just about any brochure will attest. It is ably assisted by the travel-writing business, which, while purporting to be independent, is actually part of the marketing operation, complete with writers who depend for their livelihoods on the tour or resort operators. Millions of people are thus launched yearly on a quest for paradise, or a voyage of self-discovery, into the midst of millions of others going about their daily business. Visions of reality collide, often resoundingly, which helps to explain why tourists have been shot in Egypt and pelted with cow dung and rotten fish in Goa and why many natives of Hawaii – one of the archetypal tropical island “paradises” – want a boy cott of tourism, describing it as “the plague” suf fered by a “historically oppressed people.”
“A NEW GLOBAL MENTALITY is required,” says Edward Said delivering the Netaji Subhas Bose centenary oration at the Netaji Research Bureau, Calcutta.
It does seem to me ostrich-like to suggest that people in Europe and the US should maintain our so-called Western identity by holding all the others at bay, increasing the rifts between peoples in order to prolong our dominance. That is, in effect, what [Samuel P] Huntington is arguing, and one can easily understand why it is that his essay [Clash of Civilisations] was published in Foreign Affairs, and why so many policymakers have drifted towards it as allowing the US to extend the mindset of the Cold War into a different time. Much more productive and useful is to try to promote the emergence of a new global mentality that sees the dangers we face from the standpoint of the whole human race.
These dangers include the pauperisation of most of the globe´s population; the emergence of virulent local, national, ethnic and religious sentiment, as in Bosnia, Rwanda, Lebanon, Chechnya; the decline of literacy, and the onset of a new illiteracy based on electronic modes of communication, television and the global information superhighway; the fragmentation and threatened disappearance of the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment.
Our most precious asset in the face of such a dire transformation of tradition and of history is the emergence of a sense of integrative community, understanding, sympathy, and hope which is the direct opposite of what in his essay Hunting-ton has provoked. If I may quote some lines by the great Martiniquian poet Aime Cesire…
“but the work of man is only just beginning/and it remains to man to conquer all/the violence entrenched in the recesses of his passion/And no race possesses the monopoly of beauty/of intelligence, of force, and there/is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.”
PAST TENSE, PRESENT REPENTANCE
H.Y. Sharada Prasad in The Asian Age on the culture of apology that has all of a sudden gripped everyone, starting with Sonia Gandhi´s apologies for the Congress party´s past misdeeds.
At the end of the Twentieth Century there was a Great Flood. It was the Flood of Contrition. Everybody began apologising to everybody else for every wrong that had been done before.
God apologised for having created the sun and the moon and the stars and the world and day and night and birds and beasts and fishes. Then He apologised to Adam and Eve. Eve apologised to Adam for having de-ribbed him. The Serpent apologised to both for introducing them to temptation. Adam apologised to Eve for having made her the mother of a murderer…Elsewhere, in Greece, Oedipus apologised to his mother Jocasta for not getting lost at birth but turning up years later to wed and bed her. The Sphinx apologised to Oedipus for putting him questions which were too easy. Helen apologised for possessing a face which launched a thousand ships… In Syracuse, Archimedes apologised to his fellow-citizens for streaking across the streets and shouting that he had found what none of them had complained of having lost.
In our own land…Prince Rama apologised to King Janaka for unnecessarily breaking his bow while necessarily marrying his daughter.. .Hanuman apologised to Ravana for carrying out deforestation…Kunti apologised to Draupadi for breaking the norm of gender equality and imposing five husbands on her. Draupadi apologised to Dusshasana for not letting him know that her sari would be endless.
…Mountbatten apologised for not preventing Partition (and for not mastering the correct spelling of ´Jawaharlal´…). Jinnah apologised for propagating the two-nation theory and Yahya Khan for converting it into a three-nation theory. Mahatma Gandhi apologised to Godse for coming in the way of his bullets.
…And historians apologised to school students that this flood of apologies had not changed history and they had to continue to mug up names and dates. Like “what will be, will be”, what has been, is. That, they pointed out, is what is called a historical fact.
INTOLERANT ISLAM IS NOT ISLAM, but mere insular arrogance writes Rehana Hakim in her editorial in Newsline, the magazine from Karachi.
…virtually every political leader who has occupied the seat of power has invariably talked of the inherent dangers to Islam and presented himself as a soldier and saviour of Islam. From General Zia-ul-Haq down to his protege Nawaz Sharif to even the extremely Westernised liberal, Z.A. Bhutto, all have exploited Islam to justify their acts of omission and commission. Leaders such as these, who have used Islam as a billboard to sell themselves, have caused grievous harm to both democracy and Islam.
The danger to Islam also comes from another source: the various religious groups who see themselves as the thekedars (protectors) of religion and flaunt their brand of Islam as being the only real Islam. They have sowed the seeds of hatred, of dissension, and fanned the flames of sectarianism which have claimed several thousand innocent lives.
Does Islam, or for that matter any religion, sanction the gunning down of men, women and children? Even places of worship like mosques and imambarahs have not been spared. This is barbarism, not Islam. Surely Islam does not preach intolerance of the other person´s beliefs. Is a Sunni a better human being than a Shia or vice versa, or is a Muslim morally superior to a Christian or a Hindu? This is arrogance, not Islam.