staying true to ourselves and keeping an open mind in the face of ethical challenges
This is such an important conversation, and one I think about all the time as a person who has spent much of my adult life living in places that I love that also have pretty atrocious human rights records, but also as an American––a place with its own horrific human rights record but one I would never say people shouldn't visit. For me, it all comes down to the money and how much your travel dollars help the government, versus regular people. I wrote about this a few years ago (though some parts of this probably need updating now!) Will probably tackle again in a future newsletter. :) Thanks for sparking discussion about this topic! https://www.curiositymag.com/2019/10/03/should-you-visit-saudi-arabia-cuba-myanmar-iran/
Thanks for the shoutout Sam - this is a great post and a really interesting debate.
Super thoughtful essay, Sam. I just LOVE your posts on the philosophy and ethics of traveling. It never really occurred to me to think about this topic, but you explained and dissected it so well I find myself reevaluating all the places I travelled to.
Truthfully, since we in Romania don’t have very easy access to more “outlandish” travel destinations and we tend to settle for Europe, where things are somewhat similar to home, I haven’t really had the need to think this thoroughly about ethics. But I once visited Panama City on a cruise, and boy... that was a whole different ball game. There were two things I saw in that city for the first time: skyscrapers and favelas. And they were right next to each other...
This was excellent, thank you. And Michael's perspective gives interesting food for thought as it is an perspective I've never thought of before - I know people in a similar position but their answer has simply been to avoid countries where who they are is not welcome, similar I suppose to how - and I freely admit quite unfairly - I think twice about certain destinations as a Jewish woman, even though I don't even believe in any form or organised religion because I know I look Jewish outwardly, so it is often a thought in my mind for what I call a 'safe', but if I'm being honest with myself a 'comfortable' travelling experience.
And also I want to note I save your essays to read whilst I'm having lunch. Thanks for the toenail images...!
Originally, I skimmed this title and assumed you were talking about tourism and the environment--tossing a Coke can into the Amazon or chipping a souvenir off the spire of Milan cathedral (and yes, we've seen both--and vehemently agree that such carelessness needs to be stopped). But then, I read the piece and realized that you were talking politics and culture, and on that, I would respectfully quibble. Americans have always flattered themselves that the rest of the world both needs and desires their opinions, however ill-informed, without much evidence to support the narcissistic notion. It isn't a simple matter of hypocrisy either (show me a country, and I'll show you a "horrific" human rights record, especially if you want to go back to the 19th century and earlier). It's a matter of missing the entire point of travel, which is to learn. We can't do that if we're so busy judging and opinionating, either with whitewash or otherwise.
So humorous but so very thought provoking. As I was reading this, I felt some of these recommendarions could also well be extrapolated to our own reactions to other humans that we sometimes club into the "GDPTC" club.
Kudos to you for taking on such a provocative topic! I prefer to travel with an open mind rather than pre-judging people. These days I’m self-conscious about the shoe being on the other foot, with those I meet judging Americans for the actions of our government and our countrymen and women--gun violence, insurrection, contested elections, etc. It’s sobering.
I love your framing device and would 100% visit the the Grand Duchy of Public Toenail Clippers, but I absolutely draw the line at the nation of Open-Mouth Chewers. They simply cannot be abided!
In all seriousness, a very thoughtful -- if amusing -- discussion of a complicated but very important topic.
I’ve heard (at the nail salon no less), that in the GDPTC one pays dowry in the form of a perfumed basket of clippings. Can you confirm this is indeed the case?
Because of the picture placement after you’ve introduced GDPTC, I can’t help but think you were scarred by someone clipping their nails in Santorini 😂😂.
This was a great post and it’s great to see so many others had a more nuanced answer than my ‘politics is boring’ 😂