Western man has become the exploiter, the shark in the waters of the sacred to the societies who live by the codes of honor. He came with his wonder drugs, his mod-cons and ideas of ‘progress’ and planted the bitter seeds in the lands of those there before him. Centuries in time lapse would show this in tow, these ills of modern man and his touring harem of tourists who believe there is a smorgasbord of attractions that will service them alone with no regard for the other. Wielding expensive camera that rob the soul of place and person, mongering profit, and diluting the lifestyle of true travelers through wrong action. I think this may be the biggest bane of a so called tourist, the impact one is having on another culture without knowing it. This is something I want to talk about, after seeing first hand the effects holiday makers can have on indigenous people, the wilderness, and ultimately entire cultures.
There is this problem in this age that until the 20th century did not really exist. With the advent of speedy travel, we can simply fly halfway across the world in a day, and with it bring all our our ideas, customs, behavioral codes, language and morality with us. This can be create an exotically interesting situation when drifters move step together and trade their minds and life experiences with each other, but as a world traveler I am seeing the dirty downsides of this.
My steps and points on the map have called me to live in Mexico this past month, one of the most sacred places on this earth, enriched with ancient civilizations, medicine, magic, and mystery throughout the land. It is a place of instant manifestation. But a trip tor one of the sacred Mayan ruins, the cities or national parks eschews what carnivals these places have actually become. It seems there is less and less regard for the sacred energy and reverence for these places as the years notch on. They become more and more novelty, the information is more and more filtered, people ignore simple rules, and the whole event becomes watered down through tour guides, buses, paid luxury hotels, and catered experience with strict timelines and overpriced charges. It is sad to see so many people walk into these sacred sites, like the pyramids and ruins of Palenque and see everything through a screen on their cameras, literally walking around with it held out in front of them to archive their memory and never open again. One person I met said it was ‘so I don’t forget’, because the pure moment of it is somehow not enough. Lost is this felt presence of immediate experience, except for the few. In the countryside, increased participation in a monetary economy because of tourists has decreased the need for subsistence agriculture and with it the religious rites associated with agriculture. The non-existence of once very important pilgrimages to particular sites (because they have been desecrated, or the deaths of the elders and knowledgeable persons who practiced the rituals through old age and often disease, the information was not passed on to younger generations). The use of music and dance has also decreased in ritual behavior inexplicably since ethnographers began ‘studying’ the natives. Ancient heritage is turned into souvenirs for European and American privileged class, everything is reaped of it’s specialty for a profit. These are only some of the downfalls that are taking place. The ones selling their wares are there because they have no other livelihood. The brand names of the world commerce litter the jungles, the desert, and the playas. And in general, the importance and meaning of the world’s sites are being ripped out and seen as novelty, in the words of a loyal friend
“When we are a person of place, we are a person of place wherever we are, through our ability to listen. I use the term listening in the sense that it is a certain kind of indigenous faculty. A tourist, on the other hand, arrives at a place without really listening to it, or being open to it on it’s own terms. He arrives with a camera or some other type of lens through which the interpret his surrounding. Always removed and impersonal. He habitually takes in the world as some kind of presentation, rather than a participant. Aren’t all civilized people acting as tourists then, even when they are at home? Removed and alien, forever uprooted, not involved with the dialogue and culture of where they are. In a sense, this lack of presence is a denying and banishment of soul. But poetic language, or indigenous perception, allows us a way back into experiencing our lives as people of place, as being involved directly in an animate speaking Universe.”
If you wonder to ask… no this doesn’t ruin my experience, but I almost literally need to be on a drug trip to throw off all the distractions of noise and flashes and stupidity that happens at these touristic locations. The worst of all is the image it creates with the locals, for I am viewed in the same light, until that is I generate a reputation as other. When I can speak to the indigenous locals and explain to them, I am not a tourist, actually I am one of you. Teach me and I will listen. I really would like to see tourism take a new direction, into more spiritual directions, at least more coherence and sense because I think it brings a lot to small struggling communities but when there is such separation between the set and setting of the individual, it all goes off kilter. I personally feel that the real tourism is going alone and trusting in yourself, not planning anything too rigorously, and people will recognize you are not seeking to exploit them and the true adventure begins. I can’t stand seeing people walking around like drones, trying to get the best selfies to put online later, and then forget, as if the whole purpose of the trip was for narcissistic reason. Real travel and experience happens without a camera, though it can be a valuable tool, it is more of a distraction from the real. Find it in your heart to try something new or at least accept the difference. We think of these other cultures as primitive, unsophisticated, low, or strange, but when they are visited as part of a ‘tour’ they become a form of abstract admiration. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Be culturally sensitive and aware of where you are going, and this might benefit our inter-global relations, maybe there would be less violence and more love in the world if this changed.
!Otro Mundo es Possible!