Culture and politics forum
Does travellling to a country support a regime?
18th July, 2009
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I have struggled with this question for a number of years.
But probably most recently on travels in China. China is repressive to ethnic minorities, the pollution they contribute to the planet is absolutely unbelievable to someone who hasnt been there.
So do we support china in buying their products,,, should we not go there.... how can Aus industries possibly compete when they are doing the right thing by their employees and the environment...
I don't have any answers, except that to say if we boycott chinese industries we will harm those people most disenfranchised by their government.
My view is that travellers actually enhance the chances of disenfranchised minorities. We gain a lot from them but equally they see the way the "other' half lives.
There are no easy solutions.... but i am convinced that we are not supporting oppressive governments by travelling to their countries. We need to be culturally sensitive and not try and "convert" people but we need to support the economies of these developing nations.
Just my thoughts anyway, glad to hear yours.
#1 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 16:25
Australia is a repressive regime to our 4th world inhabitants - aboriginals. Should I leave Australia because I vehemently disagree with the gov't treatment of them?
There is a long 'debate' here on Myanmar which addresses many of the underlying issues you raise - go here .
Put into a perspective closer to home, I've got wrinkles and grey hair. Does my wife divorce me because I don't fit the stereotype of a 'good' manly husband?
You might say that's a stupid question and in relation to your concern on China, you're right. But, I suggest you'd also be wrong because the ethical / moral / etc. dilemma's are - in part - the way you fashion the question as much as the answer you seek.
I've spent much time in China, and planning to return in the new year. I'm not going to make a statement on the Chinese gov't, just as when I go to Vietnam I make a statement on that gov't. In both cases, I'm going to relate with the ordinary people of those countries, and experience their way of life, their sights, etc.
#2 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 18:22
These moral dilemmas are aften so difficult and I think each case on its own merit really.
Couple of points, though:
1. China is obviously expanding very rapidly and causing environmental damage as it does so. But, to claim Australia (or anywhere else in the West) is whiter than white seems a bit strong. See this report
(Sorry, don't know how to do a hyperlink)
2. When apartheid was still in place I wouldn't visit South Africa. I felt, for right or wrong, that it would be like supporting the apartheid Govt. I have been several times since 1994 and still think my original decision not to visit was right.
3. Having said that, I have been to other countries with very suspect human rights issues. Cuba, for example. I have some sympathy with the original aims of the Cuban Revolution, but some human rights are seriously curtailed there. I've even had people tut at me for going to Turkey.
4. The one place I won't visit at present (even though I'd like to ) is Burma. I just have fear that my money will go straight into the hands of the Generals and so that's out.
#3 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 20:27
Oooh, amazingly, the hyperlink seems to have worked.
#4 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 20:28
Would you mind expanding on why you believe that travelers enhance the chances of disenfranchised minorities, and what they see regarding how those travelers might live?
I would love to believe this, but don't. I'm asking this because after 2 years of volunteer work within an organization that works intimately with hilltribes, and Burmese refugees on the Thai-Burma border, and then further involvement over the last 8 years, I don't see this at all. I see the average traveler who encounters minority groups as merely transients ... passers-by who may hang-out for a bit and who may add to the local economy, but in no way enrich or contribute to the daily lives and lifestyles of the locals.
Do your experiences tell you otherwise?
#5 Posted: 20/8/2009 - 03:07
18th July, 2009
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Given your involvement in Burma you probably have much more experience than I. However what I do believe is that travelling opens the mind (usually) and gives people a whole new perspective on how the other half live.
My travelling in recent years has been more as a tourist than a real traveller, however earlier experience travelling through the middle east gave me a real chance to engage with people off the beaten track and gain a real understanding of the issues they are faced with.
Israel and Turkey in particular were enriching experiences.
Ultimately, I guess, governments reflect the views of people, so if those people are more tolerant and accepting of other cultures, perhaps governments will be too. Therefore policy decisions will be made that create better outcomes for everyone.
Perhaps that is a naive view of the world but I like putting my faith in people.
The world will never be perfect, all we can hope for is to make a small difference.
#6 Posted: 20/8/2009 - 16:55
I think your point "However what I do believe is that travelling opens the mind (usually) and gives people a whole new perspective on how the other half live. is central.
While Tilapia is correct in saying that passing tourists in no way enrich or contribute to the daily lives and lifestyles of the locals, I don't fully agree with that view.
I consider that the impact of tourism is slow and incremental. One tourist, itsy bit impact, many tourists, some impact, a continuous stream of tourists, an evolving impact. To me, locals see how the other half live and the young especially aspire to what they see as (somehow) better. So, over time, and over a generation, change does come. And, once change starts, its both hard to stop and gathers pace.
The point you make that we affluent westerners learn much from our observations/interactions is also important. In our conversations when we get back home, we talk and influence public opinion on such matters.
Here in Australia, public sentiment has enabled the Dalai Lama and a Uighur leader to visit - much to the dislike on Gov't China. I doubt they would have received an audience if it wasn't for Australians visiting far flung minority groups and observed the treatment they receive.
#7 Posted: 20/8/2009 - 19:19
2nd July, 2009
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Nokka said : "4. The one place I won't visit at present (even though I'd like to ) is Burma. I just have fear that my money will go straight into the hands of the Generals and so that's out."
I'm thinking about visiting Burma next year but I have qualms about it on the issue of giving money to and endorsing the military junta. Apparently, those in favour of going to Burma claim that only a fraction of your money goes into the hands of the regime (ie. taxes and fees) if you avoid government-run tours and hotels. In addition, they also argue that tourism only represents a small portion of the generals' revenues compared with natural resources export.
However, I feel a bit of money given to the regime is still too much. I still have 10 months to make up my mind whether to go or not :)
#8 Posted: 20/8/2009 - 21:48
Bruce, you say that, "locals see how the other half live and the young especially aspire to what they see as (somehow) better. So, over time, and over a generation, change does come. And, once change starts, its both hard to stop and gathers pace."
Yes, I agree with what you say about change, its pace and power, but I don't see this being a result of exposure to travelers. I see it as a consequence of what is happening in their own country (Thailand, in this instance) with the growing upper and middle classes, some of whom live just as well or better than most of the travelers passing through.
Since the late 90's there has been an avalanche of exposure to western-style media, technology, architecture, vacation options, automobiles, clothing styles, etc., and all of these things can now be advertised and broadcast far and wide into parts of the country where, about 20 years ago, these things were almost unheard of (or cared about) thanks to inexpensive communication technology. How many rural villages have we gone through in Thailand where we did not see thatched huts with either tv antennae or satellite dishes? How many of us have sat and watched Thai television and wondered at the sameness of it compared to what we get at home? The way news is broadcast. The soap operas. Football everywhere. Commercials.
So, I think that the impact of the traveler is a very small one. There are exceptions ... for example, changing a lifestyle such as farming or fishing to cater to foreigners (eg. opening a guest house or restaurant.) And that is a subject worthy of its own thread.
#9 Posted: 20/8/2009 - 23:46
I agree with the thrust of your comments. In some respect, Thailand is the outcome of what I was talking about.
When writing, I was thinking more of the out of the way, remote, places in SE Asia. I've been to some places - even in Thailand - where there is no tourist flow. And, these are the places where 'traditional' culture still survives: but largely in the elderly - the young emulate whatever.
If one was to look at the acceptance of westernisation in a relative way, then yes, cities first, country second, hidden rural third, and minority groups fourth. And, the more cash (not wealth) in circulation within a nation, the more 'westernised' it becomes. Once started, the pace of change is (largely) unstoppable.
To your last point, I wasn't trying to suggest that tourism IS the agent of change. Rather, that on the subject of tourism it IS an agent of change. I'd agree with you that in relation to other agents of change, tourism is not up there. But, please accept that I was talking about the impact of tourism (not whether tourism per se causes...).
#10 Posted: 21/8/2009 - 05:12
Of course. Every little bit helps, right?
#11 Posted: 21/8/2009 - 21:54
21st August, 2009
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Question's somewhat tricky in a sense that it doesn't say if the regime is from the point of origin or destination. My own conclusion to the question is probably reversible in such as way that the question could slingshot back to the person traveling and will that regime support him. How can a government in power need support when it already has power? Just my own analysis and I'm not saying that I'm right. That's how I understood the question. Have a safe day, mate!
#12 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 02:37
I wonder why it is we can always find excellent reasons to justify our tourism everywhere except aparthied South Africa? Wouldn't all of our great excuses hold there as well?
#13 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 06:44
Your point is valid. But, I suggest it really talks about the difference between two era's.
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During the half century 'rule' of the Nationalist Party, it was decidedly nationalist (in the academic political sense). The anti-Enlightenment fundamentals of nationalism peaked with fascism. So following WW2, anything/everything that embodied nationalism quickly became condemned. Botha's leadership tended to magnify the nationalist focii, and earned the wrath of Social Democratic states eager to distance themselves from (esp.) Weimar Germany and Stalinist Socialism.
Remember also, that this was at the height of modernism and the Cold war.
In that sense, anything negative associated with South Africa became fair game for criticism; not only against South Africa, but also as a contrast to what was (supposedly) good elsewhere.
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Today, in a post-modernism world with the globalisation of communications, the accessibility of/to relatively fast transport, and economic prosperity (GFC aside), western ideology is less focussed on contrasting different forms of politico-economic philosophy, and more on (perceived) threats to the universal uptake of market liberalism.
Irrespective of what it is, any activity that appears to undermine or threaten market liberalism is said to be a terrorist activity, or when applied spatially - a rogue state.
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So, opposition to apartheid South Africa represented more than a singular negative sentiment. Rather, it represented a modernist ideological struggle between competing neo-western politico-economic philosophies. And, it occurred at a time when global travel was largely in its infancy. Then, also, regulatory structures were also used to limit/dissuade travel destinations, and/or impose economic sanctions.
In this post-modernist era (and save for the US), ideological opposition towards states reneging against market liberalism does not also have the luxury of state regulatory structures able to focus public attention towards those ideological beliefs; people are 'free' to make their own choices (although I have some suspicion about Y-geners). Similarly, despite a nation being a 'rogue state', economic activity prevails (eg access to Iraqi oil, etc.).
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All this is a long winded way to say that opposition towards the Myanmar 'regime' reflects less institutionalisation and more a personal choice.
#14 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 08:45
31st August, 2010
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Out of the 400 letters sent since Monday, June 16th by Iranian-Americans all over the country, NIAC reports that only 26.7% have urged the President to support regime change in Iran, while 41.3% want the US to support the student's aspirations, but not get directly involved. Furthermore, 32.0% do not want the US to get involved at all and argue that the US can best support the students by not interfering. The statistics show that 73.3% of Iranian-Americans, while still supporting the demonstrators, oppose direct American interference or outside calls for regime change. Finally, 78.1% of Iranian-Americans oppose the Brown-back Bill that sets aside US funding for Iranian opposition groups and satellite TV channels in California.
#15 Posted: 31/8/2010 - 19:28
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