Sunday, January 09, 2005

Post-Tsunami Reflections on the Human Cost of Tourism

Had a late-night dinner the other night with two H.'s, Vkdir, and Setiakawan. S.--who is from Malaysia, but whose family and friends were spared by the tsunami--informed me that the Thai government decided to downplay dangers of a Tsunami so as not to disrupt the profit-making of the tourist industry. Now that is some sick shit.

I've know a few things about the rampant sex tourism industry in Thailand, the Philippines and elsewhere, and about the poverty and hunger that is inflicted on millions of people throughout the globe because Global South (the 21st century term for 'Third World') nations decide to push most of their resources into 'profit-making', Global-North- (read: white people) serving tourism instead of industry that could truly help feed and build the infrastructure to raise the quality of living for their own people. But this shit is truly disgusting. It made me want to vomit when I heard about it.

I hope and pray that those scientists and government officials who decided to keep their mouths shut so that American and European tourists could frolic and play on Thai beaches undisturbed are doing some serious reflection and soul-searching about the errors of their ways. I am trying to have compassion for these folks, but it is difficult. My Kali-warrior-Oya-inspired energy is rising up, and I want to lash out at these privileged, powerful yet disgustingly inept and irresponsible world leaders who continue to put the majority of our planet's living beings in jeopardy of losing our lives, our livelihoods, even our traditions and ways of living, in order to turn a short-sighted profit for themselves and their cronies.

In Cuba, as well, although the government is a little more well-intentioned and has a more long-term plan about how to deal with the ever-growing tourist industry that subsidizes much of that nation's social infrastructure, tourist is still a problematic issue. It help creates an economic, racial and gender stratification that reflects that of the wider world, such as a two-tier currency system (one based on more highly-valued US dollars, which Cubanos who work in the tourist industry have greater access to, and one based on the Cuban peso; this system is actually undergoing radical reforms due to heightened US pressure against the Cuban government). I also can't tell you how frequently I saw the familiar image of a white man seductively dancing with a young brown Cuban woman, who would spent an inordinate amount of time trying to 'please' him in order to win his affections, and, thus, his money.

I'm hoping that one or more of the progressive/alternative media outlets start getting more serious about covering the aftermath of the tsunami and its long-term political, economic and social implications. There are a few good articles, like these, found via Alternet. My guess is that the ethnic press in the US, especially the Indian-American, Chinese-American, and Southeast Asian-American press, will do a much better job of covering this than other outlets. If anyone has any good leads, please let me know.

1 comment:

bino said...

ah! the world is so blessed to have someone like you around. thank you.