The interaction between ‘Westerners’ and the rest of the world is making me increasingly uncomfortable.
I’m not primarily talking about politics (although we elect the politicians we deserve) but about the ‘man in the street’.
Despite the fact that we westerners have invaded, colonised, emigrated to and otherwise populated more countries than you can shake a stick at, we seem to be passionately against immigrants to our own countries. We resent them, victimise them, generally put them down and seek ways to exclude or banish them without a second thought. Not only that, when we travel to other countries, whether for commerce or holiday, we expect other populations to fall in with our plans, speak our language, adopt our ways and philosophies (George Bush’s “freedom’n’democracy” being a case in point) and allow us to plunder their resources at will.
The results of our attitude are there for all of us to see – although very often we don’t connect the results to the attitude.
This was brought home to me when I listened to the voices of western tourists marooned at Bangkok airport. Such phrases as ‘cockamamie dispute’ and ‘irresponsible youth’ were being bandied about, with no thoughts about the reasons for the demonstration. Thailand has many problems, with the Government being one of them and religious conflict being another. We in the west pride ourselves on being allowed to demonstrate for or against things we feel strongly about – such as bad government. Imagine how we would have felt if, say, Japanese tourists, caught up in the massive demonstration in London against the war in Iraq, simply complained at the disruption, without considering the cause. (As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine Japanese being so impolite!)
This western approach to other nations has clearly been the cause of many unfortunate consequences over the decades, whether it be terrorism, high oil prices, bad cooking or simply the ‘MacDonaldisation’ of attractive holiday destinations.
So I believe that we in the west will be doing the world a favour if we spend a lot less time travelling abroad, and a lot more time appreciating our own homelands. One thing our current financial grief is doing is forcing us all to become less self-indulgent and materialistic, and this can only be good. In three or four years time, when we start feeling the effects of Peak Oil, we are likely to have a permanently shrinking economy, and we are going to have to find a way of living with that.
Perhaps that will result in a welcome diminution of our desire to influence the way that other people live, and a broadening interest in how to live a more stress-free, economical and satisfying life ourselves.