‘The World Is Made of Paper’

“Knickers Abroad; a multiple journey”

by

Rose D. Kaye

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For a complete list of chapters in numerical order please go to this page.

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Chapter Two

‘The World Is Made of Paper’

So why should you care about my story? If I were prone to hyperbole then phrases such as “A triumph of hope over adversity” or “A stirring memoir of one woman’s fierce will to survive” would be the banner headlines in bold type. But I’m not any of those phrases. I consider my story to be normal. How could I not? It’s how I feel. I don’t feel brave or special or unique in any way. I’m just Rose, someone who thinks and cries, laughs and broods. My emotions and my passion for writing are not because I blog, but because I do not have my own physical body. I find it interesting though how multiple personalities can be so controversial when many believe that artificial intelligence in a computer will be possible some day. Even science fiction stories about brains in a jar or disembodied spirits are more readily accepted than multiple people living within one mind. So why should you care about my story?

I guess it all depends on whether or not you or someone you care about is different. Maybe you have a multiple personality in your family. Maybe you have someone that suffers from a mental illness. Maybe you are friends with someone who is gay or lesbian. Maybe your religion or skin color sets you apart. Maybe, being different is your lifestyle. I suppose that applies to everyone after all, but you sure wouldn’t know it by what passes for culture. Not just American culture, but everywhere you go, what is normal is what is culturally acceptable. That excludes me. I could appeal to your sense of fair play, but then again, does that mean I have to care about your story in return?

I do care. I may not be someone you’d feel comfortable with having over for a family dinner or inviting to your local church, but I do care. Compassion is a virtue, not a lofty ideal to be studied and debated while attaching a price tag. All of us tend to view the world in one of two ways. Either everyone is evil and will try to hurt us, or everyone in good and will try to help us. Of course neither viewpoint is correct, nor are they incorrect. Yes there is evil and yes there is good. The question, does compassion, mercy and grace towards all get trumped by the occasional evil action is one that needs to asked. If one of ‘them’ is at fault, does that mean all of ‘them’ are evil? Sure seems to me that an awful lot of the world’s population thinks that way. I wrote the following essay before we left on the trip to London and it sums up my point of view towards travel and the interactions with different cultures a tourist encounters.

A journey begins with a single thought. What do I pack? The temptation is to pack everything because no matter where you are going, they can’t possibly have what you need. Until you arrive only to discover that you’ve traveled halfway around the world to multi-national land. It looks like a theme park, but, in reality, it is a mind-numbing expanse of cultural death. The comforts of home, a boon to the weary tourist freshly disgorged from the horrifying torture that is the international flight. To see the shops, the restaurants, the familiar icons of home; many a hardened business traveler has burst into spontaneous tears at the sight of the pulsating neon in the vast expanse of Terminal One.

The ultimate cost of these creature comforts will never be mentioned in polite society. It is just not done. If I wanted culture, I’d watch television. I’m here to relax. None of this native experience for me, I want my holiday to be an extension of my home life. Expanding my horizons? Bah, that’s for the charter crowd; I’m first class all the way. After all, the world is made of paper.

Paper eases the way for this disconnect. The passport, the visa, the tickets, the reservations; all serve to segregate and divide the hordes. Alone, money actually means nothing. Money is actually an abstract, a convenient way to filter the classes. With lots of money, you flow in a safe, sealed bubble. Without any money at all, the world flows around you, a desperate rock in a raging flooded river of information and materialism.

You see them everywhere, these rocks. Beggars. Homeless. The poor and the destitute: rotting in their ghettos. You, the bubble traveler, float blissfully by, serene, secure, secluded in your own convictions. After all, you’ve heard nasty rumors you’ve got your own social problems at home, no need to take on anymore. Isn’t that what governments are for? Or is it charities and soup kitchens or some such? Didn’t that celebrity telethon last year take care of this problem? Look, my accountant told me if I made a contribution, then I’d pay no taxes again this year. The sacrifices I make in my lifestyle to help the less fortunate.

This perspective may seem too harsh, but traveling for pleasure is not a modern phenomenon, nor is grinding poverty. From the time of the Roman Empire and even long before, the wealthy have had resorts that catered to their every whim. Yet even today, in every country, in every culture, there are exclusive resorts that are set right next to slums and polluted land. Our societal mobility is based upon paper and while travel serves to fuel economies around the globe, the money that is spent often does little to create positive social change for those that need it most. That change must come from the citizens themselves and the governments they live under, not through tourist spending. Over 800 million international visits are made every year for various reasons and there are untold more who travel domestically. I think it is fair before spending your hard earned money on a trip to ask where and how your dollars or yen or euros will be used. With wealth comes power and responsibility. By making an informed decision to travel to countries that support your personal beliefs, sustainable tourism can become a viable option. If however, you do travel to a country that has what you consider to be an oppressive government, then spend your cash where it will do the most good. For example, if the environment is a personal priority, then take a trip that involves restoring habitats or supporting renewable resources.

That being said, I do not believe that eco-tourism or sustainable tourism will become the norm in the future. The battle for current tourism spending is so fierce and governing bodies at all levels are addicted to the taxes and spending generated by visitors. Certainly there are areas of the world that should be regulated, but there seems to be very little political will anywhere aimed at freezing or even slowing development. That is our fault, because we believe travel is a right. Travel for pleasure is a privilege, a luxury, not a right, and one that vast numbers of the world’s population will never enjoy. We who are fortunate enough to be one of the ‘paper travelers’ should be ever mindful of the impact of our good intentions and of our responsibilities to those we visit. The desire to see new locales needs to be balanced with the reality that tourism stresses the resources available to the permanent residents. In addition, it takes energy, lots of energy to travel and that needs to be factored into your decision as well. By ignoring local politics, we remove ourselves from any possibility of making true and lasting connections to the citizens we meet.

By the time I returned from London, I was no closer to a solution about responsible tourism than I was before we left.

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