The ”Virgin Country”, an ”Untouched land”, a land that is as innocent as Thailand was 30 years ago. These are the words and pictures used by travel agencies promoting Burma (or Myanmar) as the next “upcoming destination”. The British travel agency Explore has reported an increase in 70 extra added trips to Burma this year. Prices on hotel rooms have doubled in a short period of time. The tourists want to “go native” and go to “authentic places” where “authentic people are living”.
Burma is currently under military dictatorship and as with countries like Tibet, Cuba and North Korea, it has been difficult for tourists to get into the country. Their famous icon the civil rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi was last year released from house arrest and is now running for a seat in the parliament.
But as fast as the development in tourism goes, the infra-structure of the country cannot keep up. A travelling agent called Peter Fredriksen says to an article in Politiken that it is up to the individual travelers and agencies to not “ruin” the country by attending lectures in “responsible tourism”. An example he uses is that it is not smart to give everyone tips as 10 dollars has no impact on the poverty in the country. Similar articles focuses on the neighboring countries with headlines like “eat your way through Laos and Cambodia.”
Now – let’s stop for a minute.
Through the years, Burma has experienced extensive occupation and colonization and it is the home of the world’s longest running civil war. Since 1949 rebel groups such as the Karen have been fighting against the army dictatorship. Initially the war was about independence but now the insurgence is more about the violations of human rights that are being carried out by the military. Across the country the ground is filled with landmines and thousands of people have died. Thousands of people have fled the country and the civil war seems unending. There are nine refugee camps in Burma and Thailand has announced that they plan to send at least 100.000 refugees back to Burma in 2012, which has caused the refugee camps to close their doors for new people coming. Child soldiers are being recruited by both military and rebel groups, yet the military is known for using torture and forcing civilians to work for them.
In spite of Burma being the world’s longest ongoing civil war, the international media has changed its rhetoric and discourse regarding Burma and it is now considering more moderate and civilian, in spite of it being a military dictatorship where civilians are chased from their homes and their villages burned. The international community has consequently (or conveniently) started to see the government more as a civilian government, even though no significant change has happened. A question is whether the international community is acknowledging the dictatorship as acceptable, so that rich westerners can get an adventure in an apparently “untouched land”.
The analogy to the desire for virgins is paramount, where humans are driven to soil, consume and use that which is seen as “innocent” and “pure”. Looking at why Thailand for example is now considered “overrun” and “ruined” than 30 years ago is because of what? Tourism and tourists; westerners who go to live out sides of themselves that they would not be able to in their homelands; having sex with prostitutes and even children, drinking and ravaging as well as being able to live like kings because of the difference in affluence between Thailand and Germany, the UK or the U.S.
The term “eat your way through Laos and Cambodia” is no less paramount in what it depicts figuratively as well as literally as the countries are known for harboring some of the biggest child sex trafficking rings in the world.
But from the perspective of the western tourist that lives in comfort without having to bother themselves with disturbing information such as the one above, they are looking for new and exciting places to go, they are looking for authenticity, oddly enough not to be a part of, but to look at, consume and take pictures of.
There is absolutely no consideration for the Burmese people or for why the country is in the state it is in. The possible danger involved with going to Burma simply adds to the adventure as the tourists seek more and more exotic and adventurous experiences when choosing their holiday destinations. This is something that is also seen in the consumption of porn and drugs, where people require stronger and stronger doses to get the same exhilarating experience. Eventually the body is worn down, the mind is consumed by pornographic images and there is nothing left than a shell of human being, addicted to the chase after new products to consume. This is no different for the earth itself as the humans rape it, consume it and burn it.
If we would only open our eyes to the reality of what is here and see that we are all in fact interconnected and that the lives of people in Burma or Thailand or Cuba are directly interdependent and interrelated with the lives of people in the West. By this I do not only mean how westerners go to these places and somehow “leave a mark”, but also in the very nature of tourism as a manifestation of elitist lives vs. lives of poverty, democratic countries that support the military dictatorship and in turn are rewarded with hotels and sandy beaches.
Considering the deceptive description of Burma as a country that is given by travel agents and international politicians, it is no wonder that the ordinary tourist simply think that they are going to yet another exotic destination — how ever — who are the travel agents and the politicians representing? They are representing the people – and as such the delusion, deception and ignorance of the people. We are the ones that require top open our own eyes and stop the abuse, in any way, shape or form it might take – even when it looks seductively delicious.
Consider that “authentic” does not exist – as who we are, however we live is what is authentic – is who we are. We can rape the earth until there is nothing left, exactly as cancer cells can eat a human body until it dies. Or we can see that tourism is not all it is cracked up to be; we can see that it is us as Western tourists with our demand for new and exciting experiences that are the reasons why Thailand as a tourist attraction that before was considered “pure” and “new”, is now considered nothing “dirty” and “outdated”.
The very nature of being a tourist is not about exploring untouched land in some romantic fantasy of yesteryear discovery of the world – it is about the exploitation of an unequal relationship, a relationship that did not and that does not have to be unequal.
Investigate the Equal Money System, as a new way of co-existing on this earth, where tourism can be carefully considered and designed so that no place is ruined of its natural habitat, where all people have the ability to travel the world and explore new places.
Join us at Desteni where we expose the true nature of man as ourselves and as Destonians walk the process of bringing Life back from “the dead” as who we have become as zombies following desires, fears and thoughts without any consideration or regard for the Life that is here as ourselves.
Suggested read and watch:
The Concrete Jungle: