Friday, August 31, 2012

Shrinking World

While writing this blog over the last several years I have adopting a style of writing from the first person.  While this is great for a personal blog, this is not the best literary style to employ when writing for larger audiences.  To give myself greater writing skill, I will be using more professional style writing techniques on occasion.  In particular when I tackle more wide ranging topics like I am attempting today, I will employ a third person, more news like style.

The subject on which I am writing is something that has been bothering me for a while.  As a person who loves to travel, I am becoming increasingly more distressed by the number of countries and regions of the world that are essentially becoming no-go zones for tourists/travelers.  

With each passing day greater numbers of societies and countries are becoming locked away from the average day-to-day tourist or traveler who would seek to explore them.  There are two primarily drivers of this phenomenon – the growing clout of radical religious groups and the decay of societies due to economic failure or the corruption of civil society by criminal elements.

A scan of the recent news shows the impact of these drivers.  In the African country of Mali, formerly a secular society, Islamic gangs have risen up and taken over a great swath of the country.  These gangs have implemented harsh Sharia law and have undertaken the destruction of the religious landmarks of the ancient city of Timbuctu.  Foreigners from most of the world were free to wander Mali in comparative safety prior to this recent uprising.  Yes – it was a tough place to get to and travel was rough, but it was definitely accessible to anyone willing to put up with a little bit of travel hardship.  Now it would be a foolhardy experience for any foreigner to enter these lands.

What makes this situation all the more sad is these same Islamic gangs are destroying the priceless heritage of this country.  The UNESCO world heritage site of Timbuktu has come under attack from these gangs as being un-Islamic.  The world heritage site consists of three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia and the associated tombs of Islamic saints.  These mosques have been in existence since the 15th century and hold great significance to the local followers of Sufi Islam.  Due to the beliefs of the Islamic gangs who follow a different sect of Islam, the gangs have destroyed parts of the mosques and many of the graves.  In doing this they are robbing the Malian people of their heritage and the world of an important part of Islamic and African history.  

In parts of Central America narco and gang violence has reached such extreme levels that even previously safe tourist havens are no longer necessarily safe places.  Gang violence has been reported throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  Though it is still possible to travel through these countries, it would be a daunting experience to wander the back roads of this part of the world without significant personal protection.

In Eastern Africa, Zimbabwe has been turned into an economic basket case by Robert Mugabe.  Traveling throughout this country is difficult at best due to the overall decay of society brought about by the severe economic disturbance.  Though Mugabe continues to hold power he has personally destroyed much of his country.  Instead of being a beacon of prosperity to its neighbors Zimbabwe is now a mess that can’t even feed it’s own people.  Traveling in Zimbabwe is a dangerous and not recommended experience.

Even countries that are experiencing economic growth and development like India have places that are becoming no go zones for outsiders.  In the northeastern region of India, conflict between the local Bobo people and followers of Islam has created chaos and driven thousands from their homes.  Though travelers may still reach this part of India, it probably isn’t the best idea as violence tends to spring up frequently.  Being an outsider caught in the middle of an orgy of communal violence is a very frightening spot to find oneself.

There are no easy answers as to why these trends have arisen and continue to gain steam.  Perhaps it is a reflection of a world in decline as the population soars, global warming changes the environment and economically growth comes to a standstill.  

Regardless it seems that we will all be made less well off by this trend.  If it is difficult to travel and visit places it seems that the tolerance for different ideas and thoughts will diminish.  The value that is gained from sharing viewpoints from different cultures will be lost and collectively human civilization will be worse off.
Those are just some thoughts on a wide ranging subject that has been bothering me for a while.

We are off to the mountains for the long Labor Day weekend.  We haven’t spent much time at our condo this summer so I hope we can make up for it over the fall.  There has been just so much going on in our lives that it has been difficult to find time to get up there.

We’ll spend through Sunday there and then it we will head back down here to Denver.  There’s a lot of work that I need to do around the house to put everything back together from the construction.  Sometime next week I will take some pictures to show how the kitchen turned out like and post them here.  The general contractor is still working on my punch list but for all intents and purposes the kitchen is done.

I hope everyone has a great weekend a head.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

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