I read and responded to a great post on Good Intentions Are Not Enough regarding disaster tourism. I also read a post on Aid Watch about poverty tourism, and this great post on ignorant missionaries. They all make great points – people are not attractions for other people.
The origins of it probably date back even farther than freak shows and circuses. Susan Sontag addresses this issue in both On Photography and Regarding the Pain of Others. We enjoy gazing. Even worse, we enjoy gazing repeatedly at photographs. I think this is a point that all of these posts tend to undermine in their obsessions with tourism. People not visiting the regions or sites or countries are just as guilty when looking at photographs, aren’t they? And, by their arguments, are journalists just as guilty as the tourists? Granted, I’m new to this blogosphere/group of bloggers, so I apologize if they have already written about such issues. But I feel it’s an issue that has only been discussed in the photojournalism, photography, and media realms.
And in order for these root issues of development to change effectively, we would have to address the foundations of the problems, correct? I would say a majority of these issues are ignited via internal, international, and political warfare. All of these human rights violations – starvation, rape, health care, housing – are results of greater problems that very few individuals can address. While I agree with all of their arguments, these problems cannot disappear just through more thoughtful and educated donations and work. These are smart bloggers, and I’m sure they’ve taken these issues into account; however, there are times I have felt that they truly disregard these factors.
So if you’re arguing that international health care, development, and disaster relief depends on donors addressing the deeper issues, then we have to have faith in a greater international body of law. And if development will improve, the media needs to change. It’s the strongest influence on these greater factors, and it’s the only one that has greatly impacted these movements.