Concern without Listening

Pamela Nowicka of Tourism Concern writing in the Guardian tells us about the reasons behind the carnage in Indonesia:

My Balinese friend Ida texted me about the Bali bombs. When we spoke she expressed anger and dismay about what she called the Saudi Arabianisation of Indonesia over the last 20 years. But Indonesians also know that the Islamisation of this huge country is just one of a patchwork of reasons why holidaymakers in Bali have been targeted for a second time

So a woman in Bali – on the actual ground targetted by the bombers – tells Nowicka it’s because of radical Islamists and an imported ideology. Does our Guardian columnist need to listen to such simplistic explanations?

In a word, no. Leaving aside what she has been told, Nowicka tells us there are other reasons in play – no doubt too opaque for Ida to grasp properly. Here’s what she thinks is the real cause of the recent deaths and maimings:

However repugnant such attacks, it would be naive for holidaymakers to ignore the fact that north-south tourism has a powerful political undercurrent

When we holiday in the developing world, we are engaged in more than a spot of much-needed R & R. Many in the global south regard tourism as a new form of colonialism and cultural imperialism. While that may be hard for the suntanned holidaymaker to take on board, for the millions of ordinary people servicing their needs – the waiting staff, room cleaners, receptionists, shop workers, guides, massage ladies and taxi drivers – the linkage is clearer.

Many in the global south regard tourism as a new form of colonialism and cultural imperialism. Okay – let’s accept that’s true. But who are these ‘many’ she speaks of? The native population of Bali who make a living from the tourist trade? Was it the Balinese who bombed their own restaurants and beaches in an effort to drive away tourists and destroy the local economy? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t and that Nowicka is engaged in bandwagon jumping to promote her own ideas about how the world works and perhaps should work ideally.

Her understanding of how the world works is wrong though. Bali was not bombed because Balinese taxi-drivers resented low tips or because receptionists were spoken to rudely. It was bombed by Islamists for reasons that have nothing to do with the welfare or dignity of the Balinese Nowicki professes to be so concerned about. The people who blew them up don’t give a stuff for them because they regard the Balinese – Hindus mostly – as worthless infidels.

That’s not to say that Western tourism doesn’t bring problems in it’s wake. It does, but Nowicka doesn’t adduce any evidence whatsoever to show that the bombs were connected with any of these problems. Instead she just assumes that they must be because its a subject she’s interested in, brushing aside the words of her contact on the ground.

Nowicka uses the terms colonialism and imperialism without really understanding them. I’ve yet to see a better example of the mindset which accompanies imperialism and colonialism than that displayed in this logically and evidentially challenged article.