“A bunch of structural engineers might head down there to assess if buildings are safe for occupancy.”
“Oh, are you going?”
“I would.. but.. I’m not worried about crumbling buildings falling on me, I’m more worried about the violence.. you know, if they think I’m rich they might get aggressive.. it just doesn’t seem safe. So no, I’m not going.”
I typically enjoy my boss. My entire department is generally good humored and less conservative than one might assume. Instead of ignoring his comment, it nagged me, sat very wrong in my belly.
That’s when Malcolm X sprang to mind:
“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”
My boss’s stance differs from what I’ve witnessed in the travel blogging community.
The most inspiring has to be GotPassport’s article Clarity. Aye is forceful with her position, “Are we losing followers because we are tweeting nothing BUT Haiti Issues? Then so be it! Go walk out the door, you’re not welcome here anymore.” Finally, a woman willing to stand strong because the value of helping others outweighs racking up followers on a social networking site.
My boss, who is a qualified professional, clings to alarmist fears instead of seeing past them to realize a bigger picture.
Last week, I was engrossed in How to Burst the Tourist Bubble at the behest of SoloFriendly’s recommendation. Travelers are always on the hunt for an authentic interaction with locals, to break from that tourist loop of socializing with other backpackers.
It seems we could apply that analogy to my boss. What about breaking that first world bubble?
I have a degree of empathy for him. He’s got a family to support, yet so does Aye. He stated that most natural disasters don’t have impending violence hanging in the air. Perhaps not. My opinion on that, I’ve traveled solo to some crazy destinations, and nothing happened to me, yet my apartment was robbed, my car was broken into 3 times, and my wallet was stolen in a busy restaurant – all in my hometown. What my boss also forgets, Vancouver is right in an earthquake zone. What if the situation was reversed? How would he feel if a foreign structural engineer decided his country wasn’t worth helping?
I would contend the first world bubble is a belief that whatever happened in Haiti is far removed from our smoothly paved roads, big box stores, and tree lined streets. An alien, hostile land rife with low GDP, wealth gaps, and staggering poverty that leaves most uttering, “Forget it, they’re too far gone.”
In researching this article I hit upon the concept of commonality in balancing diversity. Cultural norms are instilled in us since birth, but what connects the dots from African to German to American to Canadian are fundamental needs. Haitians cherish human life, treasure family relationships, and desire a sense of security, like all of us do. Whether significant to solving conflicts, cultural understanding or disaster relief, peeling away differences reveal truths – we are more interconnected than not. Any traveler will second that notion.
My anthropology professor once said, “Underneath our symbols of status, we are all the same - flesh and bone.”
Instead of leaving me depressed, I felt buoyed, thankful to be part of such a wonderful group of travel bloggers, secretly plotting some kind of travel blogger serum, if injected into the general population would make the world that much better, don’t you think?
For a comprehensive list of organizations taking donations, visit: www.cbc.ca/haitirelief/.
Photo: IFRC under Creative Commons