Posts Tagged ‘American’

Dark tourism

I read that that the University of Central Lancashire is to establish a centre for the investigation of so called “dark tourism”.  These are tourist jollies to lovely destinations like Auschwitz and Ground Zero.  The undeniable fact that motorists slow down to rubber-neck accidents on the other side of the motorway seems a decent parallel.  Why do people feel compelled to visit such sites of horror and terror? There surely cannot be much fun to be had.  There must be something deeper going on in tourist psyches; are they seeking that awful American phrase, “closure”?  Are they morbidly fascinated?  Are they seeking some sort of meaning in their own lives?  Complex stuff; have people always been attracted to such places?  Is it somewhat like the criminal returning to the scene of the crime?  Perhaps these tourists feel a sense of responsibility for their fellow man’s inhumanity to others?  Of course, death as spectacle or even as “fun” has been with us forever, from Roman amphitheatres to  medieval hanging-shows, people have always, it seems, taken some sort of perverse pleasure in the demise of others.  The rise of dark tourism perhaps indicates a greater willingness to take on board mistakes of the past in an effort to improve the future; I hope so.  I am pretty convinced this type of tourism-voyeurism is not for me but I can understand the “spiritual” nature of such visits and that they, maybe, provide something of a balance to the demands of modern life.

Good morning Kabul

President Obama gave another patriotic speech this week about the need to protect American troops and get them out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.  An hour later another suicide bomber blew himself and several others up in Kabul.  Afghanistan is drawing increasing parallels with the Vietnam debacle of the seventies.  However much the USA tried to spin the south Asia conflict, it will never be looked back on as a success, however that may be measured.  I think Obama is terrified of a repeat outcome in Afghanistan; he needs to get his men out to assuage the American public but also realises the need to try save face on the international front.  Very tricky.  Of course, the latest Koran burning stupidity does not help and brings to mind some book-burning episodes from history that Obama would do well to distance himself from.  The Taliban seem to be playing the long game; sitting and waiting to step up as soon as the Americans leave.  Many commentators think little will have changed when the Americans finally depart; apart from the immense financial cost of the operation and the uncountable cost in terms of lives lost.  The American psyche was immeasurably damaged by the Vietnam disaster, I can see the “Afghan Vet” horror stories (followed by the movies like “ Goat Curry Hill” and “Good Morning Kabul”) appearing over the next twenty years or so.  Like the Russians before them America has discovered that not for nothing has Afghanistan always been considered an unconquerable country.  The only winners in this sorry saga appear to be the Hollywood movie moguls; rubbing their grubby hands together with glee.

Fed up?

Highest GDP in the world?  USA.  Highest GDP per capita?  USA.  Highest rate of depression and mental health issues?  You’ve got it, USA.  There is a clear correlation between wealth and (mental) health.  Tell a visitor from another world that the human race gets more miserable the wealthier it gets and I imagine they would think it rather odd.  My mate Jimmy the Doctor, tells me that the UK’s mental health has never been so poor.  He is swamped in his surgery by young and old, men and women, rich and poor; all suffering from the modern disease of depression.  Reasons?  It could be several things, we are more in touch with our inner selves, we are more willing to share our  troubles, we have been somehow encouraged in our melodramatic self- absorption through media manipulation of celebrity culture or we are genuinely just more fed up.  Like the old adage that if we  build more roads it will create more traffic perhaps the fact that we pump resources into mental wellness initiatives results in patients  seeking  these out and using them?  Drugs, therapy, shrinks and new age counsellors, all riding on the back of the black dog, as Churchill called it.  Have we created a society that eats itself in a self-fulfilling downward spiral of the blues? Perhaps, just perhaps, we should collectively take a step back from modern life and begin to deal with our spiritual needs?  Meanwhile, the American child-mental-health drug industry continues to post record profits.  Ritalin-a-ding-a-ding-ker-ching.