Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Cannibal Tours" and Self Reflection

Today in my "Culture and Identity" anthro class, we watched a movie entitled "Cannibal Tours." It was made in the 80's so it was somewhat dated, but nevertheless very interesting. It basically looked at the tourism industry in New Guinea and how much if it is based on the "primative" aspects of the culture. How the exotic is marketed and sold. How tourism is in a sense trapping the people into sterotypes that Westerners would have of the native culture and thus what is is like to live with nature, stuff like that.

The movie pretty much focused on the ignorance of the tourists. They go in wanting to see a "backward" culture, criticize it, take pictures, buy art, are in and then out. Some of the stuff they said was just ridiculous. Like, "They have really easy lives," "it must be nice to live without worries like they do." Just stupid stuff like that. Watching the movie it was easy to laugh at the tourists and their attempt to understand the natives.

As much as I hate to admit it though I can see myself in their ignorance and wrongfully placed concern. It was sad to hear one of the older villagers explain how unfair "second" or "third" (negotiated) prices were. The tourists would try to barter to bring the prices down, even though it was obvious they could afford the initial price. Another woman was explaining how the tourists don't buy much and don't really help out the local people. The inequalities between the natives and tourists were startling.

When I was in India, I bartered for a lot of the stuff I bought at bazaars. I really wasn't good at it, but sometimes I could get the price of whatever I wanted lowered. All of the Indian college students that we met warned us not to get "ripped off" by the people selling things. They automatically raise prices when they see foreigners because they know we don't know any better. Looking back now I feel really bad. Like seriously, "Laurel, just pay the guy the money so he can support his family!" If anything it really is chunk change for us. They need it so much more. Its really ridiculous how caught up we get with money. How cheap we can be. Its sad to think how it can blind us. So instead of showing compassion, empathy, and humanity, money rules us and our interactions with other human beings. It is surprising how much you resemble the people you don't want to be.

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