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February 25, 2013

Michael Moynihan on the political contradictions of travel guidebooks

“There is an almost Orientalist presumption [on the part of travel guidebooks] that the citizens of places like Cuba or Afghanistan have made a choice in rejecting globalization and consumerism. From the perspective of the disaffected Westerner, poverty is seen as enviable, a pure existence unsullied by capitalism. [Lonely Planet: Cuba co-author Brendan] Sainsbury refers to Cuban food as “organic” and praises the Castro brothers’ “intellectual foresight [that] has prompted such eco-friendly practices as nutrient recycling, soil and water management and land-use planning.” Meager food rations and the 1950s cars that plod through Havana’s streets, however, don’t represent authenticity or some tropical version of the Western mania for “artisanal” products, but, rather, failed economic policy. It’s as much of a lifestyle choice as female circumcision is in Sudan.”
–Michael Moynihan, “Leftist Planet,” Foreign Policy, Sept/Oct 2012

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day


One Response to “Michael Moynihan on the political contradictions of travel guidebooks”

  1. DEK Says:

    A traveler has the opportunity to see how societies work where things we take for granted are not the case: where private property is not secure, or private economic activity cannot proceed without government permission, or self-defense or the free expression of unpopular views is not allowed, even when this is done for high-minded reasons or with democratic consent. The freedom and prosperity of the West is the result of getting a number of things right and a traveler has the opportunity to see what happens in places where one or more of those things weren’t gotten right.

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