Unless you have been on another planet this week you have no doubt heard about the senseless violence that befell the satyrical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris on 7 January. For anyone with a blog , newspaper, book, etc., this was a deeply disturbing turn of events. As the details are well known to all of us, I am not going to discuss them here.
It never ceases to amaze me that the thing humanity is best at – and has been throughout history – is dividing itself. For some reason, there must be a “them” for there to be an “us.” Humanity has been quite creative in its methods of division, and whether it be based in something ethnic, cultural, geographical or religious there never seems to be a lack of xenophobia or basic distrust or fear of the “other.”
The perpetrators of the senseless violence against the staff of Charlie Hebdo represent a small minority of bad actors within humanity. Bad actors often hide behind an alleged ideology but in no way represent any ideology other than that of violence. Unfortunately with 21st century technology in their hands these bad actors and others like them can inflict a lot of damage in a very short amount of time and, given the media frenzy for ratings, are then celebrated as vehicles to increase ad revenue or market share. The danger here is the narrative that these events perpetuate within the framework of misinformed populations.
This is one reason why travel is so important.
Through my blog posts I have tried not only to highlight some out of the way locations in the world [along with their cafes!], but to also combat the narrative associated with certain areas of the world. This latter aspect is quite important to me. Whether it was the warmth and welcome of the Kurds in northern Iraq, the beautiful Algerians and their dynamic country, the happy-go-lucky Mongolians in and around Ulan Bator, the incredible Maasai people in northern Tanzania, or the rural tribes of Ecuador, all of these connections taught me something I did not know before, and corrected some assumptions I had. In its most simplistic form, just meeting these global citizens opens up our minds to a new understanding of the infinite cultural diversity in the world and challenges us towards a more well rounded view of humanity.
In the wake of senseless violence such as was seen this week people tend to throw around their “thoughts and prayers” as if that was going to do anything except make themselves feel better. Lets try to do better. Let’s try to combat the narrative by educating ourselves – and others – that people all over the world are really not that much different after all.
So go on and get out there – travel! And the next time you hear a misinformed comment aimed at perpetuating a sterotype of the “other,” use the knowledge you have gained from travel and politely correct these comments. Do not be bullied into silence. In this small way we can all honor those who have been lost due to violence born out of ignorance and intolerance.