This has not been a good few weeks for humanity. As much as we have progressed in certain areas, humanity has the uncanny ability to equally regress into actions best left to centuries passed. While my hope for humanity is that we keep traveling “north” – meaning we continue to progress – weeks like this last one challenge my optimism. While the geopolitical landscape is quite complex, particularly in the Middle East, the resolution of the world to stand up for what is just is quite clear to me. The collective power of the nations of the globe will never be defeated if they band together. Unfortunately a broad vision is lacking, despite humanity’s lip service to the contrary.
Over the past weeks two wonderful cities were senselessly attacked in the name of an ideology rooted in the middle ages. During that time, it was quite difficult for people to travel, as even the word itself acknowledges. The English word “travel” has its roots in the French word “travailler” meaning “to work” as travel was always hard work. It is a derivative of the French word that essentially defined unpleasant work, which was coopted and continued in Middle English [c. fourteenth century] as travailen or travelen meaning to torment, labor, strive, or journey. Modern English still retains the word “travail” meaning a painful or laborious effort.
One aim of the campaign to attack these cities was to turn back the clock to the period when the word first came into existence – to make it again a torment or labor to move about the globe or to freely and easily journey to these places. When one thinks about the increased security that has been implemented as a response to violence over the past fourteen years, this aim has been in some measure successful.
As twenty-first century travelers we must not give in to the fear or the narratives and continue to do what we love to do – to travel – no matter how much <<travail>> we must endure to do so. The arc of progress is too strong to stop and it will continue to gain momentum. However, it is during these challenging moments that our reactions, both personal and governmental, set the tone for a future of continued progress, or for one in which progress is slowed to a crawl.
I look forward to my next visit to Paris, France and to Beirut, Lebanon, once known as “the Paris of the Middle East.”