Authentic Travel Experience a Myth

Do we sometimes go on a travel experience already with stereotypes of people and cultures in our minds, and we were just looking to visually confirm them? I could honestly say my visits to South Korea and Thailand in the past weren’t exactly postcard experiences of Gangnam Styles or Lady Boys.

Gary Andt from The Atlantic writes:

The world is what it is, and you have to explore it on its terms, not yours. No matter what you expect to see when you visit a new place, the reality you will find will be different. You are traveling in the 21st century, not the 19th. Do not expect people to be caricatures or stereotypes of something you have in mind. View the people you meet as neither cultural superiors nor objects of pity. Moreover, whatever you think is authentic was developed without your having experienced it.”

Here are 7 reasons he observes why travelers, especially those visiting a less developed ‘ethnic’ destination, often have a misplaced sense of realities and cultural diversity.



Global Civil Society: Look Left, Look Right

We often associate activism and civil society as being largely anti-establishment, progress and liberal. This article observes how the playing field is actually more balanced and diverse, exploring the myriad conservative right wing activist groups that have surfaced to protect established systems traditions and mindsets. 

PITTSBURGH: International campaigns on social and economic issues are increasingly common. NGOs, foundations, journalists, celebrities and citizens have pressured governments to establish an International Criminal Court, institute a ban on landmines and promote environmental sustainability. They are also trying to slow global warming, broaden access to reproductive rights and promote any number of other progressive goals.

Such activism, not always successful, has become so frequent that “global civil society” is often portrayed as a bastion of leftwing politics – a realm of likeminded groups working to counter corporate power, state repression and cultural backwardness.

Yet for all the liberal groups working across borders, the voices of another civil society are also making themselves heard. Right wing civic groups are taking to the global stage, despite a reputation for kneejerk aversion to international institutions as embodiment of liberal causes. Indeed, by doing so, conservative groups can attract allies, exploit receptive venues and find additional examples supporting their ideas.

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Reading about the Olympics…

You know the GP essay question about sport is never really about sport itself, but about the many issues surrounding it and its function or purpose for society. With the ongoing London Olympics, sport comes packaged as a global spectacle celebrating the epitome of human strength and spirit for all the world to see, to applaud, to criticize. Here are some articles I’ve read on the games so far that might be worth a look:

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Fault Lines…again

Here’s a report from CNA on the IPS report concerning the integration of new immigrants. Why do you think the biggest incongruence between local and new citizen perception of what constitutes ‘integration’ lies with National Service? Why are the tertiary educated middle class supposedly more threatened?

National Service a key indicator of integration: study

SINGAPORE: A new study has placed National Service (NS) as a key indicator of integration for foreigners.

The report by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) seeks to examine what immigrants ought to do in order to be regarded as a full participating member of Singapore society.

The study covered some 2,000 local and foreign born citizens. Half of the new citizens got their citizenship just 10 years ago or earlier.

They were asked several questions on what they thought were social markers of integration. Such as – should a new citizen be gainfully employed, complete NS or be married to a local – to be seen as a Singaporean?

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Paradoxical Sponsorships…

I once remarked to a friend how it was only on earth that one could find a fast food chain actively sponsoring a global sport event like the Olympics. Well I guess some people feel the same way too about the ironic mutualism of it all…

UK doctors blast McDonalds’ Olympic sponsorship

LONDON – McDonald’s is a sponsor for the London Olympics – and a British doctors’ group says that is sending the wrong message in a country with ballooning obesity.

Big Macs, fries and milkshakes will be part of McDonald’s exclusively branded menu at the Olympics and the fast-food giant will soon be opening its largest franchise in the world, a two-story cathedral-like restaurant that seats 1,500 customers, at London’s Olympic Park. McDonald’s will be the only restaurateur allowed to sell brand-name food at the Games and there will also be a separate McDonald’s within the Athletes Village – in addition to three others at the Olympic Park.

Alongside McDonald’s, Coca-Cola has the exclusive right to sell non-alcoholic drinks at Olympic venues. Heineken has been named the Games’ official beer.

“It’s very sad that an event that celebrates the very best of athletic achievements should be sponsored by companies contributing to the obesity problem and unhealthy habits,” said Mr Terence Stephenson, a spokesman for the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges. The group is calling upon the British government to restrict advertising by McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Heineken during the Olympic Games, which are being held in London from July 27 to Aug 12.

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Some infographics from TIME

Been looking at some infographics from TIME lately.

Here are two that quite noteworthy.

1. Catch up on 200 years of transformation with this visual timeline that charts key moments that had a big hand in steering the course of global human development. Take a look at follow key developments in politics, economics, science and tech, culture and sports (easily followed with the color codes) to broaden your understanding of how we got to where we are today – and perhaps make informed guesses on where we’ll be going in future. This knowledge will surely be useful for you to set the context for any GP essay pertaining to issues surrounding those topics.

2. TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2012 are not visually arranged on an infographic that represents their influences on a timeline as well. Such lists remind us of how the individual – as opposed to the group – continues to exert such influence over development and world events. While we try to perfect our systems and processes, Man ultimately looks to specific men and women to inspire and move us along.

Who would you name in your own list of moments that changed the world or most influential people?