David Cogswell | March 14, 2016 3:00 PM ET
A Call for Civility
Dealing with the travel industry can spoil you. It may not always live up to its name, but an industry that calls itself “the hospitality industry” is at least putting its foot in the right direction.
In some other domains, such as politics, civility seems to be draining away rapidly to nothing.
Events of the last week serve as a grim reminder that negative words can have dire consequences. Someone can let loose a violent impulse, someone else responds with its mirror image and before you know it you are in a cycle of violence that gets harder and harder to stop as it continues to gain momentum and force, spurred on by each individual blow.
In the last week we have seen the tenor of hostilities rise to a level perilously close to a breaking point; a point at which it is no longer possible to conduct political discourse in the traditional, civilized way. The consequences of our country hitting that breaking point cannot be overstated. We just cannot allow this progression to continue to where it would inevitably lead if allowed to go unchecked.
Seeing mobs of people writhing and weaving in surges of violence that telegraph through a crowd like waves through water is deeply disturbing. It is far too close to historical newsreel footage of societies that descended into violence, tyranny and barbarism, that dark night of the soul.
We have to stop it. There is no acceptable alternative.
This is no time to just let events drift where they will. It is time to consciously lift ourselves up by our bootstraps and behave like responsible adults. The stakes are far too high to take this lightly.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath, step back a little, temper our ideologies a bit and realize that the other person has a valid point of view as well. If you can get past the surface, where our cultures, customs and manners differ, we all have much in common.
As human beings we have all the fundamental human properties in common. We all love our families and want to give them the best opportunities to fulfill themselves and enjoy life. We all need food, clothing and shelter, and we aspire for greater meaning in life, including the desire to contribute something positive to the world, to be a part of something greater than ourselves.
Peace is far more conducive to the fulfillment of these objectives than war and strife.
We have more in common than ways we are different. If we could just realize that it could save us a lot of trouble. If everyone could take a long vacation it could really help to cool things down.
Take a Break
The world of politics could take a cue from the travel industry in this regard. Travel promotes world peace. The travel industry has created a blueprint for positive, meaningful interaction among people from different societies and cultures.
If more people traveled more, there would be more understanding. If more of the people who are inciting violence towards those they perceive as “the other” had more opportunity to travel and meet those foreigners in person, it would act as a valve to let out some of the tension we are seeing at these political rallies.
The travel industry, going back into history when people ran little inns along the old highways, has always been about hospitality, about hosting and caring for others, about providing respite for strangers. As the travel industry has grown to global dimensions, it has shown itself time and again to be one of the strongest bases of support for world peace, harmony and well-being.
Some people may say it is a wild, self-serving exaggeration to say that travel helps to support world peace. But it is no doubt true that people who have met other people from a foreign country in person are less likely to feel like bombing them.
Certainly not in every case, but most often travelers who have had an opportunity to meet and interact with people from another country say that they found that although the foreigners are different from them in many ways, they are also similar in important ways. Even though they may dress or worship differently, they have many of the same basic concerns that we do.
Many who have found a calling within the travel industry have evolved to a point where they feel they have a greater purpose than just making a living. They really are doing their little part in promoting world peace and prosperity.
I look at the headlines every day, many of them distressing, and I feel helpless. What can I do? I see giant mobs of people struggling and fighting with each other at political rallies, wars breaking out around the world, terrorism and senseless attacks appearing in the news constantly. What can one person do?
Gandhi said it well: “Be the change you want to see.”
Is there any way to deny that the vast movements of history are made up of innumerable individual actions? So the little bit that one person can do does make a difference. I believe that fully.
The Indian spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti said it well in a line later revived by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
“We are the world. The world is you and me, the world is not separate from you and me. We have created this world - the world of violence, the world of wars, the world of religious divisions, sex, anxieties, the utter lack of communication with each other, with no sense of compassion, consideration for another... We are the world essentially, basically, fundamentally. The world is you, and you are the world. Realizing that fundamentally, deeply, not romantically, not intellectually but actually, then we see that our problem is a global problem. It is not my problem or your particular problem, it is a human problem.”
From a completely different perspective, I will close with a similar idea from a Nick Lowe song, sung by Elvis Costello.
“Each time I feel it slipping away, it makes me want to cry. What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”
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