Wish You Were Here

Seher Shah

“There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.”
Ecclesiastes 1:11

“At the 1889 ParisExhibition, and in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower,the centenary of the French Revolution, and consequently of the French Empire, was commemorated. This was the first exhibition to include a true colonial section for the history of France and the one that would mark the beginning of a model for colonial representations that would last during the final quarter of the 19th century and for the whole of the 20th century. In fact, the area in Paris reserved for showing the colonies was located in the Champs de Mars and was a tableau vivant divided into four zones – Arabia,Oceania, Africa and Asia. In the 1900 Exhibition,this would grow into a much vaunted “tour dumonde” but without the visitor ever leaving Paris.”
Maria João Castro (Tourism and Empire; An Invitation to Colonial Travel)

“There are, in fact, many things in the Nazi organization and ideology, which we might study and adapt to our own use with great profit both to the health and happiness of our own nation and old democracy.”
Sir Neville Henderson (Failure of a Mission, 1940)

“Something falls of you when you cross the border into Mexico, and suddenly the landscape hits you straight with nothing between you and it…”
William Burroughs (Naked Lunch)

“Tourism is thus nothing other than the attempt to realize the dream of Romanticism projected onto the distant and far away. To the degree that bourgeois society closed itself, the bourgeois tried to escape from it — as a tourist.”
Hans Magnus Enzenberger (Theory of Tourism)

The current global house arrest, the so called ‘lockdowns’ have come with attendant cultural invocations, and marketing. With a new version of class mediated voyeurism and of colonial or Imperialist tourism. Only its a tourism where you don’t leave the house.

“…from the second half of the 19th century on, European empires encouraged metropolitan citizens to travel to their colonies after having realised that this functioned as a type ofvector through which imperial nationalism could be spread and consolidated, thereby legitimating it.”
Maria João Castro (Ibid)

Alexey Titarenko, photography (St Petersburg)

Now the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and the one in Paris in 1889, were the triumphant expression of a Colonial ideology, but they were also expressions of a belief in progress and secular scientism. Castro notes the paradox that loomed within the cultural production ( which was, as Edward Said noted meant to help validate colonial expansion and plunder) was the manufacturing of a desire for the secret, the hidden, the ilicit and the othered-spirituality that was the promise of these shadow lands. It is what Castro called the ‘mythification’ of colonial empires. The return to something that was only a fiction, a return to primitive authenticity and to one’s roots, whatever that might look like in the mind of white Europeans.

“With the numerous visitors from outside the British Empire, it was seen as an opportunity to spread what they considered the one true faith to their “heathen” guests. Ultimately, as Geoffrey Cantor explains in his article, the British saw themselves as not only the “beacon of the world” in manufacturing, but also as a driving force behind spreading Christianity.”
Samantha Kallen (The British Empire and the Great Exhibition of 1851)

Today, tourism retains a good deal of colonial motivations, but it is also tied into this nostalgia for lost futures, or really, a re-touring of ‘our’ past. The UNESCO World Heritage sites are a part of this touring of the lost cultures, those who were crushed by progress and Capital. (which is not to say the World Heritage sites are a bad thing, in fact the contrary. But they do fit into a mediated collective memory for the West). It is almost as if tourism has become about the building of an imaginary past.

Eiffel Tower under construction, 1888. Roger Violet, photography.

“Take the components of your average luxury holiday. There are swimming pools, exclusive islands, private jets, cruises, golf courses and spas — all are energy and water intensive. Plants and green spaces must be kept lush, air conditioning, spas and monsoon showers must be powered. Beaches and other places are made private, with locals prohibited from using them. And, in some cases, up to 80% of the economic benefits leave the country. Further, waste is often dispersed within the “poor” local communities.”
Paul Hanna (Fair Observer, 2017)

The development of mass tourism, and today what is labeled “luxury tourism” was already, and always in existence — as soon as Europeans (and later North Americans) began to tour the colonies. The Nazi project Kraft durch Freude, or Strength and Joy, was the first real planned tourist enterprise. It was modeled on the Italian fascist Dopolavro, a leisure institution with more modest goals (and one that was more narrowly focused, as there were Dopolavro’s for mailmen, for steel workers, etc etc) . Both took from the mid 19th century British encouragement to the bourgeoisie to travel, to visit the colonies. It is very interesting to note the role of Christian missionary influence and values through all of this. Both dopolavros and the KdF’s emphasised exercise and hygiene. This is worth remembering when I want, later, to discuss masks and social distancing. And the Christian idea of personal health, mental and physical. The physical having a decided sex negative aspect. The KdF was the founded in 1933, by Robert Ley, whose idea was ‘regimented leisure’. The working class would be easier to mold if their leisure time was controlled. Ley was much influenced by Belgian fascist Henri de Man.

Certainly the British Empire was vain and ostentatious of its power. The Great Exhibition was to lead a brief while later to the ‘human zoos’ that lasted well into the 20th century. These were held across Europe in fact. The Third Reich borrowed heavily in propaganda terms from the British and French both. They also had shaped the ideological and instrumental core themselves in German south Africa.

Various arguments have been made about the Nazi “Volksgemeinschaft”, about how real or fictitious, and how successful were projects such as the KdF. I think the answer is that, at least in the case of the KdF, that they were assuredly not successful, in the terms the Nazis laid out, but they were also not without an effect, and perhaps a very significant effect. The propaganda was never delivered on, for one thing (most workers never got to take a cruise up the Nile, or the Rhine for that matter) and secondly, the provincialism that condescended to the blue collar class was acutely felt.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

The selling of the Reich to the German working class was an extension of what the British were selling, and the French and Dutch and Belgian. And tied into this valorizing of colonial expansion were two key things, Christianity and tourism. Missionary travel is almost indistinguishable from tourism in the mid 19th century. By the the 1930s the idea of tourism was well established. It remained, however, propaganda notwithstanding, an activity for the privileged classes.

The British recognized a certain instability that was built into occupations. The travel push was partly to sell the public on the idea of colonial expansion, on the correctness of this vision of the world, and of the future. The eternal Empire (whether German or English or French) was the foundational belief. The Germans, too, sought to emphasize the eternal reign of the Reich. Resentment fueled the messianic zeal of both missionary and shopkeeper.

VW poster, 1938

Shelly Baranowski’s book The Sanctity of Rural Life, on the rise of National Socialism in the rural areas of Germany is a revealing study.

“Through the first eight months of 1930 as the September elections approached, the Nazis, as they had done elsewhere, increased their visibility in Pomerania. Party rallies featured as speakers such up-and-coming local talent as the Greifswald lawyer Wilhelm Karpenstein, who would replaceCorswant as Gauleiter the following year. In a speech entitled “Dictatorship by the stock exchange or a Hitler Dictatorship,” which he delivered in May to a rapt audience of SA men in Stargard, Karpenstein denounced Germany’s victimization by international and alien forces. The NSDAP, he argued, wanted a new state that combatted the “class spirit,” a theme thoroughly in line with the party’s oft-stated goal of a harmonious Volk community that would replace the present social fragmentation. “We are a revolutionary movement, an explosive force,” he asserted, also a common enough Nazi leitmotif. Yet he but murkily defined the targets of revolutionary overthrow, steering away from any direct reference to local hierarchies: “We fight against the domination of the purse, against the party machines. Today the state has become a colonial administration for foreign banking houses. Germany is no longer free in its work to which every human being has a right. That is the consequence of the republican democratic form of government (Stoatswesen).” The Versailles Diktat contributed its share to Germany’s predicament, according to Karpenstein, because it had transformed the Germans into the slaves of “American financial monarchs.”

It was also true that embedded within the rise of fascism was always an appeal to rationality and order. And an emphasis on science and technology. And to speed. The fascist Utopia is invariably an urgent matter. And by the 1920s the ‘other’ was a given, whoever it might be at the moment. The heathen classes who both religiously and in cultural values, represented something unclean and inferior.

Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza, apprx 1870 – Francis Frith, photography.

“Moreover, anti-Semitism assumed pronounced significance, not only because of its integration with the party’s antileftism, a common theme in party agitation in other parts of Germany, but also because of its potential for personifying the sources of Pomerania’s misery and deflecting attention from the sins of estate owners. Not only did the NSDAP highlight the putative similarity in aims between the Jews and Karl Marx, it also identified
the Jew as the convenient scapegoat, the symbol of all the oppressive forces that weighed on the Prussian east: the Republic, the left, international capitalism, and the Versailles “tribute.” “Bolshevism or German Freedom” were
the choices, according to the theme of a rally in Biitow.”

Shelley Baranowski (Ibid)

One aspect of tourism as it developed was the erotic fantasy, and this is something that persists today in Hollywood (in fact it has actually rather grown of late). There is an interesting essay by Wolfgang Struck, “The Persistence of Fantasies; Colonialism as Melodrama on German Television”, that touches on the appeal.

“In January 2000, one of the leading public TV channels in Germany, the ZDF, broadcast a fi lm that was rather unusual at that time: Die Wüstenrose (The Desert Rose), a feature-length, prime-time historical melodrama set in colonial South-West Africa, is the first fictional fi lm explicitly depicting a German colony since the adaptation of Uwe Timm’s novel Morenga shown by the WDR, another major public channel, in 1985.{ }; but why Cameroon can be a home for Germans is something that the film does not explain. This is only possible on the basis of a colonial past which is not completely forgotten, but is remembered in a way that neglects the further historical context of decolonization. And precisely this characterizes Heimat in the sense of the Heimat-film: it seems to be untouched by time and history. It can thus provide the source of a more authentic identity, for which the Heimat-film searches. The search for identity is, however, never a direct process, and the danger of loss is always there. Thus, Heimat is an ambivalent territory, a source of fear as well as of desire. Die Wüstenrose shows the colony in this way: as something that is past, but is not history, a territory of the past created precisely by eliminating or simply neglecting history. At this point, the initial question recurs: why does the film use the colonial setting at all? What kind of identity is to be found there? Not very surprisingly, it is (as often in matters of origin) an “uncanny” identity, at least when viewed from the perspective of postcolonial criticism. It bears a strong resemblance to the fantasies which previously fuelled Wilhelminian colonialism itself, and which, in a broader context, Homi K. Bhabha has described as being aimed at an “‘otherness’ that is at once an object of desire and of derision, an articulation of difference contained within the fantasy of origin and identity.”

Anne Laure Sacriste

Allow me a follow up quote from Struck’s essay:

“…the colonial topic is transposed into a sexual one. Instead of using military conflict as the source of danger required by the plot, potential risks come from a seductive, daemonic and threatening sexuality which, at the same time, is a general metaphor employed to describe “Africa.” Additionally, this sexuality is identical with the fantasy of colonialism. This narrative is a (sexualized) rewriting of history which also distracts from the fact that the real issue in the setting and period in question was genocide and oppression. “

This could be the description of a dozen other films from Hollywood and Europe over the last thirty years. The romantic melodrama (always sentimentalized) encloses within its ahistorical identity narrative an eroticized illicit sexual titillation. Uniforms tend to play a prominent role, too (something Struck mentions as well).

Struck notes the opaque quality of colonial crimes in all such melodramas. The dark past, a past which is hinted at and which takes on an uncanny quality, is therefore never really examined. It only serves as an erotic fantasy landscape of primal otherness. It is a setting for desire. It is also a setting for white privilege, for colonial mastery and that privilege allows the viewer to identify without having to consider the actual history.

Opening of the Bu Bu Bu train, Zanizbar town. 1905 (built by American company Arnold Cheyney).

The privilege is always masked, to a degree anyway. But there is another aspect here about travel, for today the travel restrictions are feeling semi-permanent, if not permanent. Low cost airlines are bankrupt, major carriers have cut routes. Travel now is going to be exclusively for the ruling class. The argument for deriding tourism has its negative dimension in simply cutting travel for most anyone not wealthy. Budget travel may have had many problems, but none remotely as destructive as luxury tourism. I have travelled my whole life. I remember driving to Mexico throughout my youth. I miss Mexico more than anywhere I have ever been. My son and I went to central America. Ive had extended stays in India, Thailand, Poland, England, France, Spain, Morocco, and now Norway. These were very low budget journeys but they were expansive experiences, revelations at times. I worked in Poland, and lived there for 8 years. I lived in Paris for almost two years. In London for a little over a year. I worked in all those places. I have lived in Norway for over 13 years. People improve themselves, in the sense they tend to lose their provincialism, when they travel. There is an international solidarity developed as well.

The new cover for forced isolation to attack ALL travel as harmful, to environment AND cultures. The truth is the harm comes from U.S. militarism (and movement) and government travelling, and corporate, far outweigh individual and family movement. The cultural cooperation and often radical organizing that accompanies getting out of your own town and country is something that those driving the Reset most certainly want to discourage. The ruling classes want to restrict all travel besides their own. Airports likely will serve only private jets. This may be an exaggeration, so lets say mostly private jets.

Otto Dix (Kreuztragung, 1943)

But I digress. The revanchist colonial style and sensibility is largely a masculine one. That is, not in numbers perhaps, but in image and purpose this is the return to dress attire for dinner, uniforms. and a certain cynical practicality. The colonial pragmatist. This provides cover when you chop off the hands of your slaves. ‘You do what you can, with what you have’, as Teddy Roosevelt said (another colonial racist war lover).

In the case of Germany, the Frankfurt National Assembly of 1848 probably marks the birth of expansionism. Certainly it was the first time the question of emigration for Germans was broached as a national topic.

“The Frankfurt delegates applied racialist rhetoric above all to the Slavic-speaking peoples, in fearful expectation of some kind of “Raçenkrieg”, or race-war, and in chauvinist hopes of imperial Germanic expansion to the East.”
Brian Vick (Imperialism, Race, and Genocide at the Paulskirche)

This is worth mentioning because the Russophobia of Europe in the mid 19th century is also replicated today in the U.S. and the NATO countries. Germany, however, was unique in its early colonial aspirations for targeting the Slavic peoples.

Photographer unknown (Santu Mokofeng collection ) South Africa, early 1900s.

“Even the Gymnasium professor Friedrich Schulz of Weilburg, often rightly cited as among the principal agitators for colonial expansion both in the period generally and at the Paulskirche, while still raising the possibility of active German settlements in the United States and even of a German possession in western North America, made it equally clear that the preferred solution was colonization in southeastern Europe. His speech in this debate produced the oft-quoted line, “There on our borders is our Texas, our Mexico.” For that reason, Schulz wanted the new Reich Emigration Office to work with the Austrian government to establish “a regulated colonization system for the lands of the Danube.” “The old German oak,” Schulz thought, “is still putting forth fresh branches and leaves.” The implication of such organicist imagery here clearly seemed to be that planting new German trees elsewhere in the world was less necessary.”
Brian Vick (Ibid)

I remember a quote of Richard Aldington, a fringe member of Pound’s Imagiste movement. In a letter to Amy Lowell he wrote “I think they are all crazed, Lewis, Ezra, Ford; they certainly all have the signs of incipient madness.” Pound himself, at the end of his life, refereed to his anti semitism as a ‘suburban prejudice’. The fascist is provincial (and to some degree mad). The followers of the Fascist leader tend toward provincialism. They are rarely well educated, and where they have been institutionally educated, their studies are usually very narrow. Specialized. Pound and Wyndham Lewis were hyper educated and erudite, but prey to personal mental problems. The madness to which Aldington referred. Now these are lazy generalizations, but there is a truth in Hitler as the ‘Machievelli for chambermaids’ (which quote of Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen I obviously like). There is a lack of international perspective in the followers of fascism. Its easy to see the Trump MAGA guys as provincials, ill educated and resentful, but the Biden liberals, the white affluent class (or those aspiring to it) are just as provincial I think, only it is hidden better. And the provincialism of the educated 30% is one that has lost all skepticism. These are the people who actually believe what they read in the NYTimes. This is partly the result of a manufactured self image that demands ‘adult’ behavior, that needs those markers for ‘responsibility’ and ‘tolerance’. The ‘woke’ liberal tends to suffer a good deal of anxiety over being exposed as an intellectual fraud. There is also a tendency toward an overvaluation of ‘balance’ — things must be balanced. Its an ersatz ‘fairness’. This is what Marcuse called repressive tolerance. It is also the law of equivalence. And exchange value is the steel inflexible charter for capitalism.

Landon Metz

“Tolerance is an end in itself. The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society. Such a society does not yet exist; progress toward it is perhaps more than before arrested by violence and suppression on a global scale. As deterrents against nuclear war, as police action against subversion, as technical aid in the fight against imperialism and communism, as methods of pacification in neo-colonial massacres, violence and suppression are promulgated, practiced, and defended by democratic and authoritarian governments alike, and the people subjected to these governments are educated to sustain such practices as necessary for the preservation of the status quo. Tolerance is extended to policies, conditions, and modes of behavior which should not be tolerated because they are impeding, if not destroying, the chances of creating an existence without fear and misery.”
Herbert Marcuse (Repressive Tolerance)

But I am digressing again, somewhat anyway. The affluent tourist, European or American, white, at least moderately educated, prioritizies security when traveling . The growth of tourist destinations geared to the ‘family’ meant essentially a destination free of locals. Something like only 20% of tourists who visit luxury destinations ever buy anything outside the compound. Most never leave.

The liberal now embracing Joe Biden will tolerate his interventions, no doubt in Venezuela, or Syria or Ukraine. They will tolerate bombing civilians because, well, you do what you can with what you have. Its not a fair world and (unspoken) this is the global south.

Max Radler, 1930.

“The servants’ wages vary according to the experience and skill of each. The cook or ‘mpishi, get from fifty to eighty rupees a month. The head boy may receive sixty rupees, and from this the pay scales down to the water-boys, who get five or six rupees a month.1 The servants all look out for their own food; the master is not supposed to provide any, though probably the scanty bits left from the table are eaten by the chief boys. In dealing with all African native servants, and this includes those from Cairo to the Cape, the attitude must be unremittingly that of master and servant. Justice and severity must be evenly mixed. A certain distant kindliness may be practised, but none of the more familiar friendliness with which in this country we recognize the brotherhood of man even in the relation of house-servant and householder. Any leniency or excessive kindness is generally misunderstood by the native and results in an irremediable demoralization.”
Carolyn Kirkland (Travel Narrative from Chicago Tribune, 1906, ‘Some African Highways’)

Now, alongside the colonial occupations and plunder that drove the Great Exhibition of 1851 was the display of technological marvels. The conquest of nature and the conquest of the uncivilized. The enduring allure of colonial prejudice, and the current rehabiliation of fascism (and fascist style) are connected to the sense of power and liberation that comes from technological knowledge and skill. But the skilled drill press operator of eighty years ago, or the train conductor of a hundred and fifty years ago, or the tractor operator, etc is now the computer code writer or software engineer. There is no visceral experience of power. There is an abstract one, and likely an acute abstract sense of power, but its different. The domination of nature is, today, the domination of inner nature as well.

Now let me quote Marcuse again, from Repressive Tolerance, written in 1965. That’s a half century ago.

“In the contemporary period, the democratic argument for abstract tolerance tends to be invalidated by the invalidation of the democratic process itself. The liberating force of democracy was the chance it gave to effective dissent, on the individual as well as social scale, its openness to qualitatively different forms of government, of culture, education, work–of the human existence in general. The toleration of free discussion and the equal right of opposites was to define and clarify the different forms of dissent: their direction, content, prospect. But with the concentration of economic and political power and the integration of opposites in a society which uses technology as an instrument of domination, effective dissent is blocked where it could freely emerge; in the formation of opinion, in information and communication, in speech and assembly. Under the rule of monopolistic media–themselves the mere instruments of economic and political power–a mentality is created for which right and wrong, true and false are predefined wherever they affect the vital interests of the society.”
Herbert Marcuse (Ibid)

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

Fake news, the disallowing of assembly, and a near unlimited surveilling of the public. The colonial era of Empire has been modernized and retrofitted with a cultic worship of science. I continue to see articles (literally five or six) about the threat of AI and runaway super computers. I can’t quite figure out the target audience for this stuff. But I suspect this is about the creation of a more well defined cyber priesthood, those who speak directly to God on our behalf, only in this case they speak directly to the internet.

But while there is a clear continuation of the prejudices, racism, and need to create an ‘other’, there has been a massive change in ideas of science, if not about science. Most significantly in the realm of physics. But in terms of historical importance, and of this post, the real issue was with biology. And by extension the idea of *nature*.

“Can we understand the crisis of traditional science by analysing the social and political preoccupations of scientists? These were obviously dominant in the social sciences; and, even in those natural sciences which appeared to be directly relevant to society and its concerns, the social and political element was often crucial. In our period this was plainly the case in those fields of biology which touched directly on social man, and all those which could be linked with the concept of ‘evolution’ and the increasingly politicized name of Charles Darwin. Both carried a high ideological charge. In the form of racism, whose central role in the nineteenth century cannot be overemphasized, biology was essential to a theoretically egalitarian bourgeois ideology, since it passed “the blame for visible human inequalities from society to ‘nature’. The poor were poor because born inferior. Hence biology was not only potentially the science of the political right, but the science of those who suspected science, reason and progress.”
Eric Hobsbawm (Age of Empire)

Chris Steele Perkins, photography (students under hypnosis, Oxford. 1989)

This ushered in the era of eugenics (which I wrote about here in the context of the overpopulation myth https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/04/03/population-bomb-or-bomb-the-population/

and eugenics was from its inception (as are those who argue overpopulation) markedly racist and reactionary. There was a elitist ethic in University educational practice at the turn of the 20th century. Nobody had quite come to the idea , yet, of an education for all. That class elitism led, in its way, to a fascination with unreason and the irrational. Some of this linked to psychoanalysis, but much of it preceded Freud. And since I seem to finding parallels to contemporary (or near contemporary) society and culture, it is worth remembering, too, the wave of occult beliefs and mysticism that arose from the intellectual centers of Europe at this time. And this mirrors, to some degree, the ‘sixties’ counter culture which fled politics in the late 70s and on into the 80s in favour of personal quests for revelation, most usually with very authoritarian spiritual leaders (Rev Moon, Werner Erhard, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Esalen, et al). The parapsychology of W.B. Yeats, and the Blavatsky circle were rejections of science rather than new pseudo sciences. The same can be said of the 70s/80s spiritual movement in the West. And this is something worth a entire post by itself.

Walter Dahn

Hobsbawm mentions something later in that same book on the explosion of reading that took place among the working class between the 1870s and the first World War. The number of secondary school teachers grew three to five times what it had been before 1870 — especially in formally ill educated nations like Finland and Norway. And the reading was both entertainment and personal non institutional learning. General science was a hugely popular topic, while the haute bourgeoisie embraced Blavatksy and Crowley, the proletarians were reading Darwin and Marx.

Cutting across this cultural shifts were the class tensions that were intensifying. The point here is that by WW1 the societal changes in Europe and the U.S. were gigantic. And yet, the structural durability of the colonial template persisted. And here is where, probably, one might turn to Rene Girard. It feels as if on some macro level the tourist industry of post WW2 was a reenactment of the plantation and the social relations of slavery. A plantation but one that psychologically required alibis.

And for Americans, there is always that flinty trust in frugality, sobriety, and what is perceived as pragmatism. One of the side bar questions regarding AI and these fear mongering articles is that pragmatism no longer means what it once did. Perhaps this is just the Karl Rove world (‘the reality-based community, believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality…That’s not the way the world really works anymore’.) I paraphrase, but only a bit I think. In the age of screen habituation, the age of eroding skills for labourers, the idea of pragmatic has come untethered from the material world. Things are not pragmatic on screen, not in the same way. After the New Age epoch, when most new converts returned to their dreary economic futures in the USA, the state was already enforcing a machine to neutralize dissent. It is remarkable, I think, to read that Marcuse paragraph a half century later. All that has changed is the streamlining of the machinery. And, and the fact most Westerners don’t read after college.

Paulo Nozolino, photography.

One element in this tapestry of faux pragmatism has to do with what Whitehead described as ‘practical reason’. And it has had an insidious effect on science.

“We see this in the tendency to reduce mentality, purposiveness, and other prominent features of experience to efficient operations within the brain (which seems akin to reducing the operations on a computer screen to efficent relations between its pixels).We also see it in the tendency to reduce evolution to the ‘fortuitous’ outcomes of efficent relations; a presumptive refusal to recognize the active role that organisms play in shaping their environment as anything more than the ‘fortuitous’ inheritance of some ‘fortuitous’ balance of mechanistic forces that is itself the ‘fortuitously’ accumulated outcome of another long and complex series of ‘fortuitous’ efficent relations. { } The exaggerated importance assigned to practical measures, as the distorted expression of the venerable and vital work of Practical Reason, is the long-developing outcome of an in-adequate metaphysics. “
Philip Rose (Speculative Philosophy and the Tyranny of the Practical)

This also overlaps with that Puritan inheritance of distrust, and its road to guilt and shame (and shaming). The idea of tourism, which as one understands it today, was born mid 19th century. Tourism was never really even vacation, nor was it travel. The Oxford Dictionary definition of tourism is “the commercial organization and operation of vacations and visits to places of interest.” In essence tourism is commercialized travel. And it has always been from the metropole to the periphery. The Empire visiting its holdings.

New York Worlds Fair, 1939. Flushing NY.

Commercial tourism coincided with advances in technology. This is all rather obvious. And I suspect, at least over the last forty years, say, that tourism has taken on an individualistic quest for Utopian fantasies. Travel is a private movie screening for the vacationer. And again, the erotic aspect looms over this and the idea of tourism is enmeshed in personal physical and mental health. Ideas such as ‘relaxation’ (or the military R&R) are a part of the responsible ‘taking care of oneself’. The cliche metaphors speak volumes, really: ‘I need to recharge my batteries’, etc. The contemporary collapse of commercial airlines and the travel restrictions have been neglected when critics discuss the psychological hardships of the lockdowns. The enormous increase in adverts, youtube videos and online lectures that proselytise for the value of screen vacations, of tours of the Louvre or Met or even UNESCO Heritage sites have perhaps surpisingly convinced very few. Americans, but Europeans, too, have oriented their lives around mobility. It is the living metaphor for social and class mobility. And if the latter is an illusion, then the former at least will get you a tan.

Of course as tourism evolved, and the package tours increased, the well managed and regulated destination meant that travel indeed was an experience akin to never leaving home. In a sense, the anxiety laden white tourist had experientially anticipated the new Covid restrictions. And its really the Reset, not Covid. (Why are companies spending millions on manufacturing new style face masks if this is to be a temporary thing?)

“..the development of tourism…a thing about which it is difficult to say whether we have created it, or it has created us.”
Hans Magnus Enzenberger (A Theory of Tourism)

Lorna Selim

Americans in particular, though, feel autonomy or freedom is intrinsically linked with freedom of movement.

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?”
Jack Kerouac

The package tour, one with a fixed departure date, accommodations and a scheduled itinerary were the product of paid vacations, and hence very popular in Scandinavia in the 50s and 60s. But the precursor were the KdF of the Third Reich. Regimented leisure. Adorno noted that leisure was already mimicking work by the 1940s. And nowhere has that been more true than the US. But the fact is that people have always travelled. Merchants were the first but students, bandits, pilgrims, and beggars have always populated the roads. And much of the criticism of *tourism* is highly reactionary and elitist. In fact it mirrors a good deal of Ecological argument. The world must be made safe for the wealthy. The fact that tourism became what it did has to do with the system under which is grew. Tourism was the coopting of freedom of movement. And it became commodified. The children of royal houses were expected to tour abroad. It was part of their education. This usually meant a journey to an occupied colony. And it is this dynamic that slowly began to force its imprint on the tourism industry. And on individual travel.

Enzenberger observes that the victory of the bourgeois revolution planted an idea of freedom that clashed with the society that produced it. The homogeneity of mass production meant travel was to increasingly feel homogenized. And following that was the beginning of the homogenization of space. Something one feels very acutely today.

Romanticism stimulated a fantasy or Utopian dream of faraway places, untouched by the ugliness of industrial society. And today the ugliness is more overwhelming than ever before. There is an inevitability to the travel restrictions. There are more organized travellers than there are places to travel. Adorno and Horkheimer described the culture industry as mass deceit. Tourism is an aspect of this. And colouring all is the Imperialism of the nations of Empire. Colonialism has never ended, it only became a stealth occupation.

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  1. Regino Robainas says:

    When I taught instrumentalist Math, back at the beginning of
    this disrobing, teasing millenium, I alwaus discussed in some depth
    the works of Adorno, Horkhemer, & Marcuse.

    Today on the eve of Valentine’s, my wife & I went to
    do some Saturday a visit to our local wallmart, primarily to
    obtain some food & other supplies for my in-laws, all four of
    whom have come down with the dreaded modern Plague
    CV-19. When in the store, I met a young woman
    worker with beautiful purplerose hair & said to her that
    when I was about her current age, I often wore a purple, psychedelic
    t-shirt, wore purple eyeglasses & drank deeply from Jimmy Hendrix’
    well in purple haze. As we spoke, I felt a seismic rekindling of
    erotic magma in my groin.

    I suppose I may have been like the honey bee looking for the
    nectar in her lips & eyes. When we- my spouse & me- came home, I played the following
    essay from a few days ago’s digital archives:

    “I Asked Leading Entologists: What’s The Smartest
    Bug in the World” by Atlas Obscura. It’s a revealing read.


  2. Regino Robainas says:

    So, if it’s hard to find the individually targeted
    pocket article, some gist or highlights of it relate
    to how bees, particularly honey ones, do this social language
    communication about their hunts for succulent nectar
    in unique& varied flowers, dancing exquisite, varied frequencies
    of 8 loops of differing sizes & amplitudes depending on the difference
    in distance and tastyness and other variables between the coveted
    nectarous intercourse with the flowers. They can count up to 4, which, to
    me, suggests a primal understanding of Heidegger &- half in jest- the
    fourfold way & the direction & location of our Gods’ reflecting Sun.


  3. Regino Robainas says:

    Frozen Hungry Below
    The Underpass in Dallaas
    Koolest of Haikus

    Birthing, breaking
    Rocking to icing Texas,

    I stare at the icy sky
    A blue mirror


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