Monday, January 18, 2010

Accident Tourism

Nice to know that even natural disasters can't stop some things. Apparently cruise liners are still calling in Haiti, despite the recent earthquake there. Of course, the ships' owners defend it all by pointing out that their ships are also carrying aid shipments. Imagine how much more aid these huge vessels could carry if they weren't full of rich sightseers? But should we be surprised? After all, what could be more exciting than a spot of disaster tourism? We all love a wallow in other people's misery, don't we? How else do you explain the success of films about concentration camps, terminal illness and abject poverty? Whilst sailing out to a major disaster zone on a luxurious cruise ship, flaunting your relative wealth and good fortune at people who have just lost homes, livelihoods and families might be considered poor taste, is it any worse than visiting the scenes of gruesome murders? Those Jack the Ripper tours in Whitechapel still do good business and, let's face it, part of the frisson they create is don to the fact that we all know the Ripper's victims all lived in abject poverty and misery. But at least Jack the Ripper's crimes are safely located in the Nineteenth Century, making it somehow more acceptable to treat them as entertainment - they're heritage murders, for God's sake!

That said, it is surely only a matter of time before they start doing tours of the locations of the Yorkshire Ripper's murders - after all, most of them took place more than thirty years ago. But getting back to this disaster tourism, whilst everyone likes a good wallow in the misfortune of others, they can't all afford to go on a cruise to exotic disaster locations. So why not just organise tours of local sink estates? Participants can gawp at the poor drug addled, alcohol dependent locals, with their hordes of children living in their disgusting hovels, all from the air conditioned comfort of their luxury coaches. There could be special Saturday night tours, so that the punters can witness the pub brawls at kicking-out time. It would be a bit like visiting a safari park, I suppose. I've no doubt it would be a huge success amongst certain types of BMW-owning, upwardly mobile middle class types who work in the service industries. After all, what's the point of having the trappings of material success if you can't flaunt it at someone less fortunate? I suppose the ultimate in such misery tours would be if you could go back in time and wander around Auschwitz. Sadly, if such a thing were possible, there'd be no shortage of wealthy tourists making reservations.



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