Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Editorial: Moss Side Shows The Right Path

My aim in life is to try to become a better human being for each year passing. It isn´t easy. I have had a lot of time, a lot of chances and honestly, I haven´t done to well. Nevertheless, I keep trying. And the past 16 months have probably been the most important in my life. My time in Moss Side in Manchester, my journey in England and my time in Karaganda in Kazakhstan have been great teachers of life. And so has my time with my daughters.

In Moss Side and England I experienced all the best and worst aspects of human kind. On the overwhelmingly positive side, great people, a feeling of being in it together and one of the best multicultural places I have ever experienced. On the down side I saw the cruelest sides of commercialism, fear and bullying. A kind of an evil Tabloid land. Everything the tabloids stand for is the worst aspects of human kind. They cause fear, they are war mongering and create hate, bitterness, they bully, hang out people and ruin people´s lives just for the sake of selling copies.

P1070263

Kazakhstan is kind of still in a time where they are moving from a Soviet Era into a new modern, Central Asian society where many people in my age, over 45, find life quite hard to understand. There´s no doubt that people helped each other’s more during the Soviet time, people were generally closer and they more felt that they had a common goal. Now many feel that everything has to do with the new God, Mammon. And, which is quite akin to any Asian traditional society, you have to sell yourself as being better than others to get a job.

My daughters have shown me that caring for others is more important than anything in life. Having chosen this type of life, which involves media to be able to survive and do what I feel I need to do –give a perspective of life and build bridges between cultures- I have been selfish, self-occupied, self-aggrandizing and I thank the Gods for having given me the privilege to have these two daughters. Without them I fear I would have been blind to the realities of life.

P1070452

I am not judging others. Life isn´t easy. And each every one of us can choose their own path how to survive. However, I believe we all have a choice, no matter what, which path to choose. You don´t have to choose to do it the tabloid way and create fear, bitterness, hatred and cause others harm. Without generalizing too much, I have met quite a few people within the tabloid media and not one of them come across as content human being. They reek of jealousy, bitterness, cunningness, impatience and possess a negative judgment of others. They come across as they see themselves as better human beings than others.

And, my main point is that these last 16 months have clearly underlined for me that trying to make oneself coming across as better than others is extremely negative. And since all my Expeditions deals with other human beings and cultures as the main topic, an issue like this is even worse. So I am trying to figure things out. Basically how to survive in my line of work, without coming across in the wrong way for the people I am working with.

P1050999

Because I have lately noticed in Moss Side and Kazakhstan, something I also have noticed earlier, that calling oneself an explorer creates a gap with many people you want to work with. In Moss Side and England, of course, being an explorer means you are most likely wealthy and belong to a class of which the people you meet feel they´re not part of. This is a problem. This happens way more compared to the other way around when it could be of help. This actually is very seldom. And in Kazakhstan an explorer is very often thought to be somebody either working for the government checking the inhabitant’s lives or trying to fool people out of their natural resources. Taking richness, but leaving nothing but sorrow.

So I am dropping my self-given title explorer. I have used it in the past mainly because somebody else within in the media gave it to me initially and it kind of covered most things which supported me. And it has stuck with me for years. But I finally realize calling oneself explorer today is quite out of touch with a modern and continuously developing society. Today I mainly survive doing documentaries and even though in England that work title caused fear due to, again, the mentality the fear mongering and inhuman tabloids have created, that is what I mainly do.

mussalem_bin_hassan

The reason I am sharing these thoughts is that I more than ever get emails from young people asking for directions how to become an explorer. And I see a change in what many of them are seeking. Compared to a few years back the main question was how to get sponsors and what they thought a way to make a living becoming famous. Today they ask how to rid themselves of the bonds of modern society and how to make a living out of travelling. Without touching the issue how to finance a dream for many. I see that a great step forward within the business of adventure travel and exploration. As a traveler with a camera.

And, like my favorite newspaper, The Guardian, I have freshened up my homepage. I have not only made images more important by changing the layout, but I have taken away as many things as I can see that creates divisions between the people I want to work with. Like figures of distances covered and most things within the bragging sphere. Not all. I still have a bit of a way to go.

websidan

 If you have time, see the full episode below from my 2nd favorite news outlet that I trust, The Listening Post, who touches both tabloids and as usual, critically audit the world media.

And, a film maker I respect a lot, Adam Curtis, has written this great article about the British tabloids.

PS. Since my business is called Explorer Mikael Strandberg, I will keep that for the time being. I can´t afford a new name at the present. DS

12 comments

  1. Dear Mikael,

    What a great and thoughtful piece. All these epithets swirl around to try to describe individuals who spend much of their life exploring the world in a variety of ways and sharing those encounters with other people through film, words, photographs and talks.

    None of the terms – explorer, adventurer, film maker, scientist – capture the lives of those individuals, but they are used as useful shorthand and come with their own baggage. It’s been interesting to see the term adventurer gain traction over the past years. It is a democratic term in many ways. You can now, with cheap air travel, a little time off work and some imagination, go on an adventure anywhere in the world that would have been the preserve of a few just a generation ago.

    Likewise, the term film maker, was once less democratic, but is thrown wide open with the lower costs of a decent video camera and a laptop to edit on.

    ‘Explorer’ has held fast not as a description, but as a rank. What does one have to achieve in terms of adventures, research, expeditions to earn this title? Does it elevate people and create barriers? Why can’t it be used to describe people who explore?

    “What do you do?”

    “I go out and explore cultures / environments / etc.”

    “Aah, so you’re an explorer.”

    “Um. No. I’m a scientist / geographer / journalist / film maker.”

    When is ‘explorer’ useful? In getting media coverage, sponsorship, engaging children (I often get called an explorer by schools and am fine with this).

    When I am asked by young people how to become an explorer, I focus on two things. The first, study hard at school, and go to university and study a field research subject – biology, geography, anthropology and the second, spend as much as time as possible outside and keep a journal about your encounters.

    So, the choices…

    Drop the term explorer because it is a divisive badge, rather than a description of what people do.

    Try to democratise the term, get all those adventurous journalists and film makers using it, widen it out to field researchers and scientists.

    The bottom line is that we need people who explore, people with a passion for this world, its people and environments, who go out into the world and share it with others. Mikael, you are one of these people, and we respect you whatever you want to call yourself!

  2. Congrats on this insightful piece Michael!

    I do notice a shift in that “scene” as well as in the rest of society to get deeper to the root of things. As for me, I’ve always had trouble to define myself in a way as calling me adventurer or whatsoever. I did it at times for certain reasons, as for example what has been said earlier, to attract media or sponsors.

    Still the bottom line is: who am I? Do I need to give my self a title to a: feel better b: make it easier for others to grasp what I’m doing or where my interests are?

    Personally, I’m not doin git any more, and there’s a great relief coming with it not trying to be someone else despite not knowing who one really is anyway…

  3. Sorry to learn of this. Complex issue, but many self proclaimed “explorers” aren’t and rather than you changing your label, maybe we should be working to “out” the would-be’s for the frauds they are. When we started letting would be explorers into the EC for big bucks, rather than big achievements, or even big ideas, we lost the battle. Regards, C

  4. Mika,

    For what its worth I think you made the right choice. If you are engaged in exploration, people will think of you as an explorer – or whatever the equivalent term is in their experience. Using Explorer as a title can be, as you point out, off-putting. Much better for people to come to realize your activities and interests from interaction and discussion rather than fiat.

  5. To paraphrase Robert Frost,” You are not an explorer until someone else calls you an explorer.”

  6. I’d read somewhere the differences between Explorers and Adventurers was the motive. Explorers out seeking to further knowledge of some sort, scientific, in all it’s myriad versions, more often than not. Adventurers seek the experience. Both titles come with their own preconceived notions of the person. Explorers, as you had mentioned, are assumed to be rich and aloof. Adventurers are assumed to be adrenaline junkies. People never truly fall neatly into the conceived notions of the titles. Titles are often vague, leaving people thinking what they want, after all a person with a doctorate in physics is still a doctor, but you wouldn’t want them operating on you. As long as you’re not leading with the title let people make their own decisions. Besides, I see you as more than just explorer, encompassing adventurer and traveler as well.

    Now, the title tourist, there is no upside to that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.