There´s absolutely no doubt that 9/11 changed the world of travel and exploration for the worse. It caused suspicion, hate and fear pretty much everywhere. Borders became more complicated, hearts colder and the freedom to roam the world at large, became once again restricted. When the Soviet Union fell in the late 80´s, this was great news for everyone who loved to travel and seek out new knowledge, landscapes and cultures which had been hidden away for most of the world the previous 60 years. For awhile it was basically North Korea and Saudi Arabia who were the only extremely difficult countries to fully access. 9/11 stopped this brief open freedom and the way the world should be, free of borders and open to all people. But again fear closed borders or made the opportunities to get a visas and permits extremely complicated and expensive. I have been hoping for years that things would cool down, the fear would vanish and rational and clear thinking take over. It hasn´t happened and unfortunately it has gotten worse by the day. And, since the great migration from the Middle East and beyond started the summer of 2015, this unreasonable and hasty fear has escalated dramatically.
I have always felt comfortable in my own country. We have been sheltered from the reality further south and we have pretended our borders, if you get into to Europe, is open to everyone. Initially when the migration started, we did what everyone should do, opened our border to those who needed help. I felt proud again to be Swedish, However, it didn´t take long, mainly due to the incredibly poor quality media around nowadays, who create fear and ignoranced, for the Swedish politicians to panick an close its borders. And right now, we live in a country where fear has arrived big time. The tragedy that happened in Paris, of course, escaleted this fear and like the US we are giving into this fear. Suddenly we have the police checking papers if we just wanna go over the bridge to Denmark and they definitely seem to treat Arab looking people harder and treat them with suspicion ahead of kindness. But worst of all is the fact that people are scared and that they, in fact, have bought this awful message from especially the conservative media:
“These people are bad. Everyone except we ourselves.”
I am writing this piece because this fear will make life for any explorer, traveller and adventurer much more complicated and I believe those borders outside the rich world, will soon close up again for everyone due to the polarisation that is created by the Western media and politicians in the process. And this media, I do blame for a lot of this fear which have arrived and made life so much worse for everyone. Today, it is hard to find a media who doesn´t have some kind of an agenda. It is hard to fully trust flag bearers like the BBC, the Guardian, New York Times and Dagens Nyheter. They stick to the establishment in a way which is very surprising and need to make money from commercial ads and therefore don´t do their job as they should. It is impossible to watch CNN and Sky News for example. You can´t trust a thing they say about the world outside their own borders. And, worst of all, I know this fact especially well since daily following the Yemen development and tragedy, there is a trend today just to copy each other and quote and use so called experts, who say the most inflammatory things to cause sensation and there´s very seldom one can see that proper investigation and reserch has been done. Except by some alternative media. There´s many good and challenging one´s around. Like for example Intercept. And among the more established, the Listening Post. I am not the only one with these opinions. The distinguished Walter Pincus at the Washington Post is of the same opinion about the state of media today. Read his piece here. But, just a point of view on the topic of alternative media, there´s way too many so called independent experts around today with the most insane out-of-context opinions and we need both new and traditional media and investigative reports back to its proper best and status in society. We need well trained and educated journalists to better inform us in a constructive and reliable way. Everywhere.
So what can we professional travellers do to help to take away this fear? If we don´t do something profound, I think there will be much less of us very soon. At least exploring the more unknown parts of our world. I believe we need to become much more activist in what we do, even though it borders a political agenda. We have to hold back on the self glorifying part and put more emphasis on the bigger picture, like the environment for example, which lies very close to hand for what we do. And helping to draw attention to indigenous people and their rights in society. We need to get out there in media and on the streets to show support for issues for more important than ourselves. And try, when we produce, to put issues int its right context and show that there are other ways to look at a topic discussed.
I am trying follow my own advice. Slowly, slowly I get it. For example, I have dropped meat from the menu. Most diary products, almost all chicken and I eat fish only once a week. I have joined climate marches and I support as many calls for petitions I can. I try to give help to people who have very little. A small contribution, but it makes me feel much better about myself.