Warning: Travelling is highly addictive. Travelling contains high levels of empathy and understanding. It may reduce your prejudice
Many people assume that travelling should bring the best out of people. After all, upon visiting different countries or continents, we all have to accept the significant cultural as well as economical differences. As a matter a fact, for most people, such experience deepens their levels of empathy, humbleness and general understanding. However, there are also certain individuals that like to call themselves “open-minded”, some of which look down at others who do not live up to their beliefs and/or expectations. It, therefore, raises a question: Are they really open-minded? If so, what does open-mindedness really mean?
Travel Conspiracy AKA secret plot to make the world a better place
When looking back throughout our history, there were attempts to make the world a better place, at least from the religious point of view. Well, that’s only true if we accept the significant premise that imposing locals to a different fate as well as a whole set of new values come with an assumption that those “new” values are somewhat better or superior, so that the imposter has some sort of higher moral authority to enforce it (often at any cost), as described for example in the movie The Mission from 1986 (see the pic above).
I am tempted to drift deeper into some historical facts of colonisation and Manifest Destiny but it would take me further away from the subject I wanted to explore in this piece. Yes, the historical parallels are very interesting when it comes to exploring how new ideas are imposed on those with different beliefs but I would be jumping ahead of myself just now.
For now, let’s just say that humanity has produced several major spiritual figures that preached kindness and understanding and look how they have all end up. My beloved George Carlin sums it up rather nicely here:
Bigotry and narrow-mindedness
Mark TwainTravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Let’s look at the words of Mark Twain closely. First of all, I believe that they apply to modern history only, IMHO. If you think about the first wave of travellers AKA “explorers”, I’m sure you don’t find their travels to be “fatal to prejudice, bigotry”, given the way the Conquistadors treated the local indigenous communities, as mentioned above.
The interesting fact is that when it comes to narrow-mindedness itself, it often held hands with the bigotry and prejudices, although the “explorers” weren’t given the equal measure of it to match their bigotry. In fact, they were rather open-minded, if compared to their contemporaries, when it comes to certain elements of the contemporary dogmas, as they were willing to sail into the unknown, weren’t they?
As we can see, from certain angles, open-mindedness holds a rather special status if compared to its fellow properties of bigotry and prejudice from Mark Twain’s quote above. Actually, recently it has evolved IMHO, and under certain circumstances, it is now blurring its actual definition.
So what does open-mindedness really mean? Cambridge Dictionary states that a definition of being open-minded is: “willing to consider ideas and opinions that are new or different to your own”, and Merriam Webster says that it means being “receptive to arguments or ideas”.
21st Century open-mindedness
Let’s move on from the bloody conquistadors to the present, which is the core point of this piece. Taking the above definitions in mind, here’s a question: Have you noticed that some people that call themselves open-minded nowadays often produce a lot of red tape? I mean that “open your mind” lately became: “This is what’s bad for people; that is what’s bad for the planet; don’t do this; don’t eat that; stop using this; stop/don’t/you have no idea” and so on.
I have personally witnessed a complete judgmental attitude from some people that liked to call themselves “open-minded” on numerous occasions. To be honest, I admit that behind those judgmental words, there’s often a major point when it comes to the way we treat our planet, the ruthless way various industries produce their profits using child labour or just the way the current distribution of wealth allows situations when many people live without access to drinking water, decent medical services and so on. The list is long.
However, the question of whether there’s a point or not is a subject for a different and, I admit, more important debate. Of course that in most cases, there is a point. But because we are only exploring the topic of what does open-mindedness really mean nowadays, let’s stick with the subject and move on.
Travellers whom know better than you
We all have come across some self-righteous people in our lives but what surprised me the most was the “open-mindedness” of certain travellers. Those travellers who know better than you. Those, who judge you because you went to that touristic place because you are not exploring the places the way it is supposed to be done or just because you felt sorry for the begging child and gave them a cracker and that way you’re teaching them that begging comes with certain rewards…
You know the kind. The self-righteous prick kind. Don’t get me wrong – the vast majority of travellers is absolutely lovely but there’s this small group and its existence can not be denied. And it’s amazing how it always surprises me when I come across one of them.
Upon your travels you usually meet kind fellows because travelling kind off teaches modesty and understanding and then – boom – you get hit: “You’re not travelling like a proper traveller. You don’t open your mind to new things properly!” What does being a proper traveller mean anyway?
Individual progress as a continuous process
Here’s a question: Does opening one’s mind have to mean condemning all of the old ways, they have perhaps lived by themselves in the past, straight away after letting some new ideas in? If you wake up “enlightened” one day, does it come with the universal truth and everyone should live by that right away?
How about our own individual journeys to get to the point of understanding things in a different way? Do others consequentially lose their right to be where you were just yesterday, only because you’ve got enlightened earlier? Does it give you a licence to judge those who haven’t yet reached your “woke” level yet?
Take Charles Darwin for instance. He was a very open-minded and progressive person in his days. Regardless of his main work on Theory of Evolution, Darwin was also against slavery and one of the first people to tackle racism, but the period when he lived was locked in certain dogmas and what was a radical progressive approach back then does come across as rather conservative and racist nowadays.
Have you ever wondered what would our current “progressive” and “open-minded” ideas sound like in 300 years?
I guess that there’s a long way to go for us…
Love, peace and understanding ;jb