x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Good Tourist

Book review My first thought on picking up this book is that it must be an elaborate scam, put together perhaps by those entertaining people at The Onion.

My first thought on picking up this book is that it must be an elaborate scam, put together perhaps by those entertaining people at The Onion. For the premise seems totally absurd: first the author describes a place you'd like to go, such as Australia. She talks about the landscape in some detail, the beaches, the food and the warm welcome from the locals. Then the killer blow. "The way asylum seekers are treated and Australia's refugee policies have been widely condemned by international human rights groups, and most liberal-minded Australians are ashamed of the brutality of the system," she writes. There is hardly a country she likes. In South Africa everyone has Aids, Iran hangs its homosexuals, while Mexico may have pyramids and Diego Rivera murals but threatens its journalists with death if they report anything the government doesn't like. The US boasts the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon and Elvis, but that doesn't hide the fact that there was slavery, sex-trafficking and death row. Thankfully the author does not visit the UAE, but she does manage a swipe in the introduction that a consequence of Dubai's growth is "appalling working conditions for the largely immigrant population". Where then should the good tourist go? Not Morocco, Turkey or Syria, nor China, Burma, or Cuba. Lead Ms Popescu to a beach with palm trees and she will show you centuries of repression. She does not tell us where we can go if we have a conscience, but I think I can guess. As Orson Welles said in The Third Man: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

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