The Benefit of Travel

Paul LeBlanc, the SNHU College President, commented once when we were attending a conference together that one of the main benefits of being “away” was that you have some space in which to think.

In the course of my 7:30 – 4:30 , I have been very aware of all the “Occupy” movements but have not really had the opportunity to develop my own thoughts on them. So as I find myself walking through the “Occupy Dunedin” site (the Octagon, Dunedin, NZ) I realized just that – that I hadn’t given it enough thought beyond my never-left-my-socialism-since-Thatcher’s-Britain-gut feeling – basically: “Screw The Man/system – I’m with you brothers and sisters” to the Tourist abroad, taking pictures of downtown Dunedin with a slight concern that dirty tents and grunge-y protestors will spoil the aesthetic…

Delighted to say that in NZ one does not get errrm blessed with a *free* USA-Today outside the hotel room in the morning, rather a far more informative Otago Daily Times – particularly its World Focus section pulling from the best of the world’s press (surprisingly not featuring any USA-Today articles!)

One great excerpt is titled Protestors more adult than others – written by Andrew Rawnsley for The Observer in London (England)
He describes how the protestors should be admired as despite their tactics being varied and their goals disparate they are (a) making an effort and (b) getting the discussions on people’s radars. “Simply by existing, they push these issues up the media agenda and towards the front of the public mind. If it makes it just a little bit harder for financial interests and their friends among politicians to put the argument to sleep, it is a little bit worth doing”    He continues, “The occupation movement is succeeding where conventional politics of BOTH LEFT AND RIGHT have badly failed. It articulates a profound public resentment with over-mighty finance and the failure of government to do anything about it…. financial elites are getting rewarded with special treatment while the punishment for their mistakes is meted out on the rest of society.”

A couple of facts from the article that succinctly capture the issue and illustrate why people, particularly the young, are protesting:
– Youth employment in Britain is at record levels: 20% of the under-24s do not have work, in Spain it stands at a staggering 46%
– Britain’s top executives gave themselves a 49% increase in their salaries, benefits and bonuses in the past year

As Rawnsley concludes: “if they do not have all the right answers, they are at least posing some of the right questions”

It is therefore true that travel can broaden the mind – even when contemplating things that are right in front of you at home. We can’t let this kind of debate drift by. When engrained and established leaders keep ignoring the issues, patronizing the participants and generally failing the “99%” the protestors’ stance and sacrifice merits at least our attention. I intend to drift back to the Octagon, listen to some of the speakers and perhaps see if anyone needs a “sammie” (kiwi for sandwich!)


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