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Tourists and Cruises



     Americans disagree sharply on many things, from evolution to George W. Bush (no connection). Incidentally, in response to demands that he enunciate his policies, George W. gave a talk on defense. He denounced the present administration and said he would modernize the armed forces. He spoke at the Citadel in South Carolina against a background of American flags. I had the impression that this was in response to charges that he had avoided military service. His manner was wooden, la Gore. George W. is one of the topics on which WAISers disagree. I of course am impartial.
     I was impartial in the heated debate among WAISers about cruises and tourists. A balanced view was expressed in an article on the subject in The Economist (9/18) entitled "Pollution in Alaska. Trash overboard." A picture of a cruise ship has the caption "Unwelcome guests". Although the subject is Alaska, it says the same applies to Cancun, Florence or Bangkok. In brief, the cash inflow is welcome, but the side effects are not.
     I can see both sides of the argument. Many American tourists came to Winchester, a historic town with a great cathedral. As a small boy, I had no interest in the cash they brought but I was mildly flattered by their interest. However, the questions about how much a building cost annoyed me. When one woman scrawled her name on the wall of the sanctuary, I gave her a dirty look. The remark overheard "My dear, the plumbing!" indicated a distorted scale of values.
     Now my attitude has changed completely. My intense interest in medieval churches has declined, my main concern now being the quality of life, including plumbing. The palaces at St. Petersburg displease me because of the slave labor which built them.
     As an environmentalist I now condemn the bishop of Winchester who built the apse in a swamp. He tricked the king into allowing him to cut down a whole forest for trunks that were sunk into the swamp to provide a footing. Of course they slowly rotted, and about 1900 at great expense divers were sent down to install a concrete footing. The king was angry and created the New Forest (hence the name), which today is an ecologist's delight. What Saint Peter said to the Bishop is not in human annals.
     In brief, tourism is a very complicated subject, and the variety of attitudes involved is important because they form the composite picture one country has of another. Much of Spanish modern history has been dominated by the conflicting visions Spaniards had of France.

Ronald Hilton - 09/24/99


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