Are we responsible for this?

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Are we responsible for this?

Postby jimshu » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:14 pm

Slapped in the face by his father, the kid, all of 10 or maybe 11,stood shocked and embarrased in the hostile circle of villagers and children.Such a change from a few minutes ago,proudly showing his family his 'find',a camera he had taken home, just before the posse of village children tracked him down.We'd enlisted their help to recover a camera one of our tour group had lost, probably taken from her pocket, while being mobbed by excited children.One of the older kids was now suspiciously absent.They'd find him...those kids knew everything that went on in their village.
Village justice can be tough and uncompromising.Honour is at stake.Tourists are guests here, and hospitality is extended and no harm should come to your guests.But one had now brought shame and disgrace upon the village,and he'd embarrassed his father and family in the eyes of the rest of the village, and now stood before them.
Concerned, I asked our guide what would happen to the kid.
"Oh he may go to jail!"
What?! A kid that age.A kid tempted by a shiny gizmo we tourists flout in their faces! A mere toy for us, but an unattainable sign of wealth....and that camera strap was hanging out of her pocket......
We boarded our bus, glad to finally be on our way,late and a long drive ahead of us.But my thoughts kept returning to that kid, and his future.Jail?Ostracism?Branded a thief by the village?I felt sick about the mess.
And we'd changed him forever.We had intruded into his life.We'd caused the circumstances that placed temptation in his way.We insist on flaunting our wealth in front of kids with no shoes, and ripped and patched clothing!
What chance did he now have of just being a kid, or growing up leading a normal life?
Yeah, travel can sure change lives.


What do you reckon?
Happened on our Ethiopia trip.I was going to enter it into Gap Adventures travel talk competition here-
http://www.gapadventures.com/travel-sto ... tral-goose
but not quite what they're after.
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Re: Are we responsible for this?

Postby thecakeisalie » Fri Oct 01, 2010 10:32 am

I bet the kid learned (or is currently learning) a valuable lesson, and I don't think you need to beat yourself up over it. There will always be haves and have nots, and to blame a tourist for carrying a camera is placing the fault on the wrong party. Stealing has always been unethical, be it a camera or a piece of bread, sometimes used to survive, otherwise used to promote one's self at the expense of another. Kudos to the tribe for trying to teach moral fiber. Sure, going to jail may not be the best thing but its clear that the village and the elders want to establish what behavior is appropriate and what isn't, so if the kid spends a day or two in the clink it just might work. Did you happen to ask what kind of term he could end up serving? They might just be locking him up for a day to scare kid, and I doubt this kind of thing will follow him around like a record would in a Western country.
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Re: Are we responsible for this?

Postby jimshu » Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:21 pm

Yes, agree with you.
But generally what you say is looking at it from our perspective.Sadly, it may not be that simple.
We were guests of the village.Welcomed and shown through the rock cut church by an elder, or headman, or Priest, ...didn't quite find out .But he was livid at the kid presumably because his hospitality, and that of the whole village had been disgraced.And here he was , in front of all of us, and the village, being dishonoured.
So I get the feeling that kid is not going to get off so lightly.And to think that the authorities there are going to put their resources and time into just putting him in jail for a few days to shock him,is very wishful thinking.Sure, may happen here with our wishy-washy liberal PC system, but not there.Justice, if you can call it there is dished out a lot harsher.
And local 'justice' at village level, can have long term consequences.That kid, now 'branded' a thief by the village, may always live with that shame.
I suspect the outcome will be that the kid is sent to live with relatives in a distant village and may never be able to come home.Banishment gets rid of the kid and the 'incident' or the dishonour goes with him.
And no, I'm not beating myself up over him, but I am raising the issue of how much responsibility we as tourists carry in creating these circumstances.I mean, how much do we affect or change lives of poor people by our presence with all our displays of wealth? Do we create envy?And is that the driver for theft?
And it's a reminder for us all not to make it easy for impromptu theft like this to happen.
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Re: Are we responsible for this?

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Mon Oct 11, 2010 4:17 pm

I don't think we should be flaunting our wealth but the display of wealth does not create character deficiencies. If it wasn't your camera, he likely would have been tempted by something else -- and perhaps something he would have gotten away with which would have just reinforced the bad behavior.

Various sociologists have wanted to blame the rich or lack of material wealth for the misdeeds of the poor for decades (if not centuries). It's a thesis I reject utterly -- if it were true, 70% of the US population would have been thieves and con artists through the decade of the 1930s. Deprivation may make it easier to rationalize theft but it doesn't force the victim to victimize someone else (and I say this in full knowledge of my human imperfections).

I feel bad for the kid but the harsh penalties meted out by the village likely prevent a large number of future occurrences.
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Re: Are we responsible for this?

Postby jimshu » Mon Oct 11, 2010 5:36 pm

Good to get your thoughts as I have been asked to re -write and submit an article on the incident as a thought provoking article for a travel writers forum.I posted above just the bare bones of what happened,there's a wee bit more to the story.I'll post a link across to it if it gets accepted for publication.
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Re: Are we responsible for this?

Postby thecakeisalie » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:14 pm

ExplorerWannaBe wrote:I don't think we should be flaunting our wealth but the display of wealth does not create character deficiencies. If it wasn't your camera, he likely would have been tempted by something else -- and perhaps something he would have gotten away with which would have just reinforced the bad behavior.

Various sociologists have wanted to blame the rich or lack of material wealth for the misdeeds of the poor for decades (if not centuries). It's a thesis I reject utterly -- if it were true, 70% of the US population would have been thieves and con artists through the decade of the 1930s. Deprivation may make it easier to rationalize theft but it doesn't force the victim to victimize someone else (and I say this in full knowledge of my human imperfections).

I feel bad for the kid but the harsh penalties meted out by the village likely prevent a large number of future occurrences.



Exactly. This is what I was attempting to convey, but you said it much better.

Jimshu, sorry I didn't respond to your pm, was out of town for a while on vacation getting drowned in the "desert" southwest.
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