The Cult Of The Naked Tourist

You may have heard about this band of thoughtful world travelers:

Screen capture yesterday of the BBC web site.
Screen capture yesterday of the BBC web site.

At least for once there wasn’t an American involved. Nor are they facing long prison terms. That BBC article goes on to explain:

They were jailed for three days, but their sentences were back-dated to reflect time already served.

Evidently snapping naked pics at tourist vistas has become “the thing” lately. Because there always has to be something. The respected British travel writer, the Independent’s Simon Calder, has also pointed out:

When you step off into another country, remember that it has its own rules and you should observe them … You might not agree with what you consider conservative cultural beliefs, but that’s not relevant.

You would think that would not need saying. However, it appears it must. Mr. Calder notes also:

The top of Mount Kinabalu isn’t some empty place. It’s a rite of passage for many Malaysians to climb it. There would have been hundreds of people around [when the photos were taken].

Nonetheless scathing criticism has been leveled at Malaysians over their being somewhat annoyed by those tourists’ shenanigans. The real problem, we’re informed by some, is with Malaysia and not with the tourists. For example, as a member of the group articulately pointed out afterwards, “It’s just a f-cking mountain.”

Except it’s not “just a f-cking mountain.” It’s a place of well-known religio-cultural significance to them. It’s the equivalent of – for us – our church, or the graveyard where our family is interred, or whatever it is we consider sacred. Assuming also, of course, that anything is.

While condemning those tourists’ crass insensitivity, a contributor to Independent Voices offers this far broader global-cultural analysis. He explains that, if you travel, you must understand that in a lot of the world the natives can still be rather touchy about their quaint rituals and archaic beliefs. It’s the sort of nonsense our more developed mindset has by now happily left behind:

….It may seem ridiculous to visitors from post-Christian societies that elevate rationalism and science above all that there are still countries where ancient rivers of animism still run deep, where superstitions if not actual beliefs about “hantu” – ghosts – are widespread, and in which faith in the supernatural is the norm. But there are. In fact, welcome to the rest of the world.

So, hailing as they do from what that writer terms “post-Christian societies that elevate rationalism and science above all,” it follows then that those tourists’ behavior on that mountain must therefore stem essentially from, uh, our “rationalism and science.”

Understood. Those “ridiculous” natives. Because what better demonstrates “rationalism and science” than hiking up a mountain the superstitious locals climb all the time fully attired (and remaining so), but marking our enlightened “achievement” in doing the same by stripping, giggling around, and posting photos on Facebook.


Have a good Saturday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂