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Author Topic: The ethics of tourism around religious sites  (Read 4937 times)

Aster Breo

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2014, 11:40:26 pm »
Quote from: HarpingHawke;153483
I was at Ground Zero about a year ago (granted, I'm not a local, so maybe I went on a weird day) and I saw a lot people doing the 'lighthearted clowning' thing, and then selfies happened. Duckface selfies. I wanted to kick them in their pieces parts.

See, this just mystifies me.  I understand that Pearl Harbor was a long time ago, and before those people were born, so they don't feel any emotional connection to the site.  (Although I stand by my assertion that it's virtually impossible to be on the memorial and not know it's also a cemetery, because of the film that precedes the boat ride, not to mention all the other guides and signs and things.)

But Ground Zero? Of course there are many people who were born after that event, but it's still a pretty open wound. And the actual building there just opened recently, amid a great deal of controversy. It's still an active news item.

I'll never understand how people can be so oblivious and disrespectful.
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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2014, 11:18:20 am »
Quote from: Redfaery;153365
This was the thing that bugged me the most about what they did. The shrine is entered via a little arched bridge that's about wide enough for 3-4 people to comfortably walk across at once. All 4 of them were spread out right at the midpoint, effectively blocking anyone who wanted to get in. They stood there, talking to each other and snapping pictures, blocking the walk.

That's awful :/ People can be so rude. In my head I would have very crossly told them to move, but I probably would have been oto nervous to say anything.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 11:25:47 am by Gaudior »

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2014, 03:29:13 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;153493
I'll never understand how people can be so oblivious and disrespectful.

 
I wonder if it's a matter of 'whistling in the dark'? (Or more specifically, the variant, 'whistling past the graveyard'.) That doesn't excuse it; if one is unable to visit the graveyard without needing to whistle, the respectful thing to do is to refrain from visiting. But it maybe makes it more comprehensible.

OTOH, these could just be the same sort of people who don't just rubberneck as they go past a serious accident, but who pull over to look - not to offer help, just to gawk.

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BrighidsAura

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2014, 08:51:21 pm »
Quote from: Redfaery;153345
I think you're absolutely right. What bugged me about these tourists was that they didn't even come over the bridge to look around and see what was actually inside. They just stood there and stared, and talked to each other loudly like it was just the craziest thing they'd ever seen. So I found their attitude disrespectful. I wouldn't have cared at all if they'd come in and looked at everything. That's just the Sarasvati girl in me, wanting people to learn, I think.;)

I just came back from there, since I always do a ritual on Sunday. It felt so wonderful to be there, and this time to actually worship. I bought incense and a fortune, and rang the bell. But I also am aware the other worshipers know I am a foreigner and an outsider. Yet I felt strangely welcomed. Nobody stared at me or gave me dirty looks, even when I went to the purification pavilion and attempted to rinse my hands (I was kind of embarrassed to see that this chapel/shrine has one; I wasn't looking for one, since it doesn't have a Torii, and I'd marked it down as Buddhist).

Still, I actually felt like my presence there was accepted, even welcomed as being...how to say it? Cute or sweet, perhaps. An elderly lady saw me wandering around, staring at the shrine itself with what must have been an awestruck expression. She looked me right in the face and gave a very warm smile. The whole trip was just worth it for that.

What a phenomenal experience! I felt such relief when you said that, even though you were obviously foreign, people there treated you warmly. When I was Muslim, that was not always the case for me. People tended to hang out in their own ethnic groups and--as the odd white girl--I usually got left alone. I even had a woman say "salaam" and shake the hands of every woman in the room and she legitimately SKIPPED me and went to the next lady. Its stuff like that that can really ruin an entire religion for someone if it happens enough.

On another note, one of my dearest friends is a Catholic and was studying at the Vatican. He overheard a tourist couple loudly say, during communion, "hey honey, go grab me a wafer." I didn't mean to laugh when he told me about it but the thought of that happening in real life is so beyond absurd!! You have to be legitimately clueless to actually do stuff like that!
« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 08:52:03 pm by BrighidsAura »

MadZealot

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2014, 08:27:25 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;153493
I'll never understand how people can be so oblivious and disrespectful.


^^^ Disrespectful dumbassitude.  There's no real polite way to put it.  

I remember touring DC about a week after finishing high school.  Took pictures of everything... except the Vietnam memorial.  There were people taking rubbings of loved ones' names, others were leaning on the wall and openly weeping.  I didn't stay long.  Taking pictures would have been... voyeuristic and wrong.  Maybe not as wrong as an Auschwitz selfie, but still.
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BrighidsAura

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2014, 09:09:13 pm »
Quote from: MadZealot;153658
^^^ Disrespectful dumbassitude.  There's no real polite way to put it.  

I remember touring DC about a week after finishing high school.  Took pictures of everything... except the Vietnam memorial.  There were people taking rubbings of loved ones' names, others were leaning on the wall and openly weeping.  I didn't stay long.  Taking pictures would have been... voyeuristic and wrong.  Maybe not as wrong as an Auschwitz selfie, but still.

 
I think this is a good example of what offends some doesnt offend others. I find taking pictures of memorials appropriate. If they were messing around and taking duck face selfies, eh....that might be weird. But the rubbings and weeping I find quite appropriate.

MadZealot

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2014, 10:14:38 pm »
Quote from: BrighidsAura;153659
But the rubbings and weeping I find quite appropriate.

 
Absolutely; and since I saw no way to photograph the memorial without getting some or all of them in frame, I opted not to get a shot, choosing instead to respect them in their time of grief.  
Sadly, I can picture some idiot taking a selfie and capturing mourners in the shot.  :(
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Redfaery

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #22 on: July 23, 2014, 03:18:19 am »
Quote from: MadZealot;153660
Absolutely; and since I saw no way to photograph the memorial without getting some or all of them in frame, I opted not to get a shot, choosing instead to respect them in their time of grief.  
Sadly, I can picture some idiot taking a selfie and capturing mourners in the shot.  :(

 
Sorry all, just now getting back to this thread.

I've seen more of Tokyo by now, and I have to say, I've loosened up a bit since being able to observe the attitudes of the Japanese themselves towards the shrines. I noticed for example that the Toshogu shrine in Ueno (it's a secondary Toshogu shrine, not the main one at Nikko, where Ieyasu's mausoleum is) is treated basically as a historic site/tourist attraction. There were plenty of native Japanese there snapping pictures, right alongside the foreign tourists. Still, when there are people worshiping, like there were at the Miroku Stupa that was also at Ueno, I either don't take the picture at all, or I make sure it's at such an angle/distance that their faces and forms are unrecognizable.
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BrighidsAura

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #23 on: July 23, 2014, 07:06:20 am »
Quote from: MadZealot;153660
Absolutely; and since I saw no way to photograph the memorial without getting some or all of them in frame, I opted not to get a shot, choosing instead to respect them in their time of grief.  
Sadly, I can picture some idiot taking a selfie and capturing mourners in the shot.  :(

 
Oh, I see what you're saying now. That was really nice of you to do that. I hate other people seeing me cry so I know cameras snapping while I cried would completely freak me out.

Allaya

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2014, 08:24:06 am »
Quote from: MadZealot;153658
^^^ Disrespectful dumbassitude.  There's no real polite way to put it.  

I remember touring DC about a week after finishing high school.  Took pictures of everything... except the Vietnam memorial.  There were people taking rubbings of loved ones' names, others were leaning on the wall and openly weeping.  I didn't stay long.  Taking pictures would have been... voyeuristic and wrong.  Maybe not as wrong as an Auschwitz selfie, but still.

 
I'll just leave this here, then.  Blows my damn mind that you have to tell people this.

https://gma.yahoo.com/selfies-auschwitz-9-11-memorial-ever-ok-145317324--abc-news-topstories.html
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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2014, 12:15:13 pm »
Quote from: Allaya;153690
I'll just leave this here, then.  Blows my damn mind that you have to tell people this.

https://gma.yahoo.com/selfies-auschwitz-9-11-memorial-ever-ok-145317324--abc-news-topstories.html

 
I think context is everything. Not all selfies I think are inherently disrespectful. It depends on the composition of the shot, the identity of the person, and how it's tagged on social media if it's even put up at all. The difference between "At the 9/11 memorial - first major crisis I remember as a kid - here to pay respects" and "lol omg bad hairday" is tremendous.

Also, what I mean about identity - I would feel more comfortable as a USonian taking a picture of myself at the 9/11 memorial than I ever would at the memorial for a place that has nothing to do with me. Such as the now infamous Auschwitz selfies. There's literally no connection for me there (beyond the connection of us all as human beings, of course) and so inserting myself as the center of a photo seems very... selfish to me.

I'm not sure how I can properly articulate this but I'll try. I would feel that capturing my grief and respect at a site like Auschwitz through taking a selfie is, in fact, selfish and turning the attention toward me, when in fact I had nothing to do with the place. It's not about my sad feelings as an USonian non-Jew 70 years after the fact. The fact I feel sad means jack shit.

As opposed to the 9/11 memorial - which is part of my national identity. I was 11 when 9/11 happened and it was my violent introduction into world politics. I just barely remember enough of the "old" America to be cognizant of how much things changed after the attacks. I feel in this case my grief or respect or whatever is already part of the narrative in a way it's just not at Auschwitz.

To contrast, though Pearl Harbor was an attack on American soil, because it happened so long ago I don't have the personal emotional connection to it. I'm a descendant of what that day meant of course, but it's not my story in the way I feel like 9/11 can be.

TL;DR - the closer one is to the actual thing being memorialized, the more latitude I think one has in what can and cannot be considered respectful behavior. Like hell if I'm gonna tell a NYC survivor of 9/11 what they can and can't do to process their grief, you know?
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stephyjh

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2014, 02:17:26 pm »
Quote from: Sage;153704
I think context is everything. Not all selfies I think are inherently disrespectful. It depends on the composition of the shot, the identity of the person, and how it's tagged on social media if it's even put up at all. The difference between "At the 9/11 memorial - first major crisis I remember as a kid - here to pay respects" and "lol omg bad hairday" is tremendous.

Also, what I mean about identity - I would feel more comfortable as a USonian taking a picture of myself at the 9/11 memorial than I ever would at the memorial for a place that has nothing to do with me. Such as the now infamous Auschwitz selfies. There's literally no connection for me there (beyond the connection of us all as human beings, of course) and so inserting myself as the center of a photo seems very... selfish to me.

I'm not sure how I can properly articulate this but I'll try. I would feel that capturing my grief and respect at a site like Auschwitz through taking a selfie is, in fact, selfish and turning the attention toward me, when in fact I had nothing to do with the place. It's not about my sad feelings as an USonian non-Jew 70 years after the fact. The fact I feel sad means jack shit.

As opposed to the 9/11 memorial - which is part of my national identity. I was 11 when 9/11 happened and it was my violent introduction into world politics. I just barely remember enough of the "old" America to be cognizant of how much things changed after the attacks. I feel in this case my grief or respect or whatever is already part of the narrative in a way it's just not at Auschwitz.

To contrast, though Pearl Harbor was an attack on American soil, because it happened so long ago I don't have the personal emotional connection to it. I'm a descendant of what that day meant of course, but it's not my story in the way I feel like 9/11 can be.

TL;DR - the closer one is to the actual thing being memorialized, the more latitude I think one has in what can and cannot be considered respectful behavior. Like hell if I'm gonna tell a NYC survivor of 9/11 what they can and can't do to process their grief, you know?
The Auschwitz selfie that has been in the news was a bit different, from the report I heard. The young woman had planned to go with her father before he died, and took a shot of her fulfilling the plans he had after his death. People treated it like some huge act of disrespect, but there was more to it.
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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #27 on: July 23, 2014, 03:19:44 pm »
Quote from: stephyjh;153706
The Auschwitz selfie that has been in the news was a bit different, from the report I heard. The young woman had planned to go with her father before he died, and took a shot of her fulfilling the plans he had after his death. People treated it like some huge act of disrespect, but there was more to it.

Thanks for the clarification! I hadn't even heard of "the" selfie in this case - by the time it filtered down to my ears it sounded like a rash of disrespectful pictures. Hearsay likes to make mountains out of nothing apparently.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

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Scales

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #28 on: July 23, 2014, 09:37:21 pm »
Quote from: Redfaery;153325


 
It has open hours and closed hours and worship hours, and even a gift shop, so I was not out of place, but I felt really intrusive when I visited the Buddhist temple last time I was at my hometown. It is outside a tourist town and near two other attractions (a farm and a market, near a beach/resort town), and thinking about other people there made me feel even more uncomfortable.

Although you are supposed to drive there (they have a large parking lot and are too far for most people to walk or bike), even my very nonreligious, nonspiritual partner felt uncomfortable just driving in.

That said, I'm looking forward to visiting it next time I'm there. It was very peaceful, even though I felt out of place at the start.

Redfaery

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Re: The ethics of tourism around religious sites
« Reply #29 on: July 24, 2014, 04:35:51 am »
Quote from: Scales;153759
It has open hours and closed hours and worship hours, and even a gift shop, so I was not out of place, but I felt really intrusive when I visited the Buddhist temple last time I was at my hometown. It is outside a tourist town and near two other attractions (a farm and a market, near a beach/resort town), and thinking about other people there made me feel even more uncomfortable.

 
I totally understand; I think I would have too. I really hate the way religious sites get treated like "attractions" just because the said religion is "exotic." I mean, I don't think a lot of the Buddhist Temples in the US would be particularly noteworthy sites to visit if they were simply museums displaying Buddhist artifacts.
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