Tag Archives: Power

Required Reading For Your ‘Destination Vacation’

9 Nov

Jamaica Kincaid’s book A Small Place, reminded me at first of a travel journal, and then of a personal journal. The function of the beginning ‘chapter’ which mimics a travel journal, is to put the reader in the position of tourist. In doing so, the reader is implicated with the ignorance of all the non-native people who visit Antigua. This got me thinking. I thought that I needed a vacation. And then I instantly felt terrible for that, and realized that this book has quite possibly changed the way that I am able to view destination vacations forever. I have never actually taken a ‘destination’ vacation: those are only things that I daydream about, but now that blissful ignorance has been taken away and Kincaid’s book has held up a mirror to the entitlement and suppression that permeates the western idea of ‘holiday.’ It is similar, in effect, to a picture by Banksy:

Banksy Rickshaw

It seems that there is nothing that this society takes for granted that can be simply separated from its role in the world. Everything has its equal and opposite balance, so a ‘simple’ vacation carries with it the suppression and exploitation of a region and its people, in order to create a false paradise. At every All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, there are people starving in the alley behind the restaurant.

The end of Kincaid’s book changes from an anti-travel guide to a personal journal of frustration, and I feel that as the reader, I have followed that model. The more information that is given, the more complicated and upsetting a situation can seem. The question of what to do next, and how to fix past mistakes, seems so important once the curtain has been lifted, but the answers remain elusive. Kincaid writes about the assassinations of leaders in Antigua with a confusion that translates to the reader. The events and actions are all interconnected, but we cannot see the threads to cut: there is no clear path to rectification. Other readers might say, at this point, that Kincaid is unjustly passing blame to her readers (and alienates the very readers that buy her books) for something that happened before their time. Although Antigua’s history with colonization is not something that the average reader can control, Kincaid’s direct confrontation of the reader asks them to look at what they CAN control.

Kincaid’s book ends with a description of the ‘European Disease’ – the use and exploitation of other people in order to feel better about one’s own lonely and empty existence, and I am left to ponder the cure for this disease. If I never take that ‘destination’ vacation, am I sufficiently doing my part to counter – act the effects of suppression and exploitation? Probably not, but as J. Kincaid writes, we are all just human beings: we do what we can and hope that it will make a difference.

A Small Place

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