Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Tony Deyal | Lion kings and banana men

Published:Saturday | November 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Tourism inevitably destroys whatever attracts it. This is what some people consider an 'iron law', something that is irreversible once it starts. You can say to tourists, like Bhutan, that they should leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures, but this is not how it works out over time and continuous contact.

Cruise tourism might be even worse since the ships use the countries they advertise as a lure to attract passengers, but the real deal is that the ship is the destination, and the purpose is to take your money and help you max out your credit cards while on board the vessel and not in the countries you visit. Not much of the money spent on tours reaches the local economy.

There is a story about Tahiti in the early days. The women had no qualms about exposing their breasts since this was the accepted practice, but not their ankles. This was taboo. So when the tourists came, lured by the painter Paul Gaugin's depiction of Tahiti as an erotic paradise, the men all found their way to the villages to ogle the breasts of the young women while the young men flocked to the city to stare at the ankles of the foreign women.

As a postscript that demonstrates the fragility of tourism, when the Australian airline Qantas decided, many years ago, to stop flying to Tahiti, it almost dealt a fatal blow to the island's economy. Now that Qantas is back in Tahiti, and other airlines are there as well, business is booming in a big way.

The behaviour of the early visitors to Tahiti is not unique. Despite many of our countries depending on tourism to survive, every West Indian has a mental picture of tourists that is not very flattering. The Jamaican poet, Evan Jones, captured the attitude, which, according to ongoing and recent experiences in other countries, seems to be almost the same as when his Song of the Banana Man was written: "Touris, white man, wipin his face,/ Met me in Golden Grove marketplace./He looked at m'ol' clothes brown wid stain,/An soaked right through wid de Portlan rain,/He cas his eye, turn up his nose,/He says, 'You're a beggar man, I suppose?' He says, 'Boy, get some occupation, Be of some value to your nation.' I said, 'By God and dis big right han/You mus recognise a banana man."

In some countries, the behaviour of tourists causes people to go, and not grow, bananas. The Business Insider interviewed nationals of 14 different countries about the tourist behaviours they don't like. In Denmark, supposedly the world's happiest country, tourists block the bike paths or rent bicycles and ignore the rules and laws. In India, a frequent complaint is about tourists who "practise yoga in the most idiotic way, perform tantric sexual practices, and follow fake and uneducated gurus in search of peace".

Italians get upset with tourists bathing in the Trevi Fountain, urinating in the streets in the middle of the night, and climbing statues made by Bernini, Canova, or Michelangelo. Also, they are upset with foreigners who assume everyone speaks English and order only Americanised Italian food like pineapple pizza, fettuccine Alfredo, and spaghetti with meatballs.

The British can't stand tourists talking loudly in the Tube or Underground during rush hour. As one Englishman said, "We are not there for fun, nor really out of choice ... . We're all tired because we're English, so at least 50 per cent of us are nursing hangovers. We're British. We don't like talking (or loud people) at the best of times," he explains, and pleads, "So ... please ... ssshhh now ... hush your noise."


More than sun, sea, sand


Of course, we in the Caribbean and some other poor countries know that many tourists do not come only for sun, sea, sand, or Subways (which are sandwiches here and not a form of transport). Some also come for the bananas.

A UNICEF report about a sex boom in Kenya fuelled by tourism found that Kenyan men are the largest group of clients, comprising 38 per cent of the total involved in the burgeoning industry; up to 30 per cent, or about 15,000 girls between 12 and 18, were engaged in sexual activities for money; and Italian, German and Swiss nationals are the most common clients of child sex workers among tourists at 18 per cent, 14 per cent, and 12 per cent, respectively. What is frightening is that 75 per cent of people involved in tourism thought it was acceptable for girls to exchange sex for cash, and 60 per cent said the same for boys.

This is possibly why opponents of sexual exploitation and tourism, especially 'gay' or homosexual behaviour, in Kenya seem so much more extreme in their attitudes. In that country, sodomy is a felony punishable by 14 years' imprisonment, and any sexual practices between males (termed 'gross indecency') is subject to a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

The State does not recognise any relationships between persons of the same sex, including marriage, and no legal protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender. Adoption is prohibited to homosexual people. Even animals are suspect.

According to a New York Daily News headline on November 3, 'Male lions having sex in Kenya has censors roaring over 'crazy gay animals''.

The story goes, "Two male lions photographed while seemingly having sex have fur flying in Kenya, where a local moral leader and censor blames the same-sex behaviour on gays who've visited the area.

'These animals need counselling, because, probably, they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly,' Ezekiel Mutua, the head of the Kenya Film Classification Board, told Nairobi News. 'I don't know, they must have copied it somewhere, or it is demonic,' Mutua added. 'Because these animals do not watch movies.'" The Daily News added, "Not even 'The Lion King.'"

The real issue now is that Dr Mutua insists that the lions, if indeed they are of the same sex, need counselling. The question is, "Who will bell these particular wild cats?"

- Tony Deyal was last seen quoting Timon in Disney's 'Lion King', "What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?!"