Tuesday 6 June 2023

Oestrogen rules!

I was going to revisit here a train trip I took from New Delhi to Agra, way back in 1980, prompted by the appallingly tragic triple train crash that's just happened in India. But of course that would be somewhat appalling too - insensitively trivialising and tone-deaf. So instead I'm going to write about war as a tourist attraction.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, after all. And who hasn't done a tour of northern France and not been to the beaches, visited Dunkirk, been awed by the white crosses stretching away into the distance at the cemeteries, marvelled at still being able to see the remains of the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches? It's hugely sobering to see it all, stand on the edge of a bomb crater, read the info boards, and imagine the horror of it all - but it's also, be honest, fascinatingly interesting, dramatic and thus, yes, entertaining.

Wherever you (ie I) go in the world, there are wartime (and worse) 'attractions' - I honestly couldn't count the battlefields and war cemeteries I've visited, from Gallipoli to Gettysburg, Adelaide River to Bourail in New Caledonia. Plus Stalag Luft III and, even worse, Auschwitz and the Hanoi Hilton. These places have an irresistible appeal that's a weird combination of honest reverence and regret for all those lives lost and pain inflicted, and a creepy fascination for viewing the utter depths of cruelty that men (it's always men) are driven to by their overwhelming desire for power and territory.

And, though I suppose it's possible to travel the world and have holidays that don't include stuff like this, it's always there, pretty much wherever you go. The tourist industry isn't backward in pointing that out and, yes, exploiting it openly with focussed tours and suchlike. Their main customers are, of course, Baby Boomers, whose parents lived through WW2 - I wonder, once we've all shuffled off , whether younger generations will be quite so interested?

I'm guessing yes. After all, war has been a constant throughout human history, and is certainly front-and-centre right now, with the distinct possibility of others looming, despite the deservedly quite distracting threats of climate change. Do you ever wonder how different things might have been/might be if there were a bit less testosterone swirling through the people in charge around the world?

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