It’s a Common Pain…

…perhaps the Post-Corona world may be able to witness higher human empathy and development by forming a new face of the concept of tourism.

Life Ain’t Easy

Well, here I am in the wind again

Floating where it takes me

Laughing and splashing in the summer sun

Until the alarm clock awakes me…

Shel Silverstein, American Writer & Poet

From February 11, 2020, when I boarded a plane to India after the outbreak of the pandemic, to February 11, 2021, when I received a positive coronavirus test result, I had a year unlike any other. For the past year, the world has been plagued by the effects of the new coronavirus pandemic; a virus with a relatively unprecedented rate of transmission and impact. On January 30, 2020, the disease was reported in at least 17 countries around the world, and the World Health Organization declared it a “public health emergency“. In the months that followed, as the virus travelled around the world and infected the inhabitants of the planet, one country after another closed its borders to travellers and imposed quarantine regulations. Nowhere in the world was safe, and in the last days of 2020, the coronavirus reached Antarctica.

One year after the outbreak, millions of jobs have been lost and poverty has increased all over the world. The United Nations has warned that the pandemic could undermine the achievements of decades of poverty reduction efforts. The current state of the world, as many western theorists acknowledge, and which has been repeatedly referred to as the mainstream of international relations in the form of critical theories, is above all influenced by the actions of the great powers over the past few centuries. Solving this global problem requires global determination. Discrimination in the division of international labour, unilateral measures and double standards of international political and economic institutions, widespread poverty, environmental problems all require global action.

Globalisation is a manageable and controllable phenomenon. Its important benefits can be exploited, such as increasing public information about the culture and knowledge of other nations. Ashofteh Tehrani in his book “The Sociology of Globalization” defines globalisation as a “means to allow liberalism, religion and the resolution of disputes of any kind. Allowing communication and travel and having capital”. However, on the other hand, the role of international organisations in globalisation has led to the limitation of national sovereignty. The fact is that the power of governments is increasingly influenced by a variety of factors such as the revolution in communications and information, technological developments, multinational corporations, organisations, and other non-governmental players. The result is that the functioning of governments can be significantly changed. Given the current situation, the international community is facing many problems. Injustice and discrimination, global economic problems and poverty, emerging diseases, environmental problems, and mass murder are just some of the issues afflicting people all over the world.

The coronavirus outbreak is one of the third-millennium phenomena that have strongly affected various aspects of social life and its negative impacts can be seen and felt, from the economic to the cultural fields. The pandemic has affected all social, cultural, and political dimensions. However, its economic effects have undoubtedly been greater, due to the uncertainty as to what extent economic activity will return to normal, which is difficult to predict.

German futurist Matthias Horx says:  “I am often asked when Corona will be over and when everything will return to normal? His answer is: “Never! There are historical moments when the future changes direction. We call them bifurcations or deep crises. These times are now”. He believes that in the time of Corona, the world we thought we knew collapsed. This view is not unlike that of the most famous German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, whos said that “we must act in the knowledge explicit of our not knowing“, adding that behind the fall of the world we think we knew, another world is being created.

This Common Ordeal

Dearest, Dear friends,

Come with me, let me in! It’s a common pain,

It is the pain we share

Only together, we gain the repair

This common ordeal, can never heal

In me, the lonesome me,

In you, the lonely you

Dearest, Dear friends,

Do not stand alone, in this pain

Come with me, with me! Let me in, let me in!

Parviz Meshkatian, Iranian Musician & Songwriter

The common ordeal is an epic poem, that has a special place in Iran’s contemporary history. Composed by Parviz Meshkatian, a prominent musician, and sung by the maestro Mohammadreza Shajarian, the song has a great melodic richness and a striking and influential introduction. Iranian social and political movements have chosen this anthem as a symbol and it has been a source of support and empathy in solving problems and dealing with national disorders after the revolution in Iran, 40 years ago.

In the life of each of our nations and in every corner of the world, there are days that are hard to get through. Days when the level of stress we experience is so high, that it shakes the deepest layers of our being. In truth, ups and downs are a natural part of life. On such difficult days, and more than ever, we will need to guide and support each other. We will not find a way out of a difficult situation with a simple glance since if that were the case, we would never be in that situation. This is where we need to change our perspective and look at it from outside the box.

The issues we are concerned about or that put us under stress are not out of the question. Either we can change it or not. In the case of any challenging issue, there is at least part of it that is beyond our ability to make a difference. This inability is either because extensive equations have created it or because nothing can be done about it at the moment. The big and common problems can be solved with empathy and cooperation which is one of the admirable phenomena of human societies. Thus, it must first be possible to get closer to each other with a mental framework and to understand each other relatively. Since the understanding of each society towards a specific and fixed situation is different from another, familiarity with other values and capabilities requires more effort. However, by accepting the differences, a kind of unity can be achieved and a constructive relationship can be initiated.

In is book “Factfulness”, Swedish scholar Hans Rosling, talks about an instinct called the “gap instinct“, which has given rise to a misconception of the world and its division into two distinct or often contradictory parts or groups; rich vs. poor! He calls this “a big misconception” that has a huge impact on how people misunderstand the world and distorts all global relations in people’s minds. This image is rooted in the definitions and theories of the sixties, while the world has undergone many changes in the last half-century.

When people talk about “developing” and “developed,” he argues, what they actually think of is poor countries/rich countries, west/others, north/south, low-income/high-income. The use of these terms to interpret the world is wrong because it creates an image in people’s minds that does not correspond to the reality of the world today, as the statistics of the World Bank and the United Nations show. This can directly and negatively affect the relations and mutual understanding between different nations in the fields of economic, social, and cultural development.

The majority of the world’s population does not live in low-income or high-income countries but in middle-income countries. This categorization does not exist in a categorized mind but is a fact. The integration of high-and middle-income countries is comprised of 91% of the human population, many of whom have joined the global market and made great strides toward a decent life. This is a realisation of happiness for humanists and a vital realisation for global businesses.

The Water’s Footsteps

Where I am, let it be so

The sky is mine

The window, thought, air, love, earth is mine

What signifies?

If mushrooms of nostalgia

Sometimes grow?

I don’t know

Why some say that the horse is a noble animal, the pigeon is beautiful

And why no vulture dwells in any person’s cage

I wonder why the clover is interior to alfalfa

One must wash eyes, look differently to things words must be washed

The word must be wind itself, the word must be the rain itself

Sohrab Sepehri, Iranian Poet & Painter

When the UN General Assembly declared 2017 the World Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, it stated that tourism is a unique opportunity for all of us to work together, in creating the role of travel and tourism as an important human activity in the 21st century. Strengthen a better future for people, the planet, peace and prosperity. The nature of tourism in any society is affected by complex and intertwined economic, political, cultural, and social factors. In other words, tourism has material and spiritual dimensions, each of which can attract the other. While tourism can be considered an industry and economic activity (or a set of interrelated industries), it is also a complex set of socio-cultural phenomena (even before economics). Tourism is not a mixture of purely commercial activities, but also the ideological expression of history, nature, and tradition. After overcoming the difficult experience of fighting the coronavirus outbreak, there will be a historic opportunity for the tourism industry to play its unique role in reconnecting nations, this time from an equal and fact-based position.

As Jafar Jafari says, tourism makes the people of the world aware of the culture of nations and establishes peace and tranquillity, while strengthening the national economy and generating income. Tourism can facilitate peaceful coexistence by increasing the awareness and knowledge of people and nations about each other since mutual knowledge and understanding is the foundation of peaceful coexistence. Mutual understanding can also facilitate acceptance of differences. Tourism strengthens the political foundations between governments and is the link between nations. It can be used as a diplomatic tool to enhance and improve peace, friendship, security, international cooperation, and increase economic growth and income. Furthermore, it can aid in creating a bond between nations and in fostering the exchange of culture and the familiarity of nations with each other, allowing for achieving similarities. Tourism creates interactions between the host and guest communities, which naturally lead to changes in quality and standard of living, work, cultural-behavioural patterns and value systems, language, family relationships, attitudes, customs and community structure.

The tourism industry can also play an important role in reviving and rebuilding the economy in countries prone to attracting tourists after overcoming the difficult conditions of today, just as it can restore friendly and normal relations between nations more quickly. Moreover, it is the largest service industry in the world in terms of revenue generation. The growth of the tourism industry can increase the GDP of destination countries and bring more tax revenue. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism can even be invested in other sectors, including health, and lead to improved social-economic growth. Inclusive economic growth means that a large part of society’s workforce enjoys the benefits of economic growth, and the tourism industry can manage this well. It benefits from an extensive supply chain that includes various areas of production and services such as transportation, housing, food, agricultural products, energy and water supply, tourist attractions, entertainment and cultural programs, arts and crafts, cultural heritage, small businesses, buildings and includes renovation, etc.

On the other hand, media is one of the most important tools that can have a significant impact on societies. The trade-in television, radio, film, and video products have expanded greatly. National broadcasting systems have been dominated by intense international competition and declining audiences. As communication patterns increasingly transcend national boundaries, internet access and user statistics are growing exponentially. Everywhere, people are exposed to the values of other cultures in an unprecedented way. The process of cultural homogeneity that is being carried out by theorists, agents of governments and private sectors requires contexts and tools to move this process forward. These tools are primarily global information networks and mass media such as “radio, satellite television and the Internet”, that pave the way for the transmission of various messages.

The development of tourism and media is closely linked in a specific process. In the tourism industry, advertising should be used as the most important tool professionally, since the success of introducing the cultural and tourism values of countries is based on a correct and professional understanding of advertising and its values. Moreover, professional advertising can be considered as a winning tool for advancing exchanges between nations in all fields. The tremendous role that the media plays in the minds of societies cannot be ignored, and today, in the context of the coronavirus crisis, the media should be more vigilant and effective in their activities in order to alleviate the fear-related stress and anxiety regarding the long-term negative effects of the pandemic.

In this regard, governments and local and international companies, large and small, which invest in tourism promotion and are finding ways to overcome the severe disruption caused by the pandemic on their activities, should pave the way for a constructive and trusting dialogue between people and nations within the framework of new definitions based on the realities of today’s world and from a position of equality; a world in which every human being is happy and where money, race and power are worthless.

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