Placing the Blame

As time allows we will post some photos and notes from our Western Civilization tour (see previous post for background). Aside from what we could see with our own eyes, much of what we learned came through what we heard from tour guides. Most of them spoke reasonably good English in addition to two, three, or four other languages; they knew their community like the back of their hand; and they had a lot of information to share. It was interesting, though, to hear some common threads that emerged along the way.

Conversations with the tour guides almost always included how things were going in their part of the world. Things like the economy, education, government, and so on. Like many Americans, they would alternate between pride in their community and nation, and criticisms of the same. Interestingly, when they placed blame for various problems, three topics came up over and over again: climate change, covid, and the war in Ukraine.

Climate change appears to be the universal boogey-man, and caught the blame for things you would never expect. For example, did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans because of climate change? The tour guide said so, and it must be true. Except that anyone who understands rudimentary soil mechanics can provide a better explanation.

Evolving covid lockdowns, rules, and regulations (not necessarily the disease itself) ran a close second when it came to explaining local problems. This one carries more credibility than climate change: Many of the places we visited depend on tourism for a significant part of their economy, and the past two years have been a real dry spell for them. Several of the guides commented that we were one of the first groups they had hosted in over two years, and they were hopeful that things would continue to improve.

The war in Ukraine took third place when it came to grousing about current challenges. We are not sure why, but it often came across as “that which must not be named” since the guides seemed reluctant to mention it in specific terms. Even though they had no trouble talking up any number of other political issues, when it came to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine they would speak only of “that conflict” or “the difficulties to our north.” They would not actually mention Russia or Putin, even in areas that used to be under USSR domination. Or maybe especially in those areas

Regardless of climate change, covid, and wars and rumors of war, we were impressed by the deep-rooted optimism our guides and local citizens seem to have for their communities and their futures. The positives outweighed the negatives, and their enthusiasm was genuine. More thoughts later…

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