rtweek2012: Questions About Cultural Exchange and Values Change
When we experience another culture, we often have the interesting experience of relating to and appreciating some of the new values we encounter, while at the same time we may dislike and feel discouraged by other values and behaviors we see displayed. One example would be enjoying the amazing hospitality of someone who has little but is willing to go to great effort and sacrifice to make us comfortable and welcome. Another example would be enjoying the amazing natural beauty of a place while watching the locals systematically destroy the natural environment, whether just through poor sanitation or through unsustainable agricultural and production methods.
As visitors, it is not automatically our job to change or manage our host community. If we are trying to be responsible visitors, however, do we not then choose to at least bear the responsibility of identifying what is good and what is bad? And if we have identified what is bad, whether a value or behavior (if there is a difference), should we not at least take the responsibility to encourage the good and discourage the bad?
Perhaps more difficult is the next obvious question: how do we encourage change where it is needed, with sensitivity and with respect for local culture, community, and history?
I have a specific example in mind: our town, Bengkulu, would like to be a tourist destination. It has beautiful beaches (although some of them designed for visitors have rather dangerous currents and visitors are discouraged from going in the water - is that responsible?), an amazing tropical climate, and is surrounded by amazing ethnic groups with wonderful food, clothing and traditions. But the thing that most visitors notice quickly is the trash and pollution. On the one hand, local people value natural beauty and their home, but on the other hand they don't seem to have any motivation to handle sanitation and disposal problems well. The problems can certainly be solved, but rather than solving them with money (which may be the chief way Bali has solved this: hiring hosts of sanitation/disposal workers), should there not be an attempt to simply change behavior? It would seem that the appreciation for natural beauty as well as the desire to sustain tourist businesses would encourage the entire community to take responsibility for their garbage disposal behavior, but it appears that is not the case.
Suggestions? How can we, through cultural exchange experiences, seek to change this behavior and increase the local value for clean, natural beauty?
Is it fair/responsible to judge and seek to change these values at all?