To anyone who follows my column (aka my mum), you’ll know that I missed my post last Friday. I was in Moscow, having a holiday in what must be one of the most risky and controversial locations of the moment.
And, boy, did everyone let me know it.
I have never heard such blatant outrage or disregard for a holiday location before; I have never had to justify why I was going so much before.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some aspects I understand. Travelling to a location that is famously isolationist from a country that it was currently embroiled in an international crisis and conflict with might have been rash decision.
But most of the hostility I met was not centred around this. It was more stereotypical and bigoted assumptions about Russia, justified due to ‘political morals’. This made me want to write this article, calling out these people for such comments and question the real basis of ‘moral travelling’.
Firstly, I’d like to clarify that I do not agree with much of the politics within Russia. Much of it is unacceptable, such as the human right violations that many LGBT individuals experience there. As a major proponent of democracy and people-led politics, I do not support the thinly-disguised single party system that operates under Putin.
But by travelling to Russia, am I hypocrite? By crossing the border do I demonstrate my support and overlook my political morals for the sake of a holiday?
In some ways, perhaps. Travelling into the country of course will show some support and willingness, that may justify and extend the current political situation. It shows that human rights violations and other political decisions that take place in Russia are not worthy of sanctions or other bans, thus allowing them to continue.
However, I disagree with much of the hostility – especially as the basis of this view is hypocritical in itself. It is really a thinly-veiled bigotry.
Of course, the political issues in Russia are deserving of criticism and international encouragement to change them. However, the focus on these ones compared to the same violations in other countries shows that the ‘moral’ judgement does not rest on actual political outrage or support for progress. Instead, it is a bigoted response to Russia itself, based on our troubled relations and stereotypes.
Criticising Russia for its lax politics while ignoring that the UK as a country has an equally sordid background is hypocritical. The DUP – actively supported by May – are openly homophobic and discriminatory in their attitudes to issues such as abortion and women’s rights. Trump himself stated that ambulances within the US could legally and ‘rightfully’ refuse treatment to LGBT individuals when responding to their cases. To criticise a country for its politics from a country that is involved in equally discriminatory politics and supports other countries that also discriminate is hypocritical and false.
The problem isn’t the politics, when it should be. The problem is the country. The problem is bigotry and stereotypes.
This is even more false when the ‘moral’ justification for avoiding a certain country is applied laxly and unevenly.
The same people who criticise and swear to never travel to Russia due to its politics are willing to go to Coachella, momentarily overlooking Trump’s blatant homophobia and racism for a drunk weekend and perfect Insta shots.
Often, these are the same people who either participate in or actively support ‘white saviour complex’ travelling. Their social medias are littered with pictures of them in front of groups of children in Africa or India, with captions regurgitating the trials of these poor children’s’ lives and how they have, even more importantly, grown themselves from watching their struggles. White privilege and ignorance come together to form a sickening display, that for some reason is justifiable and ‘moral’ to a supposedly political-moral superior group.
The same people who can justify this and travelling to equally-questionable countries swear to never enter other countries such as Russia, based on thinly-veiled bigoted view of countries and their acceptability.
I do not agree with politics in Russia, or in USA or even in Britain. Perhaps I am being hypocritical by still travelling to these countries. But at least I’m not hiding behind pure prejudice and hypocrisy.