Sunday, 22 November 2015


With fear a topic of conversation around the world, it seems timely to revisit this post I originally wrote in 2008. At the time, I was the Chief Purser on a cruise ship sailing the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


"But aren't you scared?"

It was the second time today that someone had asked me that question. The first time was early afternoon when I was on the pier in Manzanillo, a port substituted for Acapulco this week due to technical problems. I was on my way in to town, and seeing a long line of people waiting for the shuttle bus, and a complete lack of taxis, I elected to exit the port gates and take the local bus, something I have no hesitation in doing anywhere. I saw a couple of other crew on the pier, who asked me, since I had been here before, what are the options for getting in to town. I listed their choices. A long wait for a shuttle bus. A long wait for a taxi. Or walk out to the street with me, spend 4 pesos, and take the public bus. They looked at me incredulously.
"The public bus? But aren't you scared?"
"Scared of what?" I inquired.
"Well... of how they drive... and the people...?"
I left them to their long wait for a shuttle or a taxi and headed into town. Miraculously unscathed from the 'dangerous' journey, I found a festival taking place on the edge of town, at the town beach, and after taking a walk around the town center, returned to the festival where I made some new friends and enjoyed several hours of music, beer and fun. In the meantime, it got dark.
Feeling in need of some exercise I decided to walk back to the ship; a walk I had done before in the daylight, and which I knew from experience would take about an hour. I headed out along the dimly lit and almost deserted road. Just over an hour later, I was entering the gates of the port. As I neared the ship, a taxi pulled up, and a friend of mine emerged.
"How did you get back?" she demanded. I replied to the effect that I had walked. For the second time today I saw that incredulous look.
"But weren't you scared?"
"Scared of what?" I inquired, also for the second time.
"Well, of the road, and the traffic, and of being attacked... and..." - she hesitated - " know.... other things?"
It got me thinking. Why are they really scared? How much of their lives is spent being consumed by fear? How many experiences do they miss because of it? Maybe I am lucky. But getting on a bus has never scared me. Walking down a road at night has never scared me. And I have definitely never missed out on something because I was scared. 
There really is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Was it only Paris?

Have you heard about the attacks which took place in Paris on Friday (credited to Islamic State)? Well, yes, unless you have spent the last two days in a cave, you can’t fail to have heard about them, or to have witnessed the deluge of “support” on social networks, of people “standing with France” and overlaying their Facebook profile pictures with the French flag, so conveniently provided by the company to help users easily “show their solidarity”. It’s great to be able to do so without taking too much time away from important things like the latest Kardashian pregnancy, or who got voted off” Dancing with the Stars”.
How about the terrorist attack (also credited to Islamic State) which took place in Beirut the day before, in which at least 41 people died? Didn’t catch that one? I’m sure there was a similar deluge of people “standing with Lebanon”. Strangely I didn’t notice it on Facebook, but I’m sure it was there. I’m sure I just missed the application allowing users to overlay their profile pictures with the Lebanese flag.
Remember the airplane crash in Egypt a couple of weeks ago? 224 (Russian and Ukrainian) people died in that incident (also credited to Islamic State).  You probably heard about that, but the coverage was somewhat less than extensive. Remember seeing your friends “standing with Russia” and overlaying their Facebook profile picture with the Russian flag?  No? Surely they did, but your attention must have been distracted.
Heard about the scores who die every day in Mexico’s ongoing and unwinnable “war on drugs” (actually the USA’s “war on drugs”, being fought on Mexican territory)? Where’s the world’s solidarity with Mexico?
To all those in Mexico, and elsewhere in the developing world who are so generously “standing with France” and displaying the French flag in their social network profiles, I ask the question: What would happen if the shoe was on the other foot? What if the attack had taken place in Monterrey? Asuncion? Gaborone? Dhaka? Would the developed world be standing with you? Would Facebook users in Europe be overlaying their profile picture with the Paraguayan flag?
Of course we denounce the attacks in Paris, as we do the attacks in Beirut, and the (likely) bombing of the Russian airliner. The answer to the question of why are these attacks occurring requires a detailed analysis of the developed world’s meddling in the Middle East over the last 60 plus years.
The world’s reaction (or lack thereof) to these events over the last couple of weeks has only served to reinforce the notion that Western European or North American lives are somehow worth more than those of people in other parts of the world. And isn’t that exactly what started all of this?