June 16, 2019

QUESTION ASKED AND ANSWERED: What is Omnipotent Tourist Syndrome?

The Omnipotent Tourist Syndrome is a disease common among Americans that is caused by arrogance, egotism and nonchalance. Carriers show a penchant for obliviously overlooking the obvious while delighting themselves at the cost of others. Delirious OTS sufferers refuse to acknowledge their malady and will argue that it is their God given right as an American to travel freely about the world with little or no conscience or consequence. OTS people frequently hide behind their Bill of Rights and Constitution. Unfortunately, there is no cure for OTS nor is there any way to ease it’s symptoms. It is a disease which, no matter how much hard data and facts are introduced into the OTS sufferer, will not ease unless said sufferer finds a compass of morality and humanity.

See also: The New Republic’s useful idiot tour. Why not take a trip to Raúl Castro’s Cuba?

‘To live in Havana’, Graham Greene once wrote, ‘was to live in a factory that turned out human beauty on a conveyor belt.’ To work as Cockburn does, as an underfed Grub Street hack, is to work in an industry that turns out pointless emails on a conveyor belt.

Every now and then though a real diamond rolls out of the coal chute. On Friday The New Republic invited its readers on a Caribbean jaunt – to Raúl Castro’s Cuba. Under the heading ‘Discover Cuba and Support the Cuban People’ the email read:

‘While Trump petulantly restricts travel to Cuba, The New Republic invites you to discover the culture, society and politics of the island, and most of all bolster the people of Cuba when they need it most.’

The people of Cuba – or at least the military caudillo and his thugs who keep people of Cuba garrisoned – have, incidentally, been busy ‘bolstering‘ the Maduro government in Venezuela.

And then afterwards, why not take the New York Times’ trip to Iran, to see the handiwork firsthand, of the mullahs?

Americans in Iran are generally regarded with a degree of skepticism, but not for the reason you might think. Iranians want to know what you’re doing in Iran, not because they suspect you of plotting a coup, but because they know American passport holders could spend their vacations anywhere else on earth (give or take a few tin-pot communist police states), and feel sorry for you. They are almost always friendly and eager to tell you there are no hard feelings. “Ninety percent of Iranians love America,” is a widely cited statistic, though it’s not clear if this is based on actual data. Eventually, this becomes rather eerie, as if everyone is reading off the same approved script.

Nazri, a student studying computer animation, offered the boldest riff on the “We love America” line, leaning in close to whisper “and Israel,” though I am not convinced this is a 90-10 issue. Moments later, a mullah in a black turban strolled by and leered in our direction. “Very dangerous,” Nazri said after he passed. “I f—king hate them.” Also, can I get him a job in California? Not everyone is so gracious toward Americans. A few (say 10 percent) of the locals, mostly older men, simply said, “Okay,” and sauntered away after I told them my nationality.

Talking to locals seems to always paint a slightly different picture of the country than the one we received from our guides on the bus. One day I stumbled upon a coffee shop run by Armenian Christians. The barista disagreed with Cyrus’s assessment that religious minorities were valued members of Iranian society, and could practice their faith openly without harassment. “No, it’s not good,” he told me. “If I could, I’d leave.”

Why is exactly what Otto Warmbier thought, when he discovered, the hard way, the limits of Omnipotent Tourist Syndrome.

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