"In ancient times the opulent and civilized found it difficult to defend themselves against the poor and the barbarous nations; in modern times the poor and barbarous nations find it difficult to defend themselves against the opulent and civilized." -Adam Smith
During a recent visit to Jamaica, I observed a number of resorts that themed their golf courses and pools after the old sugar plantations of the island. As the sun-burnt American and British children splashed among the recreation of the 'old mill', local Jamaicans in floral uniforms served drinks to the adults lounging by the pool. The association between the plantation and the modern resort did not appear to disturb the tourists relaxing in the sun. And why should it? This is a different time. The Jamaicans, of whom 91% are descendents of plantation slaves, live and work freely on the Island. As I walked along the beaches which were quickly eroding due to the coastal development by such resorts, I watched the Jamaican employees sweep the seaweed into small piles and carry them off the beach in order to maintain the postcard view of the ocean that the tourists traveled there to see. It occurred to me that something more was at work there. The way in which indigenous cultures, peoples and their land have been commercialized and commodified for the enjoyment of pleasure seeking tourists must have roots somewhere. I began to wonder in what way the acceptance of past exploration and conquest by Europeans of land and people created a justification for today's exploitation of indigenous cultures and environments through tourism and other such devices as transnational corporations and trade.
This question is undoubtedly broad, but perhaps through such a lens as a modern day tourist resort that is frequented by predominately European descendents and employs natives, we can explore the ethical origins of the mechanisms at work. We know that in the centuries following Columbus's "discovery" of the New World (of which Jamaica was a part), a monstrous new networking of power and trade developed between Europe, Africa and the America's. Originally motivated by '; evangelical' missions of proselytization and the search for resources, European travelers traversed the Atlantic and often enslaved and killed the people they discovered on the other side. The explorers regarded both the indigenous people and their natural environment as commodities to be utilized for their own advancement. Although we believe that we have moved beyond these practices today, we continue to benefit from the seeds that these practices have sown. The sheer belief that a person or a resource can be bought and sold, owned and discovered has not left us. It continues to infect our current global systems from those of international corporate relations and trade to the conduct of pleasure seeking tourists.
According to anthropologist Carlo Cippolla, "When Albuquerque attacked Malacca in 1511 he told his officers that...