“Olowo fi owo ra iku” (the affluent seeks death with his wealth).
The above Yoruba adage came to mind in my search for what defines the Britons, Americans and some other Western citizens. With daily reports of kidnapping, killing and incarcerations one could not but wondered why they have never relented in their search for trouble in the name of holidaying, sightseeing and other pleasures that have become part and parcel of their lives.
News headlines seem incomplete without the mentioning of skirmishes of Westerners’ abduction in Pakistan or Afghanistan; arrests on real and phantom charges in Iran, North Korea or Venezuela; killing and kidnapping by terrorists in Sudan, Mali, Cameroun, Somalia, Nigeria, etc. Yet, they seem oblivious to all these dangers and never waver in their search for good life in most odious places.
It is understandable that some of these Westerners go to these ‘volatile’ spots because of the nature of their job (soldiers, humanitarian workers, etc.), but it is unfathomable that some, without reasonable excuse, do endanger their lives by going to places where they are not wanted or where they would become easy target. It may not be appropriate to say that these people do not have adequate knowledge of where they are going. On the contrary, they are usually well acquainted with the places they intend to visit. It is just unthinkable that one should deliberately endanger his/her life because of pleasure.
It is obvious that these pleasure seekers cannot hide their identity when in hostile environment. For one, the colour of their skin will make them conspicuous; and second, their lifestyles would negate that of natives – theirs would show opulence in the midst of abject poverty as common in most Third World countries. One then wonder why they can’t go on vacations where there are relative piece.
If our world is one beset with transnational conspiracy and rivalry, division between powers that be and emerging powers and unrelenting devilish attempts to undo one another, then it becomes imperatives for pleasure seekers to know where they are wanted and where they are not. I cannot see why an American would go to Iran or North Korea and/or why a Westerner would pack his bag and go to some impossible places where war, kidnapping and killing are rife.
Whether real or phantom, scores of foreigners have been kidnapped, arrested, jailed and/or killed in hostile countries. On Jan 6, 2011 Haley Talayan was arrested in Iran for spying; three Americans, Shourd, Bauer and Fattal, were similarly arrested on July 31, 2009 by Iranian authorities at Iran/Iraq border where they claimed to be hiking (I don’t know why anybody would be hiking in one of the most dangerous places on earth, except if are actually spies).
Venezuelan government last week announced the arrest of an American filmmaker Timothy Tracy. He was accused of being a spy and charged with conspiracy to destabilize Venezuela (only God knows what would be his fate). And few days ago pariah North Korea Republic announced that the American tour operator, Kenneth Bae, arrested on charges that he tried to overthrow the government of Kim Jong-un in December 2012 would not be allowed to appeal if convicted. He has not been tried in any court till date and would definitely be declared guilty if eventually taken to court. Same fate has befallen other Westerners who felt the comfort of their countries is not enough.
Unfortunately, the trend will continue as long as some cannot distinguish between enjoyment and endangerment. Few other Americans who had fallen victims of similar fate include Laura Ling, Euna Lee, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, Haleh Esfandiary, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, Roxana Saberi, Kian Tajbaksh, among others. Phantoms charges, kangaroo trials and unbelievably long sentencing have always been the outcome while death sentence is never ruled out.
More worrisome is venturing into danger-prone climes.
The Maghreb and some part of West Africa have lately become haven for terrorists with particular hatred for the Whites. It is no longer news to hear of Westerners being killed or kidnapped, yet some pleasure seekers cannot think of a better place for holiday. Just last week a French family of seven was released by their captors (I want to believe huge ransom must have been paid for their release). They were kidnapped few months ago in Cameroon by the dreaded Nigeria Boko-Haram terrorist group. This is just one of the few instances where those kidnapped were lucky. Scores have not been so lucky. Gruesome death is usually the outcome.
These countries have arrays of disgruntled elements who have found criminalities as the opium to feed their hatred for the failures of their governments. Aside from being thorns on the flesh of the people and governments of their home countries, they seem to harbour mutual hatred for anything Western. Boko Haram, Ansaru – otherwise known as JAMBS (in Nigeria), Al-Shabaab (Somalia), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and others are notorious for targeting Westerners. One would think foreigner would look for better havens to feed their hedonistic needs but reverse is the case.
Pleasure seeking is not totally wrong, but it is baffling that some Westerners would leave the comfort of their countries and other peaceful climes and venture into hostile nations where deaths, persecutions, real and phantom charges, imprisonments, etc. have always been their lot.
Or is it the Yoruba adage “Olowo fi owo ra iku” (the affluent seeks death with his wealth) that is at play?
The writer is on twitter: @Femiolas