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  1. Fun topic!

    At the end of the day, we all want choices and we choose to boycott or not boycott things based on our values.

    Can’t force anybody to do anything! The only thing we can force is how we control our own actions. I wrote about some insights on Asian academics and income linked in the Website field.


    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, FS, for stopping by. I’m truly honored. I totally agree with your point. You “[c]an’t force anybody to do anything. The only thing we can force is how we control our own actions.” A lot of wisdom there, my friend. And thank you for the link to your post about Asian academics and income. I’m a big Asian-phile, so I look forward to reading it. Cheers.

  2. Interesting topic. I limit myself to treat people with respect and how you want to be treated. The reason is, there are so many injustices that we aren’t even aware of, it would be hard to be consistent. That computer you are working on, maybe the precious metals used to make it were gathered by children in Asia, who knows? Also, without exposure to others in a free society, how do they ever get the urge to change? If North Korea was open, I am sure over time, things would improve due to pressure and just the people being aware of what it is like in better parts of the world. Anyway, yes, this is a heavy topic 🙂 Kudos on not being afraid to discuss it. Peace to all.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Brian. Excellent comment. The fact that “there are so many injustices…we aren’t even aware of” is very sobering. But I think you nailed the long arc of history. Freedom is intoxicating, and the more people are exposed it, the more it grows. Peace to all, my friend.

  3. This is really interesting. I had never considered the position that travel to a country with unethical principles is in some way supporting those principles. It is certainly an interesting thing to think about.

    I had considered ethics in my choice of work. If my clients are companies with stances that I disagree with, am I willing to take a job in which my job is to get them as much money as possible?

    I think the dividing line between the discrimination examples you used would be whether you are giving an advantage to a group that is generally more or less advantaged. The situations that are generally considered unethical are when you are discriminating against a group that is already disadvantaged.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Damn it, Matt! You’re making me think again. Your distinction between “good” discrimination and “bad” discrimination has a lot of merit. I’m gonna have to mull that over. Thanks for stopping by, sir. I love the way your mind works.

  4. Such a thought provoking post, Mr. G! I’ll also admit that I have few answers to these very difficult questions. What I do know is that I want to live in a society that is respectful of my right to form an opinion, and extends the same respect to others with differing viewpoints. Unfortunately I increasingly feel as though that respect is being eroded.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly! There doesn’t appear to be any room for compromise these days. If you don’t agree with me, you’re not just wrong, you’re EVIL. And it only seems to be getting worse. Meh. Thanks for stopping by, MMM. There is a lot of wisdom in your comment.

      • So true! I remember a saying I read once that was “I don’t have to be wrong for you to be right”. We can all have our own opinions and be respectful in not trying to change others. These days it seems you must be wrong because I am right and there is no two ways about it. Very shallow thinking indeed. 🙂

  5. I hadn’t previously thought about restricting my travel to countries that don’t align with my values but it makes perfect sense.

    There are certain companies that donate to causes that do not align with our values.

    We have decided to spend our money elsewhere as we do not feel comfortable knowing that the products we buy may fund these causes.

    With that said thanks for expanding my horizons!!!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, MSM. Thanks for getting involved in this good-natured brawl. How about this for a guideline: If a country is making progress on the civil rights front, it doesn’t get blacklisted. If a country isn’t, it does get blacklisted. This rule would thus allow travel to, say, India and China. But it wouldn’t allow travel to, say, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. Would this guideline work? I don’t know. But it’s a start. Thanks for stopping by, MSM. Always great hearing from you.

      • I read this article and the comments with interest, it is something that can lead you deeper and deeper into a rabbit warren. I don’t have an answer, but another perspective (which leads back to the same questions). If you blacklist countries and takeaway tourism income from them, you damage innocent people at the bottom of the chain who rely on tourism to feed their families.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Sorry for the late reply, Sarah. Excellent point. Blacklisting countries can hurt the most vulnerable people in those countries.

    • Same. I have been to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam – seen some horrible sights and been awed by some of the poverty. We didn’t do very much ‘touristy’ stuff and didn’t do any of those wildlife type experiences. I haven’t given this much prior thought but am inclined to agree with Miss Mazuma that avoiding those activities seems like a good approach – I’d like to think the local places we stayed and ate at benefited from our dollars.

      • Mr. Groovy

        Thanks for chiming in, NZ. It’s a tough problem, and it only gets tougher the more you think about it. Your approach is very reasonable. Explore, be a good person, and avoid unseemly activities.

  6. Louisa

    It sounds as though you are sensitive to the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. Tourists accept the situations given them without considering the ethical contexts. Travelers recognize at least the potential of the complexities of the lives they are interacting with.
    (My, this sounds pompous! Someone can rephrase for me).
    Although it is not always bad to be a tourist, I think that being a traveler, in whatever form that takes, is one of the best ways to grow as a person. Your presence in a far-off land is even a form of traveling for the people you meet.
    And would you be better to not travel? Or to only go to places you agreed with, if you could find them? That is stagnating, and you didn’t retire early to do that!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Didn’t sound pompous at all, Louisa. I like the distinction that you made between a tourist and a traveler. I never thought of that before. And I agree with your assessment that a traveler can have a lot more impact, especially if he or she travels to a place that doesn’t conform to his or her values. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board when it comes to traveling. Thank you for making me think, Louisa. Damn this ethics stuff is hard!

  7. “I want my spending to align with my values, but doing so isn’t always easy.”

    Indeed. My experience has been that it is nearly impossible. Therefore, since I can’t completely divorce myself from all the people or businesses whose beliefs/practices I find objectionable, I focus on avoiding those I find the most abhorrent.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks for jumping in here, James. I was really looking forward to perspective since you are a much more accomplished traveler than I. And I totally agree with your somber position. I think the only thing we can to do is “focus on avoiding those [we] find the most abhorrent.” Sound advice, my friend.

  8. Thanks for making us all think this morning.
    It is very important to consider the effects of our actions both at home and abroad. However, I think it’s unwise to make broad generalizations.

    Are all of the tour companies abusive? Some rescue elephants and (as far as I could see, which might not be the whole story) treat them well. Giving rides is not an ideal elephant life, but what if the alternative is euthanasia? In many places it is more dangerous for them to roam wild because they will enter cities or destroy farmland to find food and will likely be killed. Don’t we crate our dogs and put them on leashes to keep them from putting themselves or others in danger?

    I don’t have the answers, but there’s more than one side to the story. Perhaps sterilization of the existing animals and treating them as well as possible without letting them put themselves in situations that will lead to them being shot no longer sounds so bad. Do you have better suggestions for animals who already exist?

    This is only one of the issues you mentioned, though somehow it seems safer to talk about animals than people. I also feel that transgender people should be able to use the restroom of their choice, but if I lived in NC and was settled with my family, I probably wouldn’t move because of this issue. Instead I’d help lobby for change from within. We must also keep in mind that Nowhere is perfect, and we all can and should work to improve.

    On your list of countries, you didn’t question Australia, but it has treated its native people comparibly horribly to how we’ve treated ours. Does this merit the black list? I’ve been there and had a wonderful experience, but I did choose to not climb Uluru because it is a sacred place for some.

    Or should we travel as much as we can, learn as much as we can, and use it to broaden our understanding and spread the word that the world is a complex place and there are usually (at least) two sides to every story, and progress is incremental.

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s so vexing, Julie. Human beings are seriously flawed creatures. Up until the late 1700s, we could characterize man as living in the “might makes right” era. If you couldn’t defend your liberty, you didn’t have liberty. But then these dudes in England, France, and America put forth the proposition that the “might makes right” era was bogus. From that point on, we’ve been struggling to end the “might makes right” era. And it’s been one tough slog, both here and abroad. Sigh. Thanks for letting me know it isn’t all bad on the elephant front and for reminding me of Australia’s unseemly history. Personal finance and ethics isn’t a joyous affair.

  9. Great post, Mr. Groovy! If I were to paraphrase Gandhi, – “Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

    It is easier said that done. We have control over how we live and the choices we make.

    Our choices and actions are like a stone dropped in water that causes a ripple.

    We change the world with one choice / action at a time.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Michael. Gandhi was one remarkable man. I think my goal is to “be the change I wish to see.” But I have to understand that I have power only over myself and be content with that. Like you so eloquently put it, “we change the world with one choice/action at a time.”

  10. You ask some great questions, and I don’t have all the answers. But I think the act of questioning itself has merit, and leads us to better decisions. It’s difficult to spend 100% within your ethical values, so I think compromise is the name of the game, and where that line lies is different for everyone.

    • I definitely agree with Gary here too. Just stopping and asking questions and considering issues (rather than just making assumptions) is key! I know I can grow in that area too. I am not sure what the answer is in the travel questions but I look forward to reading along to see what you decide!

      • Mr. Groovy

        Agreed. Gary summed it up quite well. Travel is tough. Very few countries in the world meet or exceed the human right standards that we have set. At what point does a country’s disrespect for human rights become so odious that it’s no longer an ethical travel option? That’s the question. South Africa in the 80s certainly fit this bill. Saudi Arabia fits that bill today. Do Ecuador, Thailand, and Vietnam make the no-travel list? Probably not.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Gary. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one without the answers. But I think you nailed how we should all approach it. Ask questions and periodically review where your line rests. As long as we try to be more ethical, we will.

  11. I just heard an interesting point on a podcast recently, but I can’t remember which one. They said that a problem that we have intrinsically is that we look at other people and what they have or do and think of how great it is.

    What we don’t see or know usually though is the backend of things. For example, maybe a friend has a fantastic palace of a house, but what you might not know is that they buy materialistic things because they want others to think they’re doing well. Maybe that person is filled with such debt that they can barely put food on the table.

    Your elephant story is a good example of not knowing the other side of things. Glad Miss Mazuma was able to give you the other perspective and to help you work through some of the FoMO! 🙂

    — Jim

    • Mr. Groovy

      Great point! I remember years ago when my brother’s good friend had all the trappings of wealth–nice home, fancy car, eating out every night, etc. And my brother couldn’t understand why his good friend had so much and he had so little (comparably speaking). Well, it turns out my brother’s good friend was living a lie. The material bounty he exhibited to the world was built on a foundation of debt. Needless to say, that foundation didn’t have much staying power. His good friend is now divorced and broke. Envy is very much a fool’s game. Thanks for stopping by, Jim. I really appreciate it.

  12. Awww. Thanks for the shout out…I think! 😉 I was so scared to send that email but, after what l had learned volunteering, I just couldn’t not say something. To be clear, this isn’t about experience shaming (I too rode an elephant many years ago)…but as I told you in my email, when we know better we do better.

    Animal rights are near and dear to my heart, as are human rights. The atrocities happening all over our world, most recently Aleppo, disgust me. To know that innocent people are being raped, dismembered, and murdered while I am sitting in a warm home free from gunfire boggles the mind. Why am I so lucky to have been born here and not there? Though our views differ when it comes to transgender bathrooms (in my mind there is no difference between discriminating against sexual orientation or skin color), we live in a country where we at least have the chance to discuss it…and boycott it if we so choose.

    But here’s the thing, traveling to countries like the ones you spoke of isn’t the issue, partaking in the injustice is…after all, ignoring it won’t save them either. I believe when we see these people and countries through our own lens, it puts a permanent mark on your soul. You will see, smell, and hear things you will never forget. Looking into the eyes of someone truly struggling (whether it be on our streets or a 3rd world country) changes something inside you. It makes you care for humankind in a different way…it opens your eyes to the reality of their situation more so than seeing it flash on a TV screen where you can simply change the channel to hide it away. It makes you want to change things…and being you are already there, you actually have the chance to.

    WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. I feel it is our responsibility to use our platforms in a way to fix the faith that has been lost in humanity. We talk about money, yes. But the overall goal is to finish working in these lives so we can start the ones we were meant for. To live in a life that we get to choose how our days are spent. Travel, volunteering, creating new businesses – all choices we will make…and based on the people I have met in this community, I know that having that choice will lead most to do great things for themselves and for the rest of the world.

    We don’t have to be financially independent to choose to try and make the world a better place. I know that KINDNESS HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SPREAD MUCH FASTER THAN HATE. So, yes, I may have sent the email that provoked thought, but you took the opportunity to spread it further. Thank you for that!

    • Mr. Groovy

      One of the best emails I’ve ever received, followed up by one of the best comments I’ve ever received! I am indeed indebted to your kindness and decency. I think you said it best when you said the following:

      “We talk about money, yes. But the overall goal is to finish working in these lives so we can start the ones we were meant for.”

      A lot of wisdom there, Miss Mazuma. I just hope I can do some good in this world. But with your help, and the help of our community, I say the odds are in my favor.

      Thank you again, Miss Mazuma, for giving my ethical muscles a workout. It felt great.

  13. I’m sure I’ve made this type of tongue and cheek comment in some of my posts before too, with no real intention of upsetting anyone. It sometimes takes someone like Miss Mazuma with real experience in an area to point out our faux pas.

    I try and be honest. If I change mind on something I’ll point it out. I once said I would never use credit cards again, now using them responsibility, we take advantage of rewards. I called myself a flat out liar over that.

    I agree with Fritz, we can all do our own part.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Nice, Brian. Nothing wrong with a change of heart, especially when new events bring heretofore unknown knowledge to light. I hate credit card debt but I use credit cards for convenience and points. And as long as you’re upfront with your readers, and as long as you pay the balance in full every month, credit cards are a viable financial tool. Kudos to you for your honesty. I love it.

  14. Mr G, good for you. We should all take time to be introspective and figure out where we stand on ethical issues. I still remember an ethics class I took 30+ years ago in college, and all of the situations which are challenging if you take some time to think about it. It’s important to know where you stand on issues.

    You may not be able to change the world, but you can change yourself.

    Even if that means passing on the elephant rides. Kudos to Miss Mazuma for making you think.