Malaysian Strippers

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Well, the recent story of the teenagers and young adults stripping of their clothes in a display of youthful exuberance has certainly both, caught the attention of the world’s media and divided opinion. Some argue that it shows a disgusting display of disrespectful exhibitionism and others that it was merely youthful playfulness and has been exaggerated. The truth I guess, is probably somewhere in the middle.
My own view is that I couldn’t really care less about the nudity. It is however not for me to say what should and should not cause offence in another country. That is not how offence works. Local indigenous people were offended and by definition that means that this episode was offensive.
I do however, get more than a bit weary of guests arriving on these shores and trampling roughshod over the sensibilities of local people. I first came through the region in 1987, and I knew then what was considered acceptable behaviour. In the years that have followed I have literally lost count of the number of incidents where Western holidaymakers have given cause for offence. It s should not be that hard to get it! They surely can no longer use ignorance as an excuse any more. These stories hit the international headlines every time.
There are more than enough places to express yourself and more than enough of the wilder side of life on offer. However, the fact remains that these countries are quite conservative by nature and the people are for the most part, quite demure and easily offended. It is hard therefore, to feel any sense of sympathy for those who’s actions land them in trouble.
When I lived in Thailand, I witnessed first hand, Western foreigners arguing with people at temples because they didn’t see the need to cover their shoulders in temples. It’s moronic and it is not for them to say what is and what is not appropriate. I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but if I walk into a religious building anywhere in the world, as a tourist, I will follow their code of conduct. If someone asked me to wear the yarmulke at a Jewish celebration, I would. Of course I would remove my shoes in a mosque and of course I would not wear shorts in a Buddhist temple. In my own country, I would not raise my voice in a church. These are simply common courtesies.
Mount Kinabalu is a most sacred site to the local indigenous people, and they were definitely offended. It is simply not acceptable to say that as they didn’t see it, then they should accept it. In their eyes, their deities saw it.
I fear we will never move on as people until we learn to not simply tolerate other peoples’ beliefs, but also embrace to embrace those people as equals. It’s not hard, and life gets to improve a little.