No, it isn't a thrill-ride replica of the Costa Concordia experience or even a remake of the Poseidon Adventure. It's a whole new way of vacationing -- the neoliberal, philanthrocapitalist way. It's the Peace Corps for people who are too busy or too important to spend two whole years of their lives actually living and working in the harsh conditions of a third world country.
Starting next year, and for only a couple thousand bucks, give or take, and only one week out of your busy schedule, you can become a "Voluntourist" to the Dominican Republic or Cuba, where residents are said to be waiting with bated breath for the great American Barging-In.
The whole idea behind impact cruising is to make you feel better about your privileged, selfish life. Now you, too, can be Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Bono, and Chelsea Clinton all rolled into one self-satisfied do-gooder. And the beauty of it is that you need never even unpack for your impacting experience. Hedonism will still prevail. You will still gorge on multi-course Carnival meals served by The Help. You will still sleep the sleep of the just in a soft, clean, oversized bed in your exquisitely appointed, ocean view Carnival state room. You will still be entitled to spa treatments and laps in the onboard pool. You will spend more time floating (four days) with like-minded tourists than you will engaging with actual poor people on actual land (three days.)
|The SS Impact: Neoliberal Ship of Peace|
Needless to say, the New York Times travel desk is on it:
In other words, altruism must be seen to trump co-optation and plunder -- at least for now. The Times doesn't tell us exactly what activities the American voluntourists will be doing to "support" the Cuban people. But I suppose if they were honest and said the support will involve throwing a few American dollars at people living in poverty while scoping out the distressed real estate landscape for future development, it might look a bit too crass. Naturally, voluntourists will not be required to sign a pledge attesting to their well-intentioned bona fides. Donald Trump himself could theoretically strut up the gangway claiming to be a missionary and nobody would throw him overboard.The cruises to Cuba, approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Treasury Department, fall under the rules that allow licensed travel companies to bring in visitors who will spend their time doing activities that support the Cuban people. Carnival is in talks with Cuban officials to finalize the deal, the company said in a release.“We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society,” said Arnold Donald, president and chief executive of the Carnival Corporation.
Maybe Carnival's "fathom" website itself can give us a few more clues about what the "activities" of American voluntourists might be. Then again, maybe not.
According to the online brochure, voluntourists will spend much of their impactful cruising time in a crash course of Spanish in order to teach English to the Spanish-speaking. While the Cuban agenda still remains shrouded in mystery (you will somehow "immerse" yourself in their culture and thereby magically improve their world) the Dominican experience centers around harvesting cacao with the locals. Otherwise, it is an a la carte menu of philanthropportunism, the cost of each extra impact payable by you, the voluntourist. So don't leave home without a valid credit card.
But included at no extra charge in the Voyage Out:
During your outward journey, workshops and other on-board activities will help prepare you for your impact experience and help you learn how to apply your skills and talents in the most effective way. For example, you could learn about water shortages in developing countries and put yourself in the role of an aid worker to improve access to clean water. When it’s time to begin your chosen impact activity in earnest, this kind of on-board training will enable you to hit the ground running.In other words, although you will not become an actual career aid worker, you will get to play one for three days. The schmooze-cruise will get you all fired up and ready to go... just like the politician who once played Community Organizer in order to prepare the way to his own glorious, impactful, and very rewarding career.
Carnival's "fathom" voluntourism subsidiary is the brainchild of one Tara Russell, self-proclaimed "social entrepreneur" and alumna of such multinationals as Nike, General Motors and Intel. (I am dying to know how she impacted the 40 cents-per-hour lives of the Vietnamese children making $100 sneakers for rich Americans who take cruises, but that's a story for another day.) A Davos woman, Russell last year was invited by the World Economic Forum to become the founding curator of something called the Global Shapers Community.
More like Global Shape-Shifters, if you ask me. Because it has been only a plutocratic hop, skip and jump to improve the tattered image of Carnival by turning one of their smaller, less popular cruise ships (the Adonia) into a floating neoliberal Peace Corps. Carnival's venture has the value-added, admitted goal of attracting liberal millennials and baby boomers with disposable incomes back into the cruising lifestyle -- which has taken quite the impactful economic hit in recent years, what with on-board crime, food poisonings and various other disease outbreaks, and massive infrastructure failures resulting in near disasters and backed up sewage. You can pretty much rest assured that the riffraff will not be lining up to become voluntourists. The Adonia doesn't even have a casino or a stage show.
So what better way to alleviate your own guilt and contribute to the bottom line of a great multinational corporation fallen upon public relations hard times than becoming a voluntourist?
Life is a carnival. Life is a cabaret, my friend. As Tara Russell explains, as she invites you to send in your $600 deposit right now:
Like you, I want life abundant – I want my and your heart and soul to sing. I believe that humans deserve the opportunity to flourish, and I believe that when we unleash our personal gifts, talents, and passion in a way that serves the needs of others, we achieve a beautiful sweet spot and flow.Even God didn't change the world in seven days. He only made it in seven days. And if God can make it, you can make it. That, fellow travelers in neoliberalism, is the American way.Never do for free out of the goodness of your heart. Do unto others while also paying a rent-seeking corporation its own tribute in the process.
I’m addicted to this incredible high of finding energy in serving the needs of others – and I invite you to join our fathom journey and discover how to unleash your greatness in simple, meaningful ways that bring you joy and delight every day.
You can’t change the world in seven days, and we don’t expect to – but we do believe that our holistic impact experiences before, during and after the trips, combined with our long-term systematic approach to holistic transformation in our partner communities will allow for impact on a scale the world has never seen. We know the journey will be as meaningful for our travelers as it will be for the places we visit.
"We believe in building bridges, relationships, and strong teams that have the talent and focus necessary to deliver results. We believe in managing well. We believe in transparency. And we believe in impact – impact on behalf of the American people we serve". --- HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell (alumna of Walmart, the Gates Foundation, Robert Rubin's Glass-Steagall-killing Citigroup Treasury Dept. and McKinsey) on the gospel of free-market Neoliberalism.