Monkey See, Monkey Do
The internet has changed the way we communicate with the world around us, teaching us about our brothers and sisters in foreign lands. What it cannot do is replace the actual experience of traveling the world and seeing first-hand the many cultures and environments found in it.
Travel changes us: every time we set foot on the ground of a new country, our world view expands and our understanding of who we are and how we fit into the world around us goes through subtle shifts. We can’t help but celebrate the diversity around us, even as we recognize the similarities that unite us as the one people of the planet earth.
I write this sitting in the little ray of late afternoon sun falling through the door of my cabin on the Celebrity Millennium as it nears the last stop on the 2017 CAMP Rehoboth Asian Cruise. As we knew we would, we have had an amazing experience, jam-packed with one adventure after another and the constant promise of ever more dazzling sights over the next horizon.
After the steady barrage of hate and isolationist speech in America over the last year, our trip could not have come at a better time. Though perhaps temporarily exhausted from many long days of exploration, I am, nonetheless, revived and inspired, and ready to face the challenges still to come for our country and for CAMP Rehoboth in this (still almost new) year.
Truly a highlight of the trip for me, was the three-day, action filled excursion created by Accent on Travel especially for the CAMP Cruise to Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Angor Wat. Yes, I was dead tired by the time we returned to the ship in Thailand—but I have never had a more satisfying three days of travel.
On the night before we left Siem Reap—after a long day of exploring the temples in Angor Wat, Angor Thom, and Ta Prohm—we had dinner, and headed for a Cambodian Circus. Honestly, from the description in our handy travel app, I wasn’t sure what to expect, which made it all the more exciting when it turned out to be the moving story of a woman who survived the atrocious genocide of the Khymer Rouge in the 1970s, and then went on to create an organization that now provides arts education and training to underprivileged young people in Cambodia.
Performed by a troupe of talented young dancers and artists, the performance was inspiring—and infused with a hopeful energy about the future. The night before, we had witnessed traditional Cambodian dancers—this modern dance performance was anything but, and we walked away with the sense that these young dancers had opened a door for us into a far more compelling and personal story than that provided in any of the history books.
Like all memorable art, that performance will stay with me for a long time, and I will continue to be inspired by it as the LGBTQ community begins to understand what the challenges of protecting our rights—and the rights of other minority communities—will be in the coming months and years.
Since its founding, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to be a positive force in the building of our community—not just that of our LGBTQ family, but the whole community around us. Human beings are marvelous creatures, and we possess a tremendous capacity for love, for understanding, for forgiveness, and for hope. We are at the same time, quite capable of being violent, hurtful, envious, fearful, and untrusting. In every place we traveled, a deeper look revealed not only the amazing cultures we visited, but also included their own brand of stereotyping about people who are different from them. Listening to the good natured banter in our groups, it was easy to see how quickly the attitudes of our guides shaped the dynamics of our conversation—and how quickly we began to make the same generalizations we heard from them about the people around us.
“Monkey see, monkey do.” Remember that expression? I grew up with a children’s book that used that phrase—though it was not a part of the title.
As children, mimicry is one of the ways we learn how to get along in the world. In the beginning, what we see our parents do, we do. Then somewhere along the way, we begin to learn enough about life to make our own choices about the actions, attitudes, and words we absorb from others.
Throughout life, the choice of whether or not to rise above our base instincts is up to us. Homophobia, racism, sexism, and all the other hate-isms, exist because those attitudes have been copied from one generation to another—and they are all based on a fear of people who are different from us.
There was much fun made of “political correctness” during the last presidential campaign, but at the heart of that maligned and abused expression, there is an acceptance of the idea that we really are all equal and deserve the same kind of love and respect for who we are, be it gay, straight, young old, Republican, Democrat, Chinese, African American, Buddhist, or Muslim—or any other color in the vast rainbow of humanity.
• • • • •
Our cruise has now ended, and my last words are being written on a beautiful afternoon in Bali. We are, by the way, on our way to see a temple—with monkeys—which could I suppose be the reason I have monkeys on my mind. It’s not monkeys, however, who are the problem.
Human see, human think, human do.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray. Photos: CAMP Asian Cruise 2017, Monkey Forest in Bali; Ward Ellinger, Allen Jarmon.