Arts & Culture Co-Editor
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia, via TripSavvy.
Summer! The world suddenly takes on a whole new skin, one that does not resemble short night slumbers, shorter assignment deadlines, and even shorter time spent on other spheres of our lives.
Summer! The word is a warm welcome to broaden our horizons, be it by pursuing personal projects, connecting with new people and places, or revisiting familiar spaces for untapped insight.
For some, this corresponds to late night bike rides and drunken adventures, while for others the long break is the due season for focusing on employment to pocket some good money.
But for the globetrotting lot, the numberless possibilities of summer seem to narrow down to a single option: Europe. If I asked you to recall the quantity of Europe-related camera roll dumps you swiped through this past summer, would you even bother counting? Let me paint the picture for you and let me know if it seems familiar.
Germany, Spain, and Portugal are mazes of narrow cobblestone streets and large carrefours, scenes of buskers playing suave saxophone solos and guitar licks, and sites of noonish yawns after long nights of indulgence in the local nightlife. France, Greece, and Italy are flanked by beaches to refresh in while sunbeams grant perfect tan lines, picnic locations bordered by lush gardens of enchanting flower fragrances, and cozy cityscapes to contemplate under golden sunsets.
Why do we pinpoint Europe as the promised land of la dolce vita? Has the world held a common consensus to proclaim it heaven on earth? Our social media feeds certainly attest so, but the roots of this reality run deeper.
The belief that a perfect summer can only be enjoyed in Europe is one of the many symptoms of Eurocentrism, a worldview that frames Europe as the central agent in world history, the creator of universal values and therefore the template for progress. Our history classes teach us a worldview in which the world is indebted to the innovations of Western civilization: Greece has taught us philosophy and the blueprint of democratic society, Italy—or the Holy Roman Empire—the dexterity to govern a large area efficiently and France has provided a broad idea of liberalism. Moreover, we are taught to care for the preservation of the European continent precisely because it is the image of the world our historical sources care to convey.
As a result, the spotlight has always excluded Africa and Asia, save their acknowledgment as the respective birthplace and cradle of civilization. Not only is their precious histories neglected, but even the history of the Western world’s relationship with the East is generally glossed over or overlooked altogether. But this comes as no surprise. After all, why would you bother acknowledging a history which you have damaged at your own profit or tried to erase because it would position your continent in a more glorious light?
The abusive relationship between the West and the East–let's not forget the Holy crusades, colonization, military interventions, etc.–is observed in the biased choices of Western historians to write accounts of the events both dependent and independent from the Western world. The famous aphorism of my Western civilization teacher Gesche Peters, “history is written by the winners, not the losers,” sums up why the remainder of the world is maintained in a position of forced submissiveness in order for the system to persist. For this, regions like Sudan, which is populated by more pyramids than Egypt, and Sidi Bou Said, a Tunisian village northeast of Tunis, indistinguishable from an island in the Greek archipelago, are not as renowned as their northern counterparts.
Consequences of the popularity of European countries are felt not only historically and politically, but also economically. As you would expect, the almost ceremonial convergence to Europe has exponentially boosted the prices of its access. Ticket prices to fly over the Atlantic Ocean are considerably expensive, and even more so during the summer frenzy. Interviewed Dawson students report an average fee of 1475$ for one back-and-forth ticket to Europe this past summer. Similarly, day-to-day expenses are generally expensive. The wealth gap is very wide, as northern countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland are twice as expensive to live in as the Czech Republic, Spain, and Portugal. France, despite attracting the largest number of tourists in the world, lands just about in the middle. Still, according to Numbeo - the world’s largest cost of living database, compared to Montreal, Paris has 14.1% higher grocery prices, 13.1% higher consumer prices and 18.6% lower local purchasing power. Tourists are thus expected to be comfortably wealthy in order to travel and enjoy their stay in Europe. And as the media persuades us to subscribe to the culture of European supremacy, it also motivates us to steer our modest student budgets into financial failure.
Traveling beyond the comforting familiarity of Europe rewards us in many ways. Away from overcrowded spaces and financial recklessness, simply let yourself flow in the powdery slopes of the Nevados de Chillán ski resort, in Chile, ascend to lofty spiritual and earthly summits of Chiang Mai, in Thailand, and roam the Zanzibar coastline aboard a Swahili dhow one sunset at a time. Better yet, relish in the delicious feeling that experiencing essential and humbling cultural lessons are helping sap the supremacy of Europe!