Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tourist Activities

Once upon a time, in a land very much like this one, actually... this land exactly...

I went out tonight after an enjoyable afternoon of drinking, eating and catching up with people I'd not seen for a while. 2 guys of "variable ethnicity" and I went and had a bit of a walk around before stopping somewhere for a bite to eat.

They both had their camera equipment. Be still that green eyed beast. I was looking at cameras around my birthday thinking that it'd be great to do a bit of photography. I couldn't justify the expense and even buying something second hand seemed daunting given that at those prices I could only afford the body (no lenses).

I live in an incredibly aesthetically rich city. Auckland city is a mish mash of architectural styles through a vast range of ages with all sorts of fascinating influences. About half an hour away are the Waitakere ranges - a mostly untouched area of bush where there are bush walks galore as well as a variety of scenery. One walk I went on when I was a teen had bush with a waterfall, a river, sand dunes and a beach. The temptation is to take advantage of the scenery around you.

Anyway, we decided to go into town and take some photos. Always fun. I normally do it as a solo activity with my cellphone. Hell - you've seen some of the results. They're on this blog though I've normally thrown them into GIMP and done something to then.

Anyway, we're in town taking photos of buildings when I notice someone across the road taking photos of us. How very meta! Taking photos of people taking photos. I always thought it a bit strange when watching "The Making Of" things about movies. How a lot of the shots had been taken during the movie of the movie being filmed. They could only be taken for that purpose. A movie about a movie.

The guy comes to speak to us. Art mixing with art. How very cool! Except... he's suspicious of us. He asks if we're terrorists. He demands our names under "the new terrorist laws". The other two with me ask him "which law?", They're fairly well clued up on the various new laws - while not exactly their application, at the very least their rights under the laws. He's asking as a concerned citizen. He shows us a business card - probably not his own. He then continues to demand our names.

The three of us are horrified. Did he just accuse us of being terrorists? What does a terrorist look like anyway? And how does a terrorist act? Okay - so those who know me know that I make jokes about my "terrorist good looks" but I never actually thought that anyone would ever think that of me.

The sarcasm started to come out. "You're suspicious of us photographing buildings?". Were we stealing a piece of their souls?

And you've got to wonder about this guy. He's either very brave or very stupid. Just a quick side note: There's very little separating stupidity and bravery. In the right context stupidity is bravery though to me, there's one very important attribute of bravery: knowing that it's stupid and doing the right thing anyway.

So racism is alive and well in New Zealand. But the bit that's really galling... When I was in Christchurch I related an incident to the people at tech about a cop who followed me down my drive way for absolutely no reason. I had done nothing more than check my mail box, have a cigarette and then walk back up the drive way to my flat. The comment I got back from them was "At least they were doing their job". So there are potentially some people reading this thinking that this guy was acting in an appropriate way. He decided he was suspicious of us and decided to do something about it.

There's an awkward discomfort about this sort of thing. None of us want to be angry about it. We're laughing about it. We speculate about what he might be telling his friends about "the incident". We laugh about the idea that he might find out about our "workshop" (Tangleball) - one of the guys is making wine (I've tried a few of his wines. They're great). The other, he's got a project involving bikes and pong. I make a joke about wanting to attend a terrorist camp just to find out what can be done with a pair of nail clippers (though I'm sure I'd miss my creature comforts). I declare I hope he's able to identify me somehow - imagine what he might think when he finds out I work a lot with kids and that picture... that'd be great! But the truth is, it's horribly awkward. There's the risk of reverse racism - looking for ways that people around you are being racist. None of us want that.

I found myself doubting myself. Did he really say "terrorist?". Was he really saying "Tourist"? We were taking photos... we were indulging in tourist activities. I don't know about the other guys but I have very little idea about tourist laws. Surely this isn't how we're treating tourists. That particular industry is in a world of trouble if that's the case.

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