TRAVEL AND TRUTH
THE IRONY OF TRAVEL is that it’s an activity that teaches us to live in the moment, to fully inhabit the present—but it is also something we experience with the expectation of reliving it in the past, as memory. We travel so we can explore, rest, enjoy; but modern travel is also about documentation, so that we can invent the story and share it. Travel can be an opportunity for us to re-examine our relationship with the present and with the past, with truth and with memory.
Our travel issue takes us to all sorts of places, and through all sorts of memories. Audrey N. Carpio takes us on the trail of the old grunge gods (“Yesterdays,” p.76) and touches on our insistence on holding on to ephemeral things, like music and our youth. Christopher Puhm takes a cruise from Singapore to Vietnam and to Hong Kong (“Indochine Reverie,” p. 72), leaping from moment to moment, and dealing with expectation after expectation. Kara Ortiga talks about the Casiguran of her grandmother’s memories, and about the Casiguran that is struggling with very real issues with progress (“Paradise Waits,” p. 64). Raymond Ang’s trip with David Medalla is a trip inside autobiographical memory as much as a night out in Venice (“Persistence of Memory,” p. 80).
The theme of memory and documentation runs strongly in another feature that I’d like to focus attention on for a bit. A couple of months ago, we called up some of our friends—who, as it happens, are also some of the country’s top photojournalists. The conversation, which we recorded and which we transcribe in “The Shooters” (p. 48), was part panel interview, part self-examination, and part therapy. Their work is stressful enough, as you might imagine, but in today’s deeply disturbing post-truth world, there are additional stressors that we would never have dreamt up just a few years ago: the accusations of fakery, of bribery, and the general dismissiveness toward evidence, common sense, and basic decency. We held these things dear, but we also took them for granted; and now we’re all finding out that the truth is not as impervious to corruption as we thought. One of our panelists, Carsten Stormer (who produced the recent documentary “When a President Says, ‘I’ll Kill You’” for the New York Times) raised the idea of our own complicity in creating a society that cannot recognize the complexity of truth and cannot deal with the responsibility of being active consumers of news.
It’s a long read, as these roundtable discussions have to be, but it’s an important one. In this age of social media, all of us flirt with the dual roles of producer and consumer, but perhaps we need to be more prepared to take on both roles. There needs to be more education, perhaps. There needs to be more reflection, certainly.