This will be a bit of a rant but I will try not to be shrill.
I don’t know about other countries but, here in Australia, we have an irritating habit of using dumbed-down versions of names of individuals and groups in place of their actual name. These are quite different to nicknames. Let me give you an example.
Shane Warne is a very famous Australian sportsperson. His nickname, to his teammates, is Hollywood, arising from his fondness for being in the limelight, as was the case even at the unremarkable beginning of his career. To the wider public, he is Warnie. One of his colleagues, Adam Gilchrist, had his name diminished to Gillie. It’s as if, by using these epithets, we become familiar with sporting heroes we will never actually meet.
Then there are the labels for groups. Members of Parliament are polies, passionate environmentalists are greenies and food enthusiasts are foodies. These terms – converting the complex into inanity – are so cheap and childish, I want to vomit!
I was reminded of these pet hates of mine last Sunday when I read a newspaper article by a young Sydney woman, a Jew. She had visited Cracow, in the south of Poland, where Maggie and I spent two nights recently. Checking into her hostel accommodation, she had been asked “Have you done Auschwitz yet?” She was shocked. Repeatedly. Over the following days, she was asked a similar question several times.
This woman has my complete sympathy. I am not Jewish but I too would be deeply offended by such a question in relation to Auschwitz. However, I can reassure her that, in my (limited) experience, the vast majority of persons who visit this infamous place do so with respect, solemnity and awe. She says she is outraged at the packaging of all that horror into an “Auschwitz experience”. If any such attitude existed outside the gates of the camp, it would evaporate very soon after the commencement of one of the tightly-guided tours of the grim reality inside.
As I said in my blog post about our visits to Cracow and Warsaw, every one of the 35 persons on our coach was quiet and still as we drove from our hotel to Auschwitz and we were all deeply affected by what we saw and heard.
There is also a wider issue here. What is it with this “I’ve done Paris” and “I’ve done the Vatican”, etc ad nauseum? Yes, okay, there’s nothing wrong about feeling that you have ticked a box on your travel wish list but the “done” word is such a dumbing down of the experience of visiting somewhere wonderful for the first time, or more than once.”Oh yes, we’ve done Rome three times already!”
It’s patronising, it’s insulting and it’s the opposite of what actually occurs. Maggie and I have been “done” by Paris repeatedly and we hope we get done again!