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Centre for Sustainability
Revolution in Egypt closer than we think
For many of us parents in Whistler, having growing kids come up for ski weekends, is quite an experience. Lots of juicy vignettes for next spring's Chairlift Revue for sure.
But to have a 22-year-old son, who spent last year at the American University in Cairo, come last weekend for some powder, the interaction was intense.
Just getting his gear together, while pulling him away from Al Jazeera on Shaw 175, was a trial. And sitting on the Red Chair, as he sent text messages of encouragement to his friends in Tahrir Square, was beyond anything I could have imagined at 10 on a Sunday morning.
Later, it wasn't quite an argument, more like a conversation on the politics of tourism. But my sense of the need to get away and chill out didn't exactly match his view of how in Egypt the tourist economy was a mixed blessing at best.
Next to government services and the military, tourism is the most important sector in Egypt's economy . More than 13 million tourists visited in 2009, providing revenues of nearly $11 billion and employing more than 14 per cent of Egypt's workforce at slave wages.
It's part of the problem they are facing, he would argue. Having hundreds of tour operators serving millions of tourists who care more about ancient Egyptology, not modern 20th century history, is part of what preserves the repressive status quo. The underemployed tech savvy youth of a new generation don't want to live in a museum, or with stagnant wages, or with old political battles being fought by corrupt leaders. They want change.
My reminding him of Max Weber's dialogue between the forces of persistence and the forces of change helped somewhat, although he studies more history than sociology. Together we then talked about Whistler, sustainability and the many thoughtful, progressive people who live here and like him, come to visit.
But as the child becomes the parent, he reminded me that "actions speak louder than words." Then off he was back to SFU and to get on the steep mountains of a changing and challenging world, with his friends in Tahrir Square.
President, The Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue