Corporate theme parks are anti-family.

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BLACKFISH_Film_PosterYou are your own worst enemy.

I just saw Blackfish. Have you seen it?

The documentary focuses on the captivity of the killer whale Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping such large and intelligent animals in captivity. The coverage of Tilikum begins with his capture in 1983 off the coast of Iceland, showing how he was harassed by fellow captive whales and left in dark tanks for hours — incidents that the director argues contributed to the whale’s aggression. The director also focuses on SeaWorld‘s claims that whales in captivity live longer, a claim that the film argues is false.

The  research on whales is strong enough to make some bold claims about behavior and captivity; however, the movie definitely has a POV. The director tries to punch you in the gut with speculation on the emotions and moods of the whales. We don’t know what we don’t know; however, what we do know should be enough to keep us out of zoos and aquariums.

But I don’t want to talk about whales. I want to talk about how three workers were killed by a whale because you are your own worst enemy.

Many of you buy into a corporate lifestyle. You work 50 hours/week and try to provide everything for your kids. When you get a chance to take a vacation, you don’t slow down. You continue to distract and entertain your children by spending your hard-earned money at corporate theme parks where you can’t take two steps without spending $20.

And that’s fine, but these theme parks capitalize on low-wages and dodgy safety practices to increase revenue and maximize profits. And in the process of entertaining your kids, you support and endorse a system that hurts the environment, hurt animals and hurt workers.

I know you need something to do with your kids. I know it’s a full-time job to entertain those monsters. I know you want to make memories. But these corporate theme parks don’t care about your family. They want your money. And your memories are expensive. You hate your job and you are exhausted. Why spend your money at a facility that compromises the safety, security and integrity of humans and animals?

I know it’s hard to keep your children entertained. I know you want to create special experiences and have fun. But you have already given them slave-labor iPads and the most fashionable made-in-China clothing. Maybe you can share a real experience with them by creating local family experiences that really matter?

A good friend of mine organizes family sporting events. They are obstacle courses and “tough mudders” for families with kids. Many families do movie and pizza nights to create ritual and connectivity. And I know plenty of families who vacation in respectful ways. They may not go to theme parks, but they go to beaches and scenic places in America.

They have fun without a brand.

I asked one guy, “What do you do if your kids get antsy when you travel?”

He said, “We go to the hotel gym. I run my daughter on a treadmill like a hamster until she’s exhausted. She thinks it’s fun.”

As you plan your 2014 family vacations, I hope you think twice about spending money at theme parks and corporate resorts. Make memories through shared experiences and stop working yourself (and others) to death in the process.

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