"Indeed, a minimum of life, an unchaining from all coarser desires, an independence in the middle of all kinds of outer nuisance; a bit of Cynicism, perhaps a bit of ‘tub’."
Friedrich Nietzsche

9 Nov 2016

Trumping versus Tramping

America has finally eclipsed Hitler’s appointment as German Chancellor in 1933 by electing an even more toxic leader 83 years later—such is the treachery of democracysomeone even more open about their reactionary and despotic intentions than was the Führer at the time of his election. So much for the march of civilisation, which has now finally gone into reverse. 

In voting to express their frustration and dissatisfaction with the complete failure of the capitalist project, as represented by successive dynasties of corrupt U.S. politicians, business moguls and bankers, what have those folks angry at being denied the American dream decide to replace it with—an even uglier face of capitalism and selfish greed, this time combined with a pathological hatred of anyone who is not ‘white’, Christian, and heterosexual. And as for the latter, certainly in Trump's case, after 100 years of women's struggle to be treated equally to men, a return to the worse kind of open misogyny.

My response to the events of November 8th 2016 is triggered by my last post, the story of a middle aged, white woman who, in the late 1960’s tramped and hitchhiked alone from Britain, through France and Spain to Morocco, onwards through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, then by boat to Turkey and onwards again to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Tibet. Kathleen Phelan had tramped for over 30 years, inspired by her personal philosophy that the thrill of life on the road, with only the clothes and few possessions she stood up in, was preferable to a life in the West—straightjacketed by conventional society’s obsession with acquiring money and material possessions—as a means to survive in an increasingly selfish and oppressive world.

Kathleen Phelan took little from the world but gave much. The profession listed on her passport was 'vagabond and storyteller', and she performed for her supper as much as eight hours a day. Kathleen followed an honourable tradition of vagabond philosophers going all the way back to Diogenes the Cynic whose ‘performances’ in Greek cities, such as walking the streets in daylight with a lighted lamp (looking for an honest man), represented his own unique treatise on the bankrupt state of human civilisation in the 4th Century BC. How little really has the human project progressed in over 2000 years.

Reading Kathleen’s story, one is immediately struck by the grim reality that there would be no way a single woman, or even Western male, would be able to make such a trip today. Not just because of the rise of national and international conflicts, religious fundamentalism, and the diaspora of increasing numbers of displaced people, but the corresponding fear and intolerance of the ‘foreigner’ by Western nations as evidenced by Brexit and Trump’s election as US President. 

The idiocy of America’s newly expressed desire to ‘make our country great again’ (expressed by the Brexiteers also) by withdrawing into itself and closing its borders to ‘foreigners’ (particularly Latinos and Muslims), and accompanied by an increasing intolerance of non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexuals, is that, with the exception of the displaced Native Americans, all Americans are foreigners. The country was built and inhabited by foreigners for christ sake, from every corner of the world, many escaping persecution from elsewhere, and latterly drawn there by the iconic Statue of Liberty and everything she represented in terms of freedom and tolerance of diversity.

And so in what sense do white Christians like Trump—increasingly the minority in Americaclaim that they have the moral imperative to mould the country into their obscene image? America is already close to a police state, in which its own citizens (mainly Afro-Americans) can be murdered by police officers with impunity. Imagine the scenario once Trump and his lunatic henchmen get their hands on the judiciary, the police and the armed forces. Oh yes, of course he encourages the civil protests currently taking place across America, so much so that when he has his hands firmly on the reigns of power, he will be able to declare a state of emergency, implement martial law, and finish the job he has been gagging to get on withsupported by large swathes of the baying, redneck mob who elected him. Americans must ask themselves exactly what does 'make America great again' actually mean to these white supremacists; a return to segregation, even slavery?

A footnote concerning tramping

It was Trump's new demonic lieutenant, Rudolph Giuliani, who in 1998, passed a law to fine pedestrians $50 for jaywalking and fenced off sidewalks in some of the busiest areas of New York City. But then America has been clamping down on the free movement of pedestrians for decades following an idiotic Los Angeles planning report in the 60's noting that 'The pedestrian remains the largest single obstacle to free traffic movement'following which over 1,000 pedestrian crossings were removed in California. As Jim Christy puts it in his book, The New Refugees:

'In America the hitchhiker, the drifter, is not regarded as a seeker of freedom or knowledge, as an explorer of his land and the ways and doings of his fellows, but, rather as a breed of criminal, a jobless, shiftless no-count, out to rob and rape and worse. A man on the road meets all the narrow paranoia, the fear and ignorance of that "pettiness that plays so rough".'

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