Saturday, June 03, 2006

Imagined ownership of place

Sometimes I get lost in observing the misery of countries, and in the things that people are prepared to do to each other in the name of nationalism, God and anything else they can pull out of their hat in an attempt to downgrade their fellow human being to the point where they can carry out all manner of judgements and/or atrocities on him.

I was sent a quote by Bruce Chatwin, and there in the heart of the quote, he said this:

Why do wandering people conceive the world as perfect whereas sedentary ones always try to change it?

Politicians and judges often don't get out much, they are bogged down in the business of running 'their' country, 'their' city, 'their' village ... just as religious zealots have their daily duties in every country in the world and so it goes that people keep shouting threatening and renaming things ... a man fleeing a life of struggle becomes an 'illegal immigrant'; a barrier higher than the Berlin Wall is called 'the fence' ... names are changed and enemies are created.

Sometimes it's difficult not to lose hope ... here in Flanders, I just read that the extreme right still hold second position in the opinion polls, even after I thought it had been proved that both their rhetoric and their newspapers incited racial dysfunction and had created a climate where the recent spate of racial beatings and killings could occur in Belgium.

and that to rediscover his humanity, he must slough off his attachments and take to the road.
Bruce Chatwin
from Songlines

Maybe those who seek to judge a man based on his country of origin, his skin colour, or his beliefs should spend a little time amongst the people he wishes to judge ... to be sure that he isn't condemning someone who laughs, cries, breathes, dreams, gives birth, raises family, celebrates the same god as him and passes his day in much the same way as himself. To test the water of a country where life is cheap and there are those who would kill him ... just to be sure he wouldn't leave all he loved and owned to become one of those 'illegals'... just to be sure

He needs to be sure that he understands his fear, to check that his fear has a real basis, that he hasn't developed neuroses attached to an imagined ownership of place.


michelle said...

I love Bruce Chatwin, such a great writer! :)

woman wandering said...

Did you read Nicholas Chatwin's book about him? It's massive but excellent. :)