Tag Archives: Bruce Chatwin

Gentlemen of the Road

An interesting bit from Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines:

“. . . migratory species are less ‘aggressive’ than sedentary ones. . . . The journey . . . pre-empts the need for hierarchies and shows of dominance. The ‘dictators’ of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the ‘gentlemen of the road’.”

Certainly on a long journey there is a greater sense of common community and a willingness to engage with on an equal basis and to support others. What is it about being sedentary that turns us into corrupt, class-obsessed, fortress building hoarders who objectify and dehumanize those who do not serve our greed so that we can eliminate them physically, socially or economically without tripping our conscience? Will, as Chatwin suggests, a culture of ‘journeying’ and an acceptance of impermanence change us?

Taking some sort of journey, migration or walkabout has long been part of growing up and maturing, a necessary rite of passage between school and work – the gap year, backpacking around the world. It would be interesting to study the different paths taken by those who have gone walkabout when young as opposed to those who have not. Do they retain a greater sense of common humanity or do they revert to type once they become part of the sedentary masses?

It is also a cliché for those in the throws of a mid-life crisis to quit their job, buy a Harley and hit the road. Does the midlife crisis happen when the conscience kicks in after being sucked into the culture of ‘getting and spending’ and the ambitions and ways of living that that the sedentary culture seems to demand? Is the journey a way to let the conscience breathe? To heal itself?

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