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Reflections PDF Printable Version E-mail
Article Index
Introduction
Polemic-Anecdote
Years Dreamt of
Sensitive Travel
Travel as Art
Travellers and Dogs
Year Zero
Leonard on the Road
Farrington's Facts
3rd World Travel
Lorna's Reflections
Paint Your Wagon
Fitness
Alexander Maclennan
Aesop in Australia
Thomas Jefferson
Seventh Decade
Final Thoughts


Polemic and Anecdote

The following polemic mixed with anecdote was written in the course of correspondence with Brian, an old friend from days together working in Madras (now Chennai). The general theme and purpose of the ongoing dialogue is a shared understanding of the origin and nature of human consciousness.

“As to ourselves, November has been a sobering month of reflection and change. Change in our material circumstances (an excellent newish tow vehicle, etc) and in our world view following the death of brother Michael.

Overall, I have concluded, at least for now, that things have become much too complicated, that too much time is spent in refuting the old, the out of date ideas, rather than just embracing the new. How can it be that myths, legends and superstitions from the Bronze Age still have any influence? They are fading, losing their hold, but how splendid it would be if they did not exist. Let's just forget any ideas that arose before Marx, Darwin and Einstein. Simple enough. Let's just ignore anything in psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, sociology not based on post-Darwinian thinking.

That leaves something much simpler: the evolution of life forms and the development, in humans, of self-awareness (consciousness) and, with it, language. That's all. After that, we can leave it to Marx to understand how societies develop, based on the means and organisation of work/labour/production and how that society, in turn, distorts our consciousness (our internal simulations and narratives) to suit its own ends.

Now we are formed and live in a society dominated by capitalism in its late and, perhaps, final form before its collapse. And how programmed the people are who surround us wherever we go in northern and western Europe! Programmed to work and consume. How pleasant it is to be among people with less sophisticated programming: late feudal mixed with early capitalist, beginning in Greece. Further east and south, the heavy programming of hegemonic religions takes hold.

Sitting in the crematorium for 30 minutes, looking at Michael's coffin while an account of his life, from birth to death, was read from the lectern, I realised just how simple things are. Here was a mammal with a brain, programmed to follow his male parent figure into work in a bakery, marry, beget and raise 5 children, take part in socially-approved activities and hobbies, have mass-produced opinions, form a version of himself, an ego if you will, and die as an animal does when the genes kicked in with one of several diseases of the elderly evolved for this purpose (in his case, cancer).

What more to life can there be beyond this, except what you do, Brian – seek and search for the truth, attempting to reach and touch the reality of our human condition. And share that awareness, attempting to dispel delusion. Perhaps begin to prepare a generation for a life when the ideologies of capitalism crash, die and fade.

We cycled through Romania in 1988 on our way to Istanbul. At that time, a third of the population was in or reported to the secret police, the Securitate. All books published in the country were written by Nicolae or his wife Elena (eg all the books we saw in the university bookshop in Timisoara). Religion was banned and Marxist-Leninist theory was taught in schools, etc. Every road was lined with billboards of quotes from the Ceausescu's speeches. This was an attempt to impose a rigid ideology on a closed society behind closed borders: took us hours to get in - and to get out again.

We went into Romania again in February 1990 with a donated Budget van overloaded with aid for orphans. This was 6 weeks after the Ceausescu's were shot. There had been a 'communist' regime since 1945, with the Ceausescu's in power from 1965 to 1989. But within 6 weeks of the partial collapse of the regime and the opening of the borders, the ideology was dead. The young people we met were already planning for the advent of capitalism and learning English rather than Russian.

We have been back to Romania several times since and capitalism rules, with a parallel culture of cronyism and corruption.

This just indicates the strength of the capitalist ideology that entraps us. People will die for it – in the armed forces but also from stress and overwork supporting the system from within. This is particularly true for the layers of middle management and the professions picked out of the working class by the 11+ and similar processes, to be seduced into a suburban materialistic life-style.

Travel (we are now in our 19th year) is the only way we know to escape from much of this! We try to see it and understand it from the outside.”