I did two things yesterday which are rattling around in my head still today.
One: I finally caught up with the movie “Summer of Sam,” which I definitely would have seen before now had I understood what it was about. As it was, I still wasn’t good enough at speaking Spanish to see it at the cinema when it was released in 1999, but that said, I thought it was more to do with the mind of Dave Berkowitz than being a moral tale about the dangers of judging others by their appearance. The message was clear, not veiled, although the tale was woven so that we weren’t sure until the end just what connected the characters to that summer of fear and murder in 1977.
It’s a moral so clear and obvious that I can only wonder that it still needs to be told in the 21st century.
Then I logged onto Facebook when I got home, to find a friend of a friend referring to Los Indignados as “hippies” in a tone which was clearly critical and carried the message that hippies were inferior in any event, and this person considered themselves to be above that type of person.
Firstly, Los Indignados are not “hippies.” Sure, there may some amongst their number who have long hair and a fondness for gypsy skirts or baggy pants, but they are, and it is a well-known fact, a very broad cross-section of the Spanish public, many of whom are suffering as a result of the current recession, and who are protesting the lethargy with which their government addressed the situation. Like most people in the “civilized” world they feel betrayed by those in power, the bankers and politicians, who have left them helpless in the pursuit of their own greed. This movement has been notable for the lack of violence or other such problems on their marches and camps throughout Spain since the spring.
Secondly, hippies – judging the book by its cover again? I have friends who might be called “hippy.” I’ve been with some of them when they worked 24 hour shifts to help those in need, and I know someone who is giving away everything he has to live a “hippy” lifestyle and help others instead of sit on a terrace drinking gin all day, which he might well have chosen to do in this climate. I also have friends who are comfortably off. They have worked hard for what they have, and deserve to enjoy it. The fact that they don’t give their all to others doesn’t make them bad people. They give in their own way. They aren’t greedy or flash with their wealth, or judgemental or inconsiderate of others. Neither of these “types” should be judged by their outward appearance.
Let’s face it, if Warren Buffet or Bill Gates hadn’t stored up wealth in their younger days, they wouldn’t be able to do the great work for those in need they now do.
The second thing I did was to finish Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” Half way through the book my attention had wandered a bit, and I wondered why I was reading it, but by the end the message had come together, just as the film did, and the messages are not unconnected, even the same in some ways.
Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book, was derided after Krakauer’s article about him and his death in the wilds of Alaska appeared in “Outside” magazine in 1992, derided for being a dreamer and for wandering unprepared into the wilderness. I see “Into the Wild” as Krakauer’s way of putting the record straight. He investigated further and in-depth, and had full co-operation from McCandless’s family, which must have been a very painful process for them, and what emerged was a portrait of, yes, a dreamer, but also a kid with a true spirit of adventure, who probably had a far better grip on real life than most of the rest of us. The passage below is taken from a letter McCandless wrote to a friend, which is quoted in full in the book:
“…….I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, ….you must lose your inclination of monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. An so,…..get out of ….. and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. ……………………Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time……and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.”
I know that passage will ring lots of bells with those of you who read my blog, but let’s also be clear that it isn’t the only way to live, either. Some people just aren’t cut out for this kind of life. The important thing for them is not to get so bogged down by the limits of their actual world that they cannot understand others. That’s not hard these days with books, tv, movies and the internet to keep us up to date with other lives the world over. I’ve known folk who haven’t travelled that much, but who know more about countries/people/places/traditions/religions/whatever than other folk I’ve known who scuttle around the world, “protected” from new/stimulating/exciting/educational experiences by their own shells, which they hump round with them, retreating like the tortoise if anything threatens the security of that comfort zone.
For me, I agree with almost every quote I’ve ever read about travel broadening the mind, stimulating the soul and teaching us to live in harmony with others, but we should remember that there are more ways than one to achieve those things.