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236. Duration (V)

For years and years, it has been common for young Westerners to say they want to “travel”. This wanderlust is a little different from the young man who might have sat on a Plymouth quay in the 19th century and watched ships head out to Calcutta or Buenos Aries; it is different, yet still related. The “traveller” was invented by the bohemian Paul Bowles—author of The Sheltering Sky—in the 1940s. For Bowles, a permanent exile from America in Tangier, the traveller was a person who immersed themselves totally in a foreign culture; to use the old colonial expression they “went native”. Bowles: “Another important difference between tourist and traveller is that the former accepts his own civilisation without question; not so the traveller, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

The traveller rejects his tribe: the figure of T.E. Lawrence—another alienated homosexual, just like Bowles—and his embrace of the Arab cause springs to mind as a prototypical “traveller”. By the mid-1990s, the traveller or “going travelling” (usually followed by the corollary “the year before uni”) became a standard rite of passage for Western youths; it started, perhaps, with the hippies—and it reached a high point with Alex Garland’s The Beach; a novel which marked a turn on the traveller, for in it paradisiacal travel turns to a Lord of the Flies nightmare.

Plumbers and electricians go “on hols” to Tenerife for the sun, booze, and sex. “It’s fekcin’ hot down there, and shat meself after that bleedin’ whatever-they-call it. I’m gettin’ eggs and chips next time.” People who go to university go “travelling” to Columbia to meet a shaman and “get in touch with indigenous culture”. They also go to have promiscuous sex, get stoned off their tits, and soil their underclothes—just like the plumber; yet they frame their activities as a noble spiritual pursuit, because this is what status-conscious middle-class people do with everything. And, note well, that such people always say sharman—never shayman—because they think that pronunciation is more authentic.

Man is made to travel; our basic state is nomadic: even the most settled peasants have ceremonies where, each year, they nomadically precess around their fields with a priest—and in medieval times many people went on pilgrimage. Babies fall to sleep when we walk with them in our arms because in our nomadic past mothers would walk long distances with the baby; the rhythm and the lullaby are one: the rhythm of the lullaby comes from the rhythm of the road. We yearn to walk again; the suburb is a sin against God and nature. The etymological roots of nomad and nomos—law—are the same: the right is for the law, the law is nomadic—Abel, the righteous man, was a nomadic shepherd; Cain was an evil settler.

Psychologically, humans have positive emotions towards the distant in time and space, usually represented by blueness: Heaven is the great blue yonder; we yearn to move from limited horizons to the big sky. To attack our love of distance is a mistake: love of novelty and experience are correlated with intelligence; only stupid people say: “I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m not interested in nothin’.”

Boomercons only romanticise localism because the real essence of right-wing thought—blood and ethos, our ethos being the road’s rhythmic poetry—is denied to them. Europeans are, above all, the great movers: we conquered the world and space itself. It is not conservative to tell us to stay at home; and such people will be rightly mocked. What we must disprivilege is the Bowlesian traveller who travels to escape and denigrate his own people; perhaps because, as in Bowles’s case, he is an outsider—a homosexual, an outsider everywhere. We must recapture the explorer, the conqueror, and the pioneer; the man whose conquest is made to a strong rhythm—a man who lusts for the sea, the steppe, and the sky.


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