Thursday, 23 February 2012

Move along there...

I didn't arrive on the planet that long ago, but it seemed like you could get lost pretty easy back then.

Not like characters in Dickens, who can simply disappear into London for the rest of their lives - even by accident - but something like that.

If I wanted to run away from home, I could really be out of touch for a while, not just unfindable, but with pretty good excuses - even when our house had a phone (it didn't have an answering machine).

If I got abroad, then my only mailing address at the main Post Office (called Poste Restante) didn't guarantee delivery (I had to go collect it).  If I kept moving cities, then dead letters would pile up before getting 'returned to sender' eventually.

And I really did feel drawn to the nomadic life.  Not just for that romantic, bohemian, gypsy life - if you check out how our culture treats people with no fixed abode (or 'homeless' as we like to call them) then the romance drains away from the lifestyle pretty fast.

The fact remained, that in the UK, as I grew up, all the land belonged to someone.  If not to individuals, then to Councils (parks), the Forestry Commission, The National Trust, etc.  As a landless serf, I had literally no right to stop and sleep anywhere (without permission, or paying rent).

I felt pretty grumpy about that, as I felt sure I never would 'own' a piece of land.  Not only because the chances of my earning enough seemed slim (even before the folly of 'easy mortgages'), but  because I tended to side with the nomadic peoples of the world in not understanding the concept exactly.  From the Amazon rain forest to the American Plains, to most desert folks, people understood having hunting rights, or priority on a water hole, a favourite tree, or something like that, but the idea of fencing it all off and keeping other people out never seems to have occurred to them.

Farmers and settlers invented that territorial thing as a lock down...with lines drawn, walls built, and all that. And that stage in cultural evolution seems to have also led to nation states and other borders and boundaries getting defined. 

Plus turf wars, of course, and other property rights, like inheritance.

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