Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Unspeakable hatred and the lost concept of freedom

I live in a very green, leafy part of Surrey in England. We're a genteel type- dog walkers anonymous are essentially professionals, retirees, and/or those who like a stroll in a rambling common and woods that thankfully have never had a close encounter with a chainsaw. This park and woods once had an illustrious history- has did most of the UK during the war where we all pulled together in order to defeat the enemy- but over time, the place has fallen into a more natural and un-manicured state. People like me come here to think- I walk for miles each day in deep meditation and without which I would probably end up in an asylum chattering to an imaginary fairy sitting on my shoulder. I actually dislike running into other dog walkers when I am lost in my thoughts as I absentmindedly keep an eye on the hound as he trotters along sniffing (and sniffing) in canine ecstasy. And of course being of a gregarious disposition, the hound has a coterie of friends who he simply must lick, sniff and play shag (preferably boy dogs) every morning. My vocabulary is usually limited to "I'm so sorry!!" as I pull off the hound yet again. We all nod at each other or laugh off the gay dog thing. But then we keep walking because that's what we do and the common and woods are our cathedral, sacrosanct and a repository for our most private thoughts. So private that my undertaker friend has cut loose many a local who has chosen suicide suspended from the ancient oaks and beeches. Imagine therefore our surprise to see caravans and cars one Saturday morning in the middle of the common. And so began a most interesting week....

The truth is when we're not familiar with something or someone we react with a grave apprehension which turns to dislike almost immediately. I remember one disastrous birthday spent in Paris where I ate a meal so awful that all I could do was complain vociferously to the restaurateur. Imagine my complete shock when he stated that because I was not accustomed to eating the dish in question I probably would complain anyway. Well, he got an earful from me that day but I never forgot his remark...

And so it came to pass that when a travelling community descended into my beloved park I became guilty of the worst homophobia one can imagine. I was livid that my tranquillity was wrecked by their presence. Even more interesting was the response of my fellow dog walkers.

In fact, all of the dog walkers exhibited a type of universal hatred. A dislike so intense that no redeeming feature of the community in question would ever make up for how much the travellers were reviled and hated. The police was inundated with calls for their removal. The local council could not keep up with the number of angry callers spitting vile at 'those people'.

What is it about the travelling community that everyone so disapproved of? I mentioned one day to my fellow dog walkers that the travellers' lifestyle raised an interesting question about the concept of freedom. That whole debate landed on completely deaf ears. Everyone was too busy 'hating' to enter into a philosophical debate about freedom. But yes- as that community relieved themselves in the woods and left scrunched up used toilet paper the same having been produced by globalisation giants whose goal is to control the supply of foodstuffs (and toilet paper) to the masses, the logical conclusion to that debate was right there: there is NO freedom in this world, just a bunch of misguided individuals guilty of littering: crisp packets discarded along with the ready made lasagna packaging. And so answer me this:  how are those people different to you and I?

Photo copyright SvD.

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