Hermes and Me

GEORGE: Magellan? You like Magellan?
JERRY: Oh, yeah. My favourite explorer. Around the world. Come on. Who do you like?
GEORGE: I like DeSoto.
JERRY: DeSoto? What did he do?
GEORGE: Discovered the Mississippi.
JERRY: Oh. like they wouldn’t have found that anyway. [1]

Since the dominant theme for me these past few weeks has been the-travel-gods-must-be-crazy, and in observance of the waves of paranoia affecting seemingly all modes of transportation these days (and yes, I was personally delayed by this very “suspicious package” last night), I’ve got some reading to share – two very interesting perspectives on what it means to travel.

First, author Anneli Rufus, writing in Alternet today, strips the sheen of swashbuckle off our jet set society of culture selectors and exposes us for the soft imperialists we are – eating exotic squids, buying melons off of motorcycles, and walking across war-torn countries, aping as we do our favourite television programs that glamourize the mystery, danger, and violence of playing Robinson Crusoe:

after 9/11, travel became yet another loaded activity, far from automatic. Strangers wand your body, scan your shoes. And while a passenger aboard planes and trains it’s so hard not to flirt with mental pictures of flying into things, of arms on fire. Maybe that’s part of what fuels this summer’s boom: the tingly frisson of potential danger, of denying that danger, of accepting it but not knowing its source, of not being certain that you’ll actually arrive. With the airline industry on ultrahigh alert after mass arrests in Britain and talk of a thwarted plane-bombing plot, travel lurches yet another notch out of neutral, out of normal. To go anywhere now, you have to really want to go.

And really wanting to go flows in both directions, as this marvellous article in Click Opera so vividly illustrates, in talking about a “cosmopolitanism of the poor”:

The trouble with the argument that radicalized Muslims hate modernity is that it ignores the fact that they are completely a product of it. Without 747s, without the globalization of the economy (and without, of course, a history of Western imperial adventure) there would be as few Muslims in the UK as there are in Japan. Bin Laden is as much a part of “modernity” (or post-modernity; the society of the spectacle) as a Boeing 747.

So here I am, a descendant of French Canadians going with his spouse (she descended from Egyptian Greeks) to a family reunion in Greece in a few weeks, a mere 700 miles from a war zone. But we shall be stripped of our silicon chips and our swashbuckle, a bit edgy, and definitely a little lost and confused. It doubles the weirdness for me that there is family there that will take us in, people I’ve never seen.

A form of dementia, indeed.

As an aside, World Trade Center sucks, as expected.

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