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Happy Campers, and the Lure of the Homeless Within

by David Yeagley · November 28, 2012 · 29 Comments ·

Camping has always been a great American pastime. It has overtones of the noble frontier. The modern camper revitalizes his deepest inspiration through direct communion with earth and air. National parks were created to preserve such sentiments of spiritual transcendence.

From Henry David Thoreau to Woodrow Wilson, great thinkers and leaders have recognized the personal restorative power of camping in the raw, in the natural environment of earth, without modern complexity and convenience. Recreational camping is understood as an escape from the unhealthy, stultifying artifice of civilization. Such temporary reprieve is considered essential, indeed.

Today, however, as everything else, camping has been made into a political tool. Camping is used to express a radical emphasis of some cheap, emotional slogan, and has nothing really to do with Mother Earth, or even the great outdoors.

Today’s campers camp in the street, in public, to be seen. Not to get away from the crowds, but to form crowds, to be seen by crowds. In these conclaves of chaos, radicals regress into Freudian infantilism, playing with their own feces, declaring themselves free of all restraint. Occupy Wall Street was a classical example of the political use of camping. Many were paid to camp, thus annihilating the whole concept of personal restoration.


Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park, September, 2012.

But then there is the mad shopping crowd campers, representing anything but poverty. Rather they demonstrate the opposite–the absolute, determined effort to ‘save money.’ The shopping campers pay to camp, through personal sacrifice. The shopping camper will make camp on the sidewalk, in the center of commerce, to heroically assert his strength and determination to save money. It is a most ironic contrast of values. The camp-to-shop mode sanctifies greed, and exalts self-privation for the sake of pure covetousness.


Early Black Friday campers, Augusta, Georgia, 2011. Across the country, 2012, many camped from Sunday to Friday.

What do political campers and shopping campers have in common? The subliminal lure of the homeless; the self-inflicted wounds of the addict; the self-righteousness of the lost soul seeking affirmation, approbation, and some imaginary anointing. Whereas the homeless are vice-gripped in their anti-socialism, the paid campers and the paying campers want only the suffering associated with being homeless. They want the moral imperative derived from profound misfortune. Thus, they make themselves homeless.

The lure of the homeless involves a moral imperative. Nothing is considered more politically potent than poverty. Therefore, to identify with the poorest of the poor–the homeless, has become a tool of political desperation and radicalism.

The image of suffering was marked in the American culture of the sixties. Pop singers screaming in feigned agony was the lead sale. Then there were pre-washed jeans, made to look worn; later you could buy jeans with wear holes already in them. This kind of look is still very popular. The look of having traveled miles through life, enduring many years of pain, suffering, and even abuse–it’s all a terrific sell. People want instant worth, instant honor, immediate value, and the rewards of victory–and they want it now. They’re willing to buy it, even the appearance of it. Through homeless fashion the fad of fame and moral fortune is on parade, particularly popular among the youth and the immature.

Yet, imitation homelessness is pawned off as sincerity. The reward of suffering is earned by fraud. Stolen honor, as it were. The self-inflicted wound is awarded the Purple Heart by the liberal media propagandists. Whatever the political cause espoused by the professional campers or the paid homeless, it is sanctified and praised by the mindless media–ever covetous of human drama, however cheap. (“Yellow news” is what it was once called. Yellow with urine, were the truth known.)

The whole advertising industry is based on public images or fantasies, most of which are derived from the liberal propaganda. There have been advertisements depicting people camping out in front of stores that offer the best deals.

But now, natural disasters like Storm Sandy create a completely different kind of camper–an unwilling camper, an unintentional camper, who is suffering by the hand of nature, then by the gnarled, vicious hands of bureaucracy. FEMA camps have displayed a very unhappy camper. For those making the effort to examine conditions nigh completely hidden by the propaganda of liberal media, the camps of destitution are appalling. Anything but restoration evolves from such desperate amassing. It is the chaos of inconvenience. It is beyond depressing. Violence can evolve.


Early “Palestinian” refugees, refused
repatriation by Jordan.

Finally there are the refugee camps, with untold victims of war. These camps are not for restoration either, but for mere survival. No one chooses such a din of human clamor and injustice. But, where there is war, there are the camps of homeless. Of course, even these enclaves can be politicized. In fact, it behooves some leaders to take every political advantage possible. This is the whole story of the so-called “Palestinian” plight. Not war, but the Syrian and Jordanian governments insisted on creating “refugee” camps within Israel. They refused to repatriate their own people, using them rather as desperadoes to constantly prick Israel.

And so camping can be innocent, or restorative; it can be desperate, caused by natural disaster or war; camping can be a loud propaganda tool in the political process. Camping can be volunteer, or coerced.

Perhaps individual, volunteer camping is all about freedom. Group camping, volunteer (paid) or coerced, is about chaos, depression, and the bent to violence. But, in the end, there is always some lurking lure of the homeless within.

Posted by David Yeagley · November 28, 2012 · 11:43 am CT · ·

Tags: American Enterprise · Bad Eagle Journal · Communism · Conservatism · Liberalism · Politics · Religion · Reservations




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29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 zephyr // Nov 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm   

    Interesting comparisons . . . on the whole, I agree, but recreational camping is a different species. Not homelessness, but feeling at home with nature.

  • 2 David Yeagley // Nov 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm   

    I thought I covered that one, at least indirectly! Thanks for your poignant, lyrical way of completing the thought.

    Restoration was the original purpose of “camping” for moderners. The ultimate “vacation” from the artificial modes of life in modernity.

    I suppose homelessness is a relative term, in the end. It is a profound Jewish perspective, actually. The Lord identifies Himself as a sojourner with Israel in this wayward, weary world. Lev. 25:23.

    This world is not our home, if we are Israelites. Remember the Ark of the Covenant, like a traveling deity, a portable God. The tent of the Lord, definitely made for “camping.”

  • 3 David Yeagley // Nov 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm   

    I guess the point is, homelessness must be a natural instinct, even a spiritual instinct, deep within fallen human nature. Once we are attuned to that, we search for a home–a hold on eternity. I think it is a divine implant, as it were. We are never satisfied with the things of this world, no matter how much or how little we have of them.

    Then, there’s just plain irresponsibility. That is the antithesis of spirituality.

  • 4 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm   

    Related to this topic of this world not being our soul’s home:

    “All talk of social progress, of cleaning up the world, of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, in short all dreams of utopianism are not only doomed to disappointment, but also misconstrue the world’s purpose. The world is the soul’s gymnasium, its school, its training field. What we do is important, but ultimately it is important for the discipline it offers our individual spirits; we delude ourselves if we expect it to change the world in any fundamental way. Our work in this world is like bowling in an uphill alley; it can develop nice muscles, but we should not think that by our throws the balls are transported to the other end in any permanent way. They all roll back to confront our children, if we happen to have moved along. The world can develop character and teach men to look beyond it–for these it is admirably suited–but it can never be converted into a paradise in which man is fully at home.” — Huston Smith, The Religions of Man

  • 5 David Yeagley // Nov 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm   

    So, at what point is the cross-over between natural intimations of other-worldliness and irresponsibility? between art and real indolence?

    These matters are of particularly personal import to me!

  • 6 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm   

    “Then, there’s just plain irresponsibility. That is the antithesis of spirituality.” — David Yeagley

    I’ll tell you what I believe has cause so much evil in this world, viz., the doctrine that human beings are not at all morally responsible agents, but rather solely creatures of pure “Luck.” The Nazis murdered on this assumption, the Communists likewise; and modern Atheists are beating the drums for this same doctrine (e.g., Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins). Sam Harris (a leading Atheist and Determinist) dreams of a future world where human nature and the behavior of all human beings will be goverened by pharmacology — by chemicals. He states this in a YouTube lecture. Sounds much like Brave New World to me.

  • 7 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm   

    I kinda “sympathize,” in theory, with Plato’s theory of Ideas. That the transient things of this world are imperfect copies of an idea in a world of perfect ideas — which would in fact be the mind of God.

    Thus Art is a striving after “ideas” which “make perfect sense.” Not in that they are scientifically verifiable, but that the approach as nearly as possible to a perfection that does not exist in this world. Therefore, true Art is the most difficult of all possible work. Wheter it’s a fugue or symphony that is “complete in itself” in its ability to make musical sense, or a statue that tries to capture human beauty in as perfect a manner as possible.

  • 8 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm   

    A perfect symphony or fugue, for example, is a composition in which any note added or taken away would diminish the work. Every note is essential to make the entire piece have meaning.

  • 9 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm   

    “So, at what point is the cross-over between natural intimations of other-worldliness and irresponsibility? between art and real indolence?”

    There are people who are, to quote a proverb, so “heavenly-minded as to be no earthly good.” There are people who give up trying to promote a good future for their children and grandchildren because they are convinced that this world and its future are of no importance whatever. These cases are extreme, though. Still, I think that many people are selfish enough and short-sighted enough not to make an effort to prepare for a rainy day. These are the indolent and improvident political types.

    It’s just that I do not see any connection between Art and Indolence, when Art is properly understood. I would have to be given more details to better understand the question.

  • 10 David Yeagley // Nov 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm   

    Is it more important to get that next symphony finished, or to find a teaching job, or even a janitor job? Artists have always been supported by aristocracy. Maybe that’s why they’re mostly liberal these days.

    Seattle Symphony is now rejoicing that they got a new huge NEA grant. Our major arts institutions wouldn’t exist except for grants. The public just doesn’t value this kind of art enough. The musicians all have second jobs, as well. Unions have their effect in the classical music world, as well.

    Art rarely earns its own way. Those that try are usually penniless and professional suppliants–(very much like me, at this point!)

    My new (2nd) piano sonata has a double fugue in it, by the way! A non-commissioned work, unfortunately, but a five-movement monster. I’m quite happy with it. Many hours. No pay. This is the liability of fine art. Too easy to fall into that predicament. Labor without remuneration.

  • 11 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm   

    “This is the liability of fine art. Too easy to fall into that predicament. Labor without remuneration.” — D. Y.

    I know. Only 2% (at best) of the general population even understand the fine arts — especially “Classical” music. Putting notes down on paper is also my greatest joy — but it is impossible to generate a steady income from it. Oridnary people think you’re “crazy” to take music-composition seriously. Worse yet, the modern pop culture is ruining the tastes of the young — if not also injuring their hearing apparatus.

    The feeling of joy at having put down “just the right notes” is unlike anything else. Anyone who has not experienced it simply cannot fathom it. Putting down words — as in writing poetry (which I also occasionally do) is enjoyable — but words are tinsel pleasures compared to the real gold of music notes!

    No, the work of the janitor is fitting for the person with the nature of the janitor. It is not a compelling argument to me that music is somehow “not work.” The problem is that the unmusical person does not see the work involved and imagines that it’s all easy.

  • 12 zephyr // Nov 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm   

    Thras: “The problem is that the unmusical person does not see the work involved and imagines that it’s all easy.”

    Have to disagree with you on this one, Thras. Many, like myself, neither compose nor paint. That does not, however, mean we are incapable of appreciating good compositions in art, literature, and music. It does not mean we think it’s easy.

    We may not be able or willing to pay for that, and should never be forced to.

    We need to recognize the difference between work that pays and work that does not pay. I’ve put much of my life and effort into work that either does not pay (volunteer efforts) or does not pay well (my field). Both are work, but may not both be enjoyable. Certainly there is no financial remuneration in volunteering.

    Most of us would prefer to spend our time doing only what we want to do and nothing else. I would love to have someone else do my yard work, housework, laundry, etc., leaving me free to pursue other interests. I don’t enjoy dealing with financial issues or completing tax returns. I abhor having to concern myself with car problems, computer glitches, and household repairs.

    But when we are adults, we realize that, as mundane and annoying as, say, a gutter problem might be, we do in fact have to address it.

    If I cannot financially support myself doing only what I want to do, then it is not only impractical but irresponsible. Especially if I expect others to pick up the tab.

    Think about it–that is essentially what the OWS commie crowd is saying. “You owe me because I don’t want to have to do anything I don’t want to do.”

    It’s not only immature and selfish to think in that vein, it’s also unbiblical.

    “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    1 Tim 5.8

  • 13 zephyr // Nov 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm   

    Some friends of mine grew up in Romania under the Ceaucesu regime. All Romanian children were encouraged by the state to take gymnastics at a young age, bec of course that is the one sport in which the small country of Romania excelled. They had to put all the communist dollars in to one basket, so to speak, to have any representation on the global stage.

    So, at 3-5 yrs of age, kids were trotted out onto the mats. They were allowed a year or so of lessons–mostly at state expense, since Ceaucesu had already taken all the income from the ppl–to prove whether or not they had Olympic potential.

    If not, they were not permitted to proceed with state sponsorship.

    The same applied to national exams at the end of high school. Your future choice of career was solely dependent on how you performed on that one exam. God forbid you might be ill that day and perform poorly–forever assigned to a life of hard labor when in fact you might have been an excellent doctor or teacher.

    The beauty of America is that we encourage everyone to live up to their potential, in whatever area that might be. We allow for different possibilities, different choices, and let ppl write their own story.

    That can’t be done when the government forces Americans to give most of their income to the state. There are many activities for which taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill.

  • 14 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm   

    I do not think that America is still the land of equal opportunity and the level playing-field. In fact, it is less so now than ever before.

    We must not the forget social networking factor.

    If Dr. Y had been born into a traditional Jewish family, he would never lack commissions for his work.

    Many creative people who are also struggling simply forgo having a family (or wait until they are finacially secure), knowing that they might not be able to sustain one.

    But you are correct that taxpayers should not be foreced to pay for things they never actually benefit from.

    All I can say is that the great Franz Schubert believed, rightly or wrongly, that he should have received financial help from the State for his contribution to his society. I don’t recall him marrying and having children.

    Democracy is America’s PROBLEM — not her glory. The Founders intended a Republic,not a Democracy. Democracy is the reason the best in art and music is generally absent from America and has, for the most part, been a European achievement. Democracy is for the promotion of the pop culture. Personally, I am for the abolition of Democray and the restoration of the Republic set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

  • 15 Thrasymachus // Nov 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm   

    For some, creative work is the only possible work. Though I’ve never seen it, there is a motion picture titled “My Left Foot,” about an invalid who could only write books — and this only by using his left foot. Not every man or woman is made for strong manual labor.

    I still rather prefer a government solution that has never been tried — something (though greatly modified) along the lines of the Republic of Plato. Everyone in that society would be assigned work according to his true nature, and no one would have to be a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.”

    zephyr, do not forget that most creative artists earn money teaching others their skills — mentoring or tutoring. Not a few have second careers as writers. They certainly do not have to be islands unto themselves, serving nobody. All extremes are to be avoided.

  • 16 David Yeagley // Nov 28, 2012 at 10:43 pm   

    Let’s not forget Thomas Mann, and “The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man.” Why, the artist is a fake. He’s just all turned inward, taking himself more seriously than he ought, etc.

    In latter years, I’ve tried to think of art as a craft, similar to making furniture, automobiles, etc. Art has a use, if psychological or emotional. Beauty is like a psychological diversion, or a mental vacation. Hopefully, a healthy one.

    A sonata just isn’t regarded as utile as a chair. Therein in the rub. A rondo isn’t necessary like a tin bucket is, or a hammer, or a shoe. A rondo may take a lot more mental craft, but, its utility is hardly comparable.

  • 17 David Yeagley // Nov 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm   

    And remember Coleridge, and “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.” The worn tale of suffering, the guilt-bearing, the need to tell one’s story, etc.

    And we might as well throw in the prophets, like Jeremiah. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” Lamentations 1:12

    Hey! I’m significant. And I’m in pain. Look at me, bast ya! Look at my pain! Why, there’s nothing else like it in the world!

    Award me with your attention and sympathy. I have a story to tell!

  • 18 Thrasymachus // Nov 29, 2012 at 9:20 am   

    Let me give you these words of James Allen as an inspiration and a consolation:

    “Composer, sculptor, painter, poet, prophet, sage, these are the makers of the afterworld, the architects of heaven. The world is beautiful because they have lived; without them, laboring humanity would perish.” — James Allen in As A Man Thinketh

  • 19 zephyr // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:07 am   

    Thras: “Everyone in that society would be assigned work according to his true nature”

    I’m afraid that’s what we’re moving toward.

    If the state is given the responsibility of “assigning” work, it will never be what is best for the individual. Ever. Not in reality.

    I value individual freedom, to choose, to be at liberty as long as my choices are not inflicting harm on others.

    Romania tried this experiment,

    If the individual is given this responsibility (which is where it should rest), he/she may have a difficult time figuring out what that is. Which is OK, as long as they do not expect strangers to fund their experimentation. But that is what usually happens.

    With the current OWS generation, we’d have several million ppl who classify themselves as “artists”, poets, etc. Even though most of them cannot and will not ever produce anything anyone else would ever want to hear played or read, they feel entitled to taxpayer support. Their arrogance knows no bounds.

    I agree with the no family bit–families are luxuries that only ppl with somewhat stable incomes should have. Unfortunately, most ppl are not that responsible.

    There are many lines of work that do not require hard manual labor but are not necessarily related to the arts. Computer programmers, chemists, and engineers, for instance, must be fairly creative in addressing and solving problems in their work.

  • 20 David Yeagley // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:13 am   

    What a heavy exchange! Somehow, I feel encouraged!

  • 21 David Yeagley // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:16 am   

    I think a jazz drummer is more likely to earn an independent living than a symphony composer. He has an immediate product consumed immediately, and often. But he comes under the same title, “musician.” If the NEA supports the symphony composer through grants, why shouldn’t the drummer get support? Well, in some few cases, he does. (Inner city “community organizing” efforts, “cultural development” efforts, etc.)

    The “government support” idea is what causes all these philosophical definitions of labor, economy, etc. Safety net, they call it? Everyone is entitled to a house, two cars, and a college education? And vacations?

    Maybe the American Dream is the problem.

  • 22 zephyr // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:18 am   

    I still recall a flight I took from AZ to NV. I had booked an aisle seat some months before. When I got on the plane, my seat had already been taken by a woman and child.

    I explained to the lady that this was my seat. Others were still boarding, so I couldn’t just pick an empty one.

    She responded curtly, saying that she had a baby and therefore HAD to have the aisle seat, as if that should have been obvious to the dumbest person. She instructed me to take her seat–the window seat, where I was crammed between a large man and the side of the plane.

    Turned out, she was an opera singer and never grew tired of talking about herself and her career.

    Most self-proclaimed artists–whether or not they attain a degree of professional success–are arrogant. With excessive pride comes the same sense of entitlement that the greedy “poor” welfare recipients have.

    I don’t see much difference, frankly, when both groups are funded by taxpayers. There may be more bling and refined taste with the artist, but if he/she is still dependent on the state, it’s the same scenario. Not saying that all artists are funded in this way, but let’s face it, the grant situation is out of control, as is the definition of what constitutes “art”. A crucifix covered in urine or crawling with ants, for instance, does NOT qualify.

  • 23 zephyr // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:23 am   

    Just realized I left an unfinished sentence in 19.

    Started to say that the Romanian government (and most communist dictatorships like it), based on that single qualifying exam, then assigned vocations to each student. If your score fell within a certain range, you were permitted only certain options–a score of X nets you options A, B, or C, for instance. You must choose one, and only one, for life.

    What a horrible system.

  • 24 zephyr // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:28 am   

    David: “Maybe the American Dream is the problem.”

    I don’t think so ~ it’s the question of who is expected to fund it. But I get your point–unrealistic expectations lead to entitlement mentalities. We definitely have a generation now that has not learned to handle the reality of disappointment, which happens to everyone in life at some point or other.

    The root of the problem, as always, is a spiritual one. When we put material wants and financial success on a pedestal, we are ripe for Satan’s picking. How easy to topple that little ideal world of ours.

    If, on the other hand, we seek first the kingdom of God, Satan no longer has that power.

  • 25 Thrasymachus // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:37 am   

    zephyr,

    Yes, in the context of the modern world — the world as we know it — you are quite right. I have no real disagreement with you. The Republic of Plato , to which I made reference, is a book about, among other things, Education. My real point is that, when people are properly educated — which is NOT happening these days — and when Philosophers are Kings (Plato’s ideal), this would make for a very different world. Alas, this is just Plato’s pipe dream.

    So, yes, I agree with you that government, as we now know it, would ruin peoples lives, and that freedom to choose one’s own work is essential.

    Government is the problem in our modern “democratic” America, and an education system founded on false egalitarian presuppositions.

    “Credentialism . . . it’s growing worse. In our personal dealings with government bodies and too many corporations, most of us have experienced bureaucratic abuses and distortions where the credential, the mere paper, becomes more real, more important to the mindless machinery, than the person–the very creature of God–who carries it. [. . .] Won’t talent and ability just naturally rise, like cream in a bottle, to the top?

    Well, no, in fact. Not in a homogenized society like ours where milk itself is treated to keep its meager cream content from rising.

    It’s been well said by the poets.
    Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these; What might have been. Until ability, talent, and energy are released by some inner or outer “authority,” life remains only “what might have been.” — Richard Gaylord Briley

    zephyr, these are deep waters, and the home-schooling movement and fresh alternatives to government interference in our lives will be a necessary part of the solution for many people.

  • 26 Thrasymachus // Nov 29, 2012 at 10:50 am   

    The true artist has always had to be a rebel. He must put his artistic mission — so long as nothing in it is dishonorable — above all else. Victory or Death! If he must be poor and despised, that’s the price he simply has to pay.
    L’homme, c’est rien — l’œvre, c’est tout.
    in the words of Gustave Flaubert.

  • 27 Thrasymachus // Nov 29, 2012 at 11:04 am   

    So how does the true artist rebel? He accepts that many people will disagree with him and reject him and despise his efforts. He prays that God will vindicate him in the end.

    “And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” — Matthew 23:12

  • 28 Thrasymachus // Nov 29, 2012 at 11:17 am   

    For a glimpse of the difficulty inherent in the artist’s profession, watch the old 1959 classic Family Drama / Children’s Film A Dog of Flanders. It may seem slightly inappropriate for modern adults, but it does reveal that the life and work of an artist can be frought with difficulty, both of a financial and psychological nature. The aspiring artist in this story tries, at one point, to become a ship’s cabin boy, but is rejected.

    One reviewer had this to say: “This film is unflinching in its portrayal of what can be a harsh and uncaring world, and younger and/or sensitive children may find it tough going before the ultimately happy ending.”

    A Dog of Flanders (1959)

  • 29 David Yeagley // Nov 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm   

    I have a friend in New York who, if he had a fortune, would set up a special grant or provision of some kind–for the protection of gifted children.

    Youth with special talent, in the age of social uniformity, are particularly damaged by such mundane standards. Remember, Communism is about conformity.

    Today’s liberal grant programs however, seem to provide for the very wealthy and the very poor–if they have special talents.

    Life just isn’t a smooth path for most. That’s all. There are those few who seem especially blessed. Most are not, not in that way.

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