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.