Just under two years ago, I did not have a residential address for three weeks. For the most part, I slept in a tent in the forest and on a mangy mattress in the UQ Canoe Club. I had intended to live this way for at least half a year, but lasted less than a month.
At the time (and until recently), I justified the project as an interesting experiment, a way of testing myself, etc...
Now, I have a different understanding of the pattern of thought which led to the uncontrollable emotional urge to remove myself almost entirely from the mainstream.
I'd been reading Clive Hamilton and listening to a particularly leftist lecturer, agreeing entirely with their arguments.
The system itself creates oppression, not individual agents or institutions. The system itself is oppressive. Full stop.
When someone reaches that kind of ideological closure they have two options.
It's really a sad indictment of the amount of agency we have in the world, that an idealistic student should feel that removing himself from the social system is a better option than attempting to change it, to revolve it. Because, ultimately, all meaningful revolutions are crushed, or chewed up by the culture industry (mass media among other things) and spat out in an alien form, or become diluted by power grabbing.
From the feudal system of the middle ages to today's global network capitalism, the "fundamentals" haven't changed (in terms of power relations), just the way in which consent is manufactured. Back then it was done through religion, today, pseudo-choice.
But over the last few months I've been trying to accept that, well, if it's always been oppressive of a large majority (of which I'm, thankfully, not a part), why should I expect that it could be any different?
The ideologies through which public consent is manufactured in our "democracies" have caused many people to envision a world of perfect freedom and equality that has never existed.
A world that might just be impossible.
The implications of this hugely cynical idea (obviously conceived of by someone before me) can be very serious.
But they don't have to be. For me, it could potentially involve accepting and being grateful for my position of privilege in an oppressive system, while being sympathetic of (and helping, where convenient) those who are oppressed.
Wow, reading that line back to myself, it seems like I might soon embody the one thing that I fear the most: middle-class indifference.
I can now understand why people tend to move to the right as they get older.
So where does ultra-trail-running fit into this?
Until recently, the sport was (in my mind) a microcosm of the impossible world which I had yearned for. It was community-run and almost entirely free of corporate interests.
The fact that it is no longer so pure, with a growing commercial hype machine involved, may have shattered the last scerics of my idealistic worldview.
But I can still hold on to SOME hope, right?