No one, including those individuals with just the merest aspiration to compassion and understanding, could fail to be moved by thoughts of the oxygen deprived and almost medieval death of men, women and trusting children trapped in sealed containers that arrive daily in Western Europe. What drives these refugees to this end? What force could be strong enough to uproot them from their homelands in the expectation of a better life that they would jeopardise that same life in order to attain it? What makes these particular human beings want to breathe the air of a new dawn in a different place, where they suppose the distinction between the citizen and the barbarian is irrelevant, and then have that basic right to breath denied to them by a commercial miscalculation in the purgatory of a marshalling yard in Belgium or France.
Transhumance – literally meaning ‘across the ground’ – describes the seasonal sheparding movement of animals and was learnt first by Australopithecus in places near the margins of the East African Rift Valley, like Olduvai, from the stalking and killing of migrating herds across the Serengeti. The same transhumance took Homo Erectus, and fire, out of Africa about one million years ago to eventually become the hunter-gatherer sapient artists of Palaeolithic Europe. The same transhumance ten thousand years ago brought with it, out of the Caucasus, the pottery and ritual of domestication, the origins of a Proto Indo-European language, and the dissemination of ideas with that early language ability.
The language and ideas of transhumance evolved to understand and debate the concepts of reason and duty in the conduct and care of that mobile society. It was realised very early on that illness and injury affected the weak and the strong, the wise and the stupid, the rich and the poor and the good and the evil so the duty of care could not be selective. One of our early ancestors, perhaps a victim, realized that broken bones do heal and that even if left to die on the previous season’s migration an individual might actually survive. Perhaps that same ancestor thought of the simple concept of splinting the broken limb in order that it might heal straighter and therefore with less likelihood of a survivor crippling the next seasons trek. Perhaps as well it was that same ancestor who, in his desire to survive, also realized that storage could help overcome seasonal fluctuation.
The divested potshards and undigested grains of Anatolian and Mesopotamian archaeology reflect that change. With storage came settlement, enclosure, irrigation, prosperity, proprietorship, the development of the identifying seals of that proprietorship and ultimately, in a rational sequence, writing. It was called civilization.
The new writing recorded a mythology of great journeys but the transhumance society that created that mythology was soon corralled by the sovereign proprietor’s desire to manipulate the seasons and the commerce of those seasons. The annual inundation of the Nile was monitored and anticipated. The Pharaohs entrusted chancellors, like Joseph, to stock and control the large storage grain silos that allowed those same sovereign proprietors to ride out the savage intent of seasonal disappointment. Furthermore, and deliberate in its intent to suppress a notion of seasonal freedom, the early Greek civilisers took it upon themselves to name those same Seasons, children of Zeus and Themis, as Peace, Order and Justice.
Given this new agenda and a new architecture of ritual enclosure, transhumance communities were forced to settle. These settled communities then split into the citizens, who spoke the language within, and the barbarians – literally the tongue-tied – without, who couldn’t. That distinction alone became enough of a justification for slavery. Transhumance and its reliance on memory and duty fell fowl of the new civilizations' ‘reasoned’ legislative and restrictive language of obligation.
Obligation to whom, it might be asked.
In time recollections distorted and Truth suffered. Human society, as Nietzsche pointed out, no longer saw itself as the product of a history of errors made but was in fact was the result of a mysterious secret and powerful prescription. Chaos was irrational and dangerous. The druids and the priests appropriated this ‘so-called’ secret from the wise - who knew better - and interpreted its Truth as they saw fit for the people. In time this loss of Truth, already a distant memory, was capitalised on – the term capitalists originally referred to the seasonal sheep drovers of Arles in Southern France – by those who saw profit in that loss. The barterers of the new truths became the lead members and garrison commanders of society.
Further transhumance became an embarrassment and a reflection of primitive irrational failure rather than mankind’s first great achievement. Journey’s end was usually civilization’s ghettos of segregation and isolation and what Michel Foucault determined to be the inexorable development of the all-pervasive and restrictive gridlock of our present existence and experience – the Grid. Society, and by extension society’s institutions, promoted defined spaces for individuals so that those individuals could be controlled primarily and segregated if necessary; particularly if they happened to be barbarians and did not speak the language – in the broadest sense - of their controllers.
In exploring the notion, and promotion, of segregation and isolation we have only to consider how health care, justice and information are delivered within present day society.
As one of the first ideas, and earliest ideal conceptions, the health care of transhumance quickly got lost in the labyrinthine language of the ghettos. Hospitals, from their earliest beginnings in the Asclepieion of Greece, to the Valetudinaria of Rome, the Xenones of Byzantium, to the bimaristans of the Umayyads, to the lazaretto and Hospitaller templates of medieval and modern monoliths, became the deliberately smug encapsulation of all that ‘progress’. They, like the values they reflect, are held up as proof positive of our evolution and are allowed to milk most of the economic applause of society. They are the gridlock par excellence.
The physicians of gagged obligation and self-interest have displaced Immanuel Kant’s metaphysicians of reason and duty. Within the grid, enormous hierarchical empowerment has the facility to both mine and countermine the ethical bedrock and the coalface of health care delivery. Within the grid, individuals, and as a former specialist I include myself in this assessment, are sometimes dazzled by their own importance, and indeed, are sometimes so encouraged in this bedazzlement that they forget what really is important. Present day health care delivery thrives on the notion of prioritisation. Sectional interests predominate and the duty of care to the transhumance barbarians, those people outside the grid, whom are everything we once all were, is ignored.
Prioritisation is the fundamental principal, and flaw, of the Grid.
Justice fares little better. Prisons are what Hospitals are. Courts determine the priority. Despite attempts to return to the basic values of transhumance by promoting the concept of human rights and human rights legislation, most of that legislation has been defined within the constraints of the Grid where obligation transcends duty. The sovereign proprietors barter ratification of legislation.
The original language of duty applied to all humanity was a transparent intuitive language of the open ground of human interaction. The language and legislation of obligation, the language that determines our present day lives, has been defined in camera, in an enclosure safe from ‘irrational’ barbarian interpretation. It is a language demanded and expected from the judiciary, by the camerarii – the chancellors of the Grid. It is a hidden language, a perpetuation of druidic interpretation. Its bedrock is an assumed notion of having a unique understanding of the Truth and that same bedrock’s only purpose is to support the foundations of the Grid. Precedent is lauded as that Truth and its values are determined by those druids who can best manipulate the language of obligation and the compensation for that obligation. Priority is given to the ideal result rather than the ideal conception.
Precedent is not the Truth, it is a perpetuation of previous priority.
Because of this prioritisation, because of this flaw, unless there is a renewal, justice will never serve the interests of the barbarian or indeed, humanity. A new or renewed language is required.
Information dispersal and the technology of that dispersal is also a unique and fascinating aspect of modern day life. The Internet, originally threatening to the camerarii of the Truth, has now been recaptured into the Grid. Initially overwhelmed by the transhumance freedom of the concept, the priority now – as exemplified by the containment of astronomical data - is to encapsulate the huge amount of information available within defined grid cells, where seekers and researchers can access but also can be observed and controlled. The internet has become Netlock. Civilization has once again reemployed the Seasons of Peace, Order and Justice.
To what end? Transhumance and its intuition will never go away. Today, economic transhumance of a frightening scale still occurs, but it is no longer across open ground. It is driven not by seasonal rains but by the winds of war, depravation, cruelty, greed and absence of reason. It is found, in the suffocating airlessness of a wrongly sheparded road container, in the hostile repulsive seas of a continent once emboldened by the hopes and aspirations of previous migrants, in the vacant drug-extinguished eyes of transported sex workers, and in the hearts of ‘civilized’ men whose language has lost its voice.
Today’s transhumance retains a hope of expectation, yet that expectation flounders on the prioritisation of the Grid, where the language of Truth is denied to the newcomer, because we have forgotten what the Truth is.
The Truth is Freedom.
Kant said of ‘freedom’ that it is an ideal conception, which can never be comprehended or understood. Because nothing, including precedent or prioritisation, can explain it or support its Will then nothing remains except its defence. We must remove objections to Freedom rather than impose defined grids of justification. For the sake of all transhumance, let us ignore the prioritisations of Peace, Order and Justice and extend the Good Will of Freedom for its own sake alone.
Young grandson Leon and myself.
By luck rather than design, and it is something that I appreciate with every breath I take, I have that Freedom.
It is nearly March, the month that I migrate... somewhere.
My next blog will be when I return from wherever that journey takes me.