Filed under: brave new world | Tags: america, greed, hobo, identity, money, myth, Native Indian, theft
In the following excerpt from an interview with author Luc Sante is a wonderful view of the relationship between being free and being a criminal. Very topical, don’t you think, with all the free criminals running around? — and also running things, come to think of it.
It describes a lonely American journey to – I’m not quite sure, fulfillment perhaps. The journey begins with an act of radical emancipation from the world and identity. The new blank slate allows the sojourner to establish a completely new and infinitely more desirable identity. In theory and lore it ends there with the traveler having left behind his ignominious past and realizing his dream of fantastic wealth and honor and bad taste.
But the journey rarely ends as the theory describes it – the dream of riches and happiness. Rather the journey that began in delusion ends in despair.
We all want a good life and some of us more than others. In all of us is a need to hide the ugly qualities and remake ourselves so we present well to the people we want to love us. For some of us the tendency to remake ourselves unnaturally is evident in small insignificant transparent correctable doses. For others the tendency is a cancer that grows large and overtakes the soul.
Here is the excerpt from the Believer interview with Luc Sante, the Belgian American author of Low Life and Kill All Your Darlings.
BLVR: Are you saying that going on the lam is consistent with an American ideal that we can constantly move, escape, get a fresh start, begin a new life somewhere else? Is there a romanticization of criminals that the culture embraces? That criminals may be the last truly free men?
LS: Well, think about it: the founding myth of this country involves pushing farther and farther out into terra incognita, cutting ties to family and background, maybe adopting a new name and a completely concocted new identity, and somehow making lots of money, the existence of which in sufficient quantity is enough to stifle any questions about its provenance. The land that formerly belonged to the Sioux, the copper that formerly belonged to the Navaho, the skins that formerly belonged to the beavers, the stake that formerly belonged to the miner who caught diphtheria—they’re yours now, pal. Call yourself “Colonel” and declare that your fortune was left to you by Dutch burghers from the seventeenth century. Now you’re a solid citizen, the embodiment of hard work and rugged individualism. You’re no criminal. The criminal is the guy who comes up short, who gets caught, who fails to adopt a respectable cover. But after a while the solid citizen gets to missing those wild years, even as he is ensconced in his forty-room Carrera-marble Beaux-Arts palace on upper Fifth Avenue. He thinks wistfully of how he used to hop freights, sleep in culverts, drink white lightning in hobo jungles, take a sash-weight to his competitors, go through the pockets of the recently dead. He envies those who live that life now denied him forevermore. It seems to him that he’s a prisoner of his own success and that those yeggs out there are truly free.
~Believer interview with Luc Sante
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