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Rites of Passage in Richmond Virginia

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Rites of Passage in Richmond, Virginia

“I think it’s very comforting to be able to say that we’ve got the same old problems: we’ve got war, we’ve got poverty. That way we don’t have to see the main problem – if you want to call it that – is that people are free all of a sudden; they’re rich and they’re fat and they’re free.”
-Tom Wolfe

‘I love freedom, Gouriewa, and I didn’t find freedom among our libertarians.’

‘Well, of course not. We’re not free. We’re only humble workers for future freedom.’

‘I use to think that too, once upon a time, But now it seems to me that it would be far better if everyone just took all moral, intellectual and material liberties now, from today onwards, regardless of the sanctions of modern society. Let each individual emancipate him or herself! General emancipation won’t come any other way. . .’
– Isabelle Eberhardt’s Vagabond

Richmond, Virginia was a surprise. For I did not know that there was such a vibrant, energetic, community oriented, and, yes, livable city on the east coast of the USA. Richmond Virginia is an awesome place. I made some good friends there and had some good times.

I entered Richmond by Chinatown bus from Washington DC last month. It was near mid-night and I was waiting for some friends to pick me up. They did. We went to a party.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Bangor, Maine, USA- December 2, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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I did not really find many people to talk to at the party. Sometimes I am a little awkward around people – I tend to either play alpha-male or I abscond completely to the social exterior. I absconded on this occasion, as the house was full of young people with ideas – they seemed to concern themselves with affecting political and social change – and I realized that it would not be to my advantage to let them know that I was not a part of their club. I despise politics in any form, I hate the manifestations of liberalism and conservatism with equal passion, and I can only be intrigued and entertained by the rash ignorance of radicals on either side of the line.

So I rode out the wave of the party just drinking beer and trying not to be burned as a witch. I was not burned. Good.

It is funny to me how group dynamics breed ignorance. As soon as right and wrong are defined as black and white, as soon as there is an “us” and a “them,” it is time for me to see my way out. It is my impression that being part of a group feels good – I was once a part of a similar group as the people at the party and I know that it felt good – but I fear that once this happens it is very easy to change your own idea structure to fit the ideological demands of the group. Groups mean that there is an inside and an outside. I now hope to always remain on the outside. To be a part of a group seems to demand an exercise in self-stupefaction: you exchange your own ideas, feelings, and opinions for that of a community sanctioned identity. I have experienced how ignorant a group ideology can make a person (myself), and I know that I never want to wear any uniform again.

The group, in any form, is the slayer of self-determination.

But the kids at the party were hospitable: they let me drink their beer and seemed to have no real intention of talking with me. So I drank their beer and looked around their house. I scoured their bookshelves, as the place served as a haphazard anarchist library, and found them strewn with books about how the world’s political systems need to be fought and how “liberty” needs to be brought” to the “people.” I laughed as I recognized that I use to read these same books, have these same high ideas, talk the same talk, and pretend to believe the same things.

I realized that I have gotten old. Everyone at the party was younger than me (I am only 27 years old) and it became apparent the anarchist communities are for the young. They are constantly being revitalized with youth as the older kids get too smart, busy, or old to bother themselves with radical politics. This was the same when I was young. I wore the same cloths, said the same slogans, and read the same words as kids did 20 years before me and these kids were doing 10 years after me. What I once took for a revolutionary movement was only youthful revolt at a system at which the young have no real role.

How can adolescents not rebel in the USA? They often hold no real responsibility, are coddled as incompetent, and receive little respect until they are in their late twenties. I rebelled because I faced a society that did not have the convention of treating me up to the level of my competence. I wanted to destroy this society and exert myself over it.

Perhaps the eventual social application of responsibility, role, and respect that one finds in later years are the forces that drive kids to abandon the youthful extravagances of radical politics. Perhaps I find no reason to rebel because I have become, in a very odd sense, a part of the system. Perhaps all of my youthful anarchist friends also abandoned radical politics at the confluence of becoming respected by their society and allowed to have a role.

Friends in Richmond: I was shown great hospitality by a couple of great people and given free reign to haphazardly ponder the paths of youth and the rites of passage of my culture.

It is interesting to me how the ages of “youth” in America has been extended into the late twenties. It is also interesting how the cycle of maturity works in this country: a child is coddled by their parents until they are well into their twenties, they rebel and try to smash all vestiges of their socialization, and then they eventually come back to the culture they scorned and realize the wisdom behind their parents’ lessons. Rebellion is an important stage in the maturity of Americans, as I believe that it is in our character to first smash and destroy in order to be able to pick up the pieces and put them back together. We are taught to test theories for ourselves, and I feel that there is no better way to test something than to challenge it. So I challenged the words of my parents, clawed at their roots, and eventually found them to be full of wisdom.

I cannot say that I have yet came back into the fold, but I can now see that there is a little substance behind the culture in which I was raised.

Rebellion is perhaps one of the most fertile aspects of American culture, it is a rite of passage.

Old train yard in Richmond, Virginia.

Related Pages:
USA- Buffalo NY Friends Anarchy Nostalgia
USA- New Years Eve, Buffalo,NY

Links to previous travelogue entries:

  • Jet Blue Airline Makes Me Angry
  • Work in the USA
  • Enjoy the Journey


Rites of Passage in Richmond, Virginia

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Filed under: Travel Philosophy, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap

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