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Monday, July 22, 2024
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Let’s celebrate Gambia’s trailblazing psychogeorgrapher: Step foward Besenty Gomez

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By Amadou Camara

Camera, flash, action. Let the show begin. The curtains can be lifted. The invited guest can flex their bodies. Nay, their legs. To sing shanties. For the fete of our hero. The outlier in our midst, who has distinguished himself by displaying a depth of deep consciousness matched by faithful few in any society, community, country and continent. Following a well-carved out, well-trodden and well-torched path by thinkers, though leaders and change-makers – such as philosophers of yore like Fredrick Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Emmanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau inter alia – the walking philosophers. Who is the mysterious hero, riding on the coattail of these great men? I hear you ask my imaginary interlocutor. Ah. Drumroll, drumroll, drumroll. You may have already got whiff of him. The great Gambian geezer: step forward Besenty Gomez. Before the foghorn blast to ear-numbing decibel, let me play the role of compere to introduce to you why the soirée was organized for our August hero. Besenty is a Nietzscherian “Ubermensch”, a Superman, who has overcome himself, reaching, in the process, the highest form of virtue and nobility – Aristotlian “Eudiamonia” – the highest form of happiness, joy. In this case, through Psychogeorgraphy. The term Pyschogeorgraphy is portmanteau of the words psychology and geography. It describes a situation where one wanders within a geographical space, armed only with mind, matter, body and soul, mapping surroundings. You would have seen pictures on his social media feed that Besenty has been touring towns, cities, hamlets and villages in Gambia on foot as a “flaneur” – a wanderer – on a “derive”, drifting across the bucolic landscape of Gambia’s countryside. The untrained eye may think that he has lost his marbles. But, he is a man ahead of his time. He is an extraordinary thinker. More prized than prize-winning, Besenty is a valuable seer, not a puerile prize-purser. Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright and dandy fop, defined a cynic as someone who “knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” Besenty is a living repudiation and rebuke of both the phenomenon (the idea) and noumenon (the thing itself). There are many benefits to what he is doing, and trying to accomplish, drawing on the physical (exercise), psychological (liberating his mind), geographical (connecting with space), spiritual (involving deep thinking) and philosophical (rooted in wisdom). I am myself a fanatic flaneur. During my spare times, I walk on foot on the streets in Knoxville, Tennessee in the USA. Predominately a motorist state, I pose as a pedestrian scanning, and scoping, how the place is changing. In the modern world, we live in a Society of the Spectacle, to use Guy Debord’s phrase of the cupidity and stupidity societies have been turned into by a material-driven, consumption-obsessed and a callow-minded world. Effectively telling people: live, consume and die. What a macabre, meaningless and soulless life that is! To rise above such capitalists death spiral, the French Situationist, a groupsucle of Marxist-inspired intellectuals, in 1957 came together to hatch a plan to break free from the shackles and constraints of capitalism, its alienating capacity of the Man-Machine-Matrix and the mental depressions and anxieties accompanying it. It was from the vortex of these embers that Pyschogeorgraphy was born. Debord and his acolytes would “derive” (drift) across France, as “Flaneur” (wanderers), knowing that bipedal stroll, meaning thinking-walking/walking-thinking on foot, instead of using a car, train or airplane, gives you only location, and no orientation. It’s like using modern GPS (Global Positioning System) – for those familiar with using GPS on your phone when trying to circumnavigate your way around in Western countries. It takes you to a place – location – without giving you a broad overview of how you are getting there – orientation. That is why for Pyschogeorgraphers, like Besenty, space and place are inextricably linked. Location to them is an end to the means of an actual orientation of a place. Pounding pavements, or casually strolling between different places, give one a better understanding of human relationship with nature. It’s the best way to connect the political with the personal; the spiritual with the social; and the economic with the existential. Because by drifting, walking, you see human evolution around nature in all its minutiae vignettes. Such is the significance of Pyschogeorgraphy that it is taught in Western universities today. One such lecturer is Will Self, a professor of contemporary thought at Brunel University, located in South London. A persistent Pyschogeorgrapher himself, Will would wank his way around London – from Ladbroke Grove going into inner and outer London on foot, familiarizing himself with the ever-changing landscape of the British capital. A psychogeorgrapher per excellence – he is the modern day heir to the English writer Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), another fan of Psychogeorhaphy, and Iain Sinclair – Will’s trilogy of novels Shark, Umbrella and Phone, explores three overarching themes humanity has been grappling with in the post-war era: war (in Shark), nuclear weapons (in Umbrella) and mental illness (in Phone). Since 1945, the world is designed in such a way that we humans are living in a “double bind”. Which presents us with invidious choices. Because power, wealth and opportunity are hoarded by so few that, within few minutes of realizing that all his lost, they would just press a nuclear button, sparking Armageddon. Russia, Ukraine, Palestine, Iran, Israel, North Korea, anyone? Or to channel my inner Will Self, the “double bind” we are living in is like a mother yelling at her child ‘I love you’, tinged with a mixture of hatred and anxiety for the grim possible faith that may befall the child in the “double bind” world we live in today. You need escape. Psychogeorgraphy offers a temporal relief. The best advertisement of the joy, excitement and the curiosity-tickled of Pyschogeorgraphy was Patrick Keiller’s trilogy documentaries (available on Amazon Prime), London (1994), Robison in Space (1997) and Robinson in Ruins (2010). It captures the gradual evolution of London in particular – and the United Kingdom by extension – and how, over time, London had changed from corporate capitalism to techostructure, ushering in present day techofeudalism, as described by the former Greek Finance Minister and preeminent Leftist economist, Yanis Varoufakis. Where our technofedual lords – Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla and X (formerly Twitter) and Mark Zuckerberg of Meta – draw rents from our cloud capital from their platforms. A dystopian future, indeed. It’s the nightmare of any freedom-loving person. Schopenhauer, the German philosopher of pessimism (who dignoised the human condition near-accurately in his seminal work The World As Will and Representation/Idea), said that we are only free as human beings when we are alone. The Iris poet, William Butler Yates, illuminated on the variation of the same theme when he said reading is the social act of a solitary man. If that is the case, then we can add writing, and walking as the social act of a solitary man. So, folks, Besenty has cottoned on to a deep idea: Pyschogeorgraphy. He deserve to be celebrated. He is opening up a Brave New World for people who want to see the world differently. From Brikhama to Wuli he walks, meets people along the way, buzzes them with the Besenty benediction, spreads love, embraces their cultures and traditions, steeps himself in the quiddity of their quotidian lives. All done with pumping out positive words of motivations and inspirations from the self-help books he carries with him, like his guide on the road to redemption. And what is not to be liked about his sartorial style. Clad in his Gambian flag color garbs, he is a modern day practical philosopher, who have shunned, deliberately, the pale, stale and staid Society of the Spectacle. He is a wiseguy. It used to be said that classical philosophers used to be in their garrets thinking, writing and publishing until they withered in the vine. There is a walking philosopher in Besenty, who, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (the philosopher in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, who descended from the mountains to rescue the masses from the ignorance, insolence and self-indulgence), is a walking wisdom. His personal life, suffused with the stoic virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom, displayed during his long-walks, are values and principles Gambia and Gambians need in abundance at a personal level. Because, it is only by inculcating and acting on these values that we can build a stable, stronger, freer, fairer, prosperous country at the national level!

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