Tuesday, September 18, 2001

18 September

Just to send my sympathy, love and concern to all the friends I met on the bike ride... and to let you know that you are in my thoughts.

Thursday, September 13, 2001

13 September 2001

and although this is not really part of a travel update, I felt I should add some thoughts about the events of the past couple of days. Eight years ago I visited New York and went up to the top of the World Trade Centre, as I guess millions of other visitors have done.

It is a very strange thought that this huge icon of the New York skyline is not there.

My journey across America is all the more poignant this week because of the friends I made on the way.. and to them and everyone who I met and who showed me wonderful generosity and interest I send my love and best wishes and hope for a better prospect over the next coming days.

It feels to Americans that they have all been hit personally by the monstrous act of faceless evil.

And I understand their collective pain...

What I learned on my ride and came to appreciate is the unshakeable confidence of America that they are guardians of democracy and freedom on behalf of the rest of the world - so it comes as incomprehensible to American citizens that anyone should want to destroy them.

The tragedy of America is two fold... there is a faith that if everyone in the world embraced american values then the world would be a better place.

but sadly this is the misplaced hubris of all faiths and ideologies - that if only everyone else thought and believed like them, then everything would be all right. And this has sparked the conflicts between jew and gentile, catholic and protestant, fundamentalist and extremist across the world.

The other tragedy of America is that there is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of their society... Americans believe they live in the land of the free, but their freedom is relative and mediated by commercial interests - there is a blindness to the fact that to be able to enjoy freedom of expression over 65 TV channels gives power to the few.

Most americans have not travelled to other countries, have not experienced how other people view America from abroad, and have not experienced how other countries view themselves in the light of a global economy that is dominated by American culture and economic power and self interest.

And in terms of personal freedom, most Americans do not bask in the confidence of a nation at peace with itself.. most americans travel by car, never walk, and cocoon themselves in secure boxes with a weapon in the glove compartment for personal security.. It is one of the most anxious nations as far as personal safety is concerned.

When I visited Mount Rushmore, I was struck by the overt expression of American self confidence, which was expressed in the almost flamboyant, joyous patriotism, the saluting of armed forces veterans and the singing of the anthem as the staues were floodlit and the flag raised. But the self confidence above all was based on the notion that America almost 'owned' the concept of freedom and democracy, almost single handedly developed these notions into concepts to be espoused, and almost held them in trust on behalf of the rest of the world.

America did not and even more so now must believe and understand that it does not hold freedom and democracy in trust for the rest of us. We will, they will, develop these concepts in their own ways and especially with American help in their own interpretaions and based on their own fundamental truths. Overiding, over arching all is the concept of justice.. and the United States with all the amazing resources at its disposal can and must support the establishment of justice and equality in association with others in the West...

It will require leadership and a breadth of vision, and a revision of how America views itself and its role in the world.. It will take time, it will take generosity of spirit, and will take the leadership of people with a wider sense of history.

And I wish all america care and concern as they try to come to terms with their enormous tragedy.