The fear of motion in sedentary societies

Basile Samel
Nov 17, 2018 · 2 min read

This post is part of my 200 words per day challenge that I am sharing publicly on Twitter in order to improve my writing and develop a writing routine. Feel free to join and comment.

When sedentism began, the growth of the rural towns induced raising taxes and choosing tribe leaders to facilitate the management of those new communities. Those sedentary populations used nomads to trade with each others (caravans) or to wage wars (mercenaries).

However, nomads are often cast aside as asocial and lunatic, as their incessant movements seem to point to, and sedentaries fear potential attacks orchestrated by those nomadic populations. Fear creates a craving for safety. Cities instaure new security measures: warriors, ramparts, walls, fortified buildings, and even armies. This is how states were born: an attempt at survival, but more importantly an attempt at keeping their ‘rightful wealth’ secured (away from nomads).

In the Roman empire, motion frightens. People have to be contained, fed and distracted to decrease the entropy they create: panem et circenses. As a last resort, nomads (historical nomads and populations who are forced to moved due to poverty or war) are locked up in prisons or expelled. Nomads living outside of the city-state, like the Huns, must be monitored to prevent their attacks. But they will eventually manage to take over Rome.

During Middle-Age, the plague becomes the perfect illustration of a nomad illness targeting sedentaries. The fear of the outsider is real, and universal. New state apparatuses appear, the hospital, to contain the old and the sick. Under feudal regimes similar to France, the past is considered as barbaric and intellectual movements (intellectual nomadism) are frowned upon. Those who move are terrifying — artists, scientists, philosophers, explorers, bandits, beggars — because they are subversive and go against the “public order”.

Nomadism is all about the transgression of values. A practice of non-conformism shoving the institutions and the established throughout history, and till today.

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