The stranger

Below is part of a text I wrote in somebody's scrapbook at Orkut, it's inspired by the Derrida reading group, by what Derrida writes about the stranger in "About hospitality".

In his book "About hospitality", Derrida describes how strangers / outsiders have a clearer view on a society than insiders. We have got so much used to what we see all the time around us, that we cannot really look at it anymore. When a stranger enters a city - Derrida refers to the Greek stories of the Sofist and Oedipus - he isn't familiar with the collective dogma's and social codes that apply in the city. The law of the city doesn't apply to the stranger, because he doesn't know that law so he can't be expected to obey to it. The stranger finds everything strange in that city, because it looks completely different from the city where he comes from. So he starts to ask questions: why do you do that like that? He talks about all the taboos
that the inhabitants never talk about. He puts everything into question, he puts every stone upside down. Maybe the people in that city, especially the leaders, will be afraid of this stranger who puts everything upside down. But if they can manage not to be afraid, they can learn a lot from the stranger. To think dogmatic and automatically is dangerous, because you simplify a world which is in fact complex, you deny the nature of the reality. You have to use power to force people to keep believing in simplicity and not to criticize the dogma's. This power/force is totalitarian. The stranger is the one who can break through these powers, who can make people look with new eyes.

In reply, my friend said: "At least it's clear that "foreign" is not a geographical term. It's just an attitude."
And then I continued with:

That's something that I find a really interesting thing, that "foreign" is not a geographical term. Later I would like to discuss the difference between Heideggerian enrootedness and Derrida's ethics of hospitality, the desire to
welcome a stranger no matter where he comes from.

The thing is - what I was thinking about a lot the last days - that I have always felt like a stranger, an outsider, someone who doesn't fit in his surroundings. I have felt it like this as long as I can remember. And that while there is no reason I can think of why I should have this feeling of being different from the people around me, of not belonging in my surroundings. I didn't come from far away, I am still at the ground where I was born, where my roots are. I don't look different or behave different from the people around me. So why does it feel then as if I am a stranger / outsider?

At highshool I found it terrible that I thought that I couldn't be the same as my classmates.
Now I don't care anymore, I accept myself the way I am and I don't care if people around me are different.

But I think that my desire to travel, to discover other cultures and to meet people from different cultures - like here at Orkut and in the international youth exchanges that I organise - that the reason why I like these intercultural meetings so much is because when different cultures come together, we are all strangers. When everybody is different and everybody is far away from home, I am a stranger among strangers, not an outsider among insiders.

That's the true idea of being a world citizen I think


And here's Supertramp with "Goodbye Stranger":

It was an early morning yesterday
I was up before the dawn
And I really have enjoyed my stay
But I must be moving on

Like a king without a castle
Like a queen without a throne
I'm an early morning lover
And I must be moving on

Now I believe in what you say
Is the undisputed truth
But I have to have things my own way
To keep me in my youth

Like a ship without an achor
Like a slave without a chain
Just the thought of those sweet ladies
Sends a shiver through my veins

You can laugh at my behavior
That'll never bother me
Say the devil is my savior
But I don't pay no heed

And I will go on shining
Shining like brand new
I'll never look behind me
My troubles will be few

Goodbye stranger it's been nice
Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true

Goodbye Mary, Goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain

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