Wednesday, 30 January 2008

God Speed Saoirse

Today, the 60th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Saoirse, set off from Bristol to walk to Porbander in India. He is travelling without money and will rely solely on the hospitality of those he meets en route. Saoirse is a freeconomist, committed to building a community based on love and mutual service as opposed to money and credit.

My reactions to this modern day pilgrimage are very mixed: admiration for his courage, hope for his success, fear for his safety, scepticism for his idealism, but mostly envy for his implicit faith in the intrinsic goodness of humanity. I hope for all our sakes he makes it.
You can follow Saoirse's progress at


  1. Dear Gareth

    I hardly ever go anywhere but, on Friday, by chance, I went to visit Sherbourne Abbey.

    I was travelling with a friends and, on our way back to Weymouth(via Yeovil and Dorchester) we passed someone who I now realise must have been Saoirse -trudging along beside the road.

    I wish I had known already who he was and what he is doing.

    I've taken a brief look at his blog and website and see that one of the people who inspired him is Satish Kumar - who I first came across when I was a student.

    Although most of the people who have left comments on Saoirse' blog are supportive, one contributor is very cynical about someone from the rich west plannning to sponge on the poor of the third world.

    I'm really stuck . . . it is failure to say 'you either understand a pilgrimage like this or you don't' but I can't get further than that!

    I'm glad I now know about this man's walk and hope it goes well. I can't even explain why I find the knowledge uplifting . . . but I do!


  2. Heard Saoirse being interviewed on the radio this morning, after his return.

    Have you given up blogging?


  3. No Susan, I haven't given up. Just haven't had the time to put my thoughts down online.

    Re Saoirse, I have been following his progress and was disappointed, although not altogether surprised, to read that he had given up. I heard him on Today the other morning and then saw him on a BBC local news programme last evening.

    I don't believe he anticipated the obstacles he faced on his pilgrimage. Communication with the locals in the countries he walked through should have been fairly close to the top of the list and if he had problems with French I don't know how he thought he would cope with some of the more exotic languages he would meet further east.

    I think he made a (fully understandable) mistake in agreeing to let first one, and then another, pilgrim join him on his journey. Not only did it double, then treble, the amount of support he required, but it also made him less vulnerable and more threatening to those he met on his way. I can well understand how strangers would look upon them as a group of freeloaders, hoping to take advantage of people's generosity to enable them to travel the world.

    Despite the gloss Saoirse, and his suppporters, have given to his decision to turn back and head for home, I am afraid that he has probably done his cause more harm than good. He has demonstrated that it is probably not possible, if even justifiable, to seek to live off the good will of other people. And while I agree that money and all that it entails can get in the way of human relationships, it is not 'money' itself, but 'the love of money' that is to blame. Maybe it's a cop out but the sensitive use of wealth is just as effective, and just as much of a challenge, as the philisophy of freeconomy.

    My, I have gone on a bit. I like Saoirse and hope his recent experiences will be of use to him in the future.