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The Ideal Man
Oliver Moor reflects on the true meaning of 'have means will travel' .

The now-traditional May Day protests have been and gone, and in London, at least, there was little trouble apart from the odd broken window and bloody nose. Soon the idea of anti-capitalism will be forgotten once more. London will return to making money. The protestors will return to their squats, or their public school dormitories, and dream of next year when, yet again, they will go through the whole charade. Until then they, and their anti-capitalist message, will be forgotten.

"Forgotten" is perhaps the wrong word: it assumes that anyone had any real idea of what anti-capitalism was really about in the first place. The whole problem with this protest is that it doesn’t really know what it wants. It seems to really be nothing more than a gathering of Utopists. The protestors – the less intelligent ones – are impossibly idealistic. They want to make the world into the usual sort of hippy heaven, or at least a place where everyone lolls around smoking large quantities of exotic cigarettes – the usual harmless nonsense. The more clever and cruel ones, of course, view the entire event as a battle and plan for it like First World War Generals, poring over A-Zs for months, and generally standing at the back shouting orders while the poor bloody dope-smoking infantry get hit over the head with truncheons.

Yesterday the event ended in stalemate: Ypres replayed on Oxford Street for the tourists. And like Ypres, many of the protestors – the idealists – will have left feeling disillusioned. Sure, they must be asking themselves, we closed down London – or part of it – for a day, but what about the rest of the year? And is fighting the police really a way to make our dreams of peace a reality? Our leaders don’t really seem to have peace in mind. Should they even be worth following? If not, who can we turn to? Who should be the new Idealist’s Champion? Is there anyone on earth suitable?
The answer, of course, is no. There is no-one on earth suitable. The man for the job is up in space at the moment. But he should be back next week.

Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, is the ultimate idealist. Unfortunately for the protestors, he’s also probably the ultimate capitalist, which is certain to rankle with them. But they shouldn’t be so ungracious as to let a few hundred million bucks get in the way of a man who so obviously fits the bill. Apart from being gutwrenchingly wealthy, Tito has exactly the right credentials. He doesn’t care what the authorities (in this case NASA) think of him. He doesn’t want to do any work up there. He just wants a "great buzz", which the Soyuz launch provided him with, and a window in the corner so he can look at the pretty blue globe. And best of all, he just wants to float around. Trippy!
Dennis Tito in flight

A lot has been made of the fact that NASA don’t want him there. They consider him an opportunist, a man who has bought himself what he wants, and a man who is not qualified to travel into space. He isn’t even allowed to sue them if he dies, which is about the most draconian – even un-American -- position they could have taken. But Tito is not a man to let mere legal wranglings over his death get in the way. He has dreamed of this flight since the mid 1950’s, and nothing is going to stop him. It seems to many people that $20 million is a lot to pay for a week’s trip – but if the fact that he’s willing to pay it doesn’t make him an idealist then I don’t know what does. Tito is not a man who is going to contribute to space science. He isn’t going to repair the Hubble, or walk on another planet. But he is a man who is willing to pay more than what, for most, would be a lifetime’s wages, just to look out the window and watch the world go by. And for a man to have been driven to such phenomenal financial success, simply by the desire to float around in a little capsule with a bunch of Russians, is quite wonderful. Not only an idealist, but an internationalist idealist. Even better. Everyone living together in peace and harmony, not doing very much (Nasa have a problem with some computer hardware and have apparently given everybody the week off); what better example could there be for the young, or not-so-young, idealist?

There’s even an outside chance that some of the world’s great capitalist tyrants may meet their doom because of his groundbreaking activities. Tito will undoubtedly start a trend of the very rich and very famous wanting to take the ultimate trip. Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Ted Turner – perhaps they’ll all be queueing up to take future flights. What the anti-capitalists will be hoping for is a higher incidence of launch pad "accidents" than there otherwise might have been to really put the icing on the cake.

Perhaps it’s worth trying. At times the lambs must allow the lion to lie down amongst them. Even if they can’t rid the world of capitalism, they’ll have just the man they need to advise them on the best place to invest their benefit money. That way, when they grow out of protesting, they’ll have something to fall back on.

© Oliver Moor 2001

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