Escape is thrilling: the wind rushing through your hair as you scarper as quickly as possible, resisting the temptation to look back to see if they’ve found your note yet.
It can be an unbeatable high. But it can also be the most reasonable, economical and practical course of action.
Not that you’d necessarily know it. We’re not generally encouraged to see commitments to things like work or shopping as the traps they are and as such escapable. British culture instead promotes endurance, to grin and bear it no matter how bored or miserable you are. American culture encourages fight over flight, to go down with all guns blazing.
There aren’t enough people saying “Sod this. I’m getting out of here. Pass me the good tunnelling spoon.”
Those who give up and walk out are too often considered cowardly, uncommitted or, oh dear, “a quitter”. The pupil escaping double maths by playing truant is punished. Those who escape the workforce are considered lazy or wasted or eccentric. Emigrants are viewed with suspicion, though their only crime was to stray from the landmass they happened to be born on.
This is all rather silly. We should respect people who take action by quitting the jobs they hate, leaving the partners they no longer love, fleeing the cities they find depressing, and abandoning traditions in which they find no value.
The will to flee was once considered a mental illness. Drapetomania was the apparent madness responsible for a plantation slave wanting to escape his captors. An American physician called Samuel A. Cartwright named the condition and explained that it could be seen where a slave became “sulky and dissatisfied without cause” and could be prevented by “whipping the devil out of them”.
In his eyes, being forced into backbreaking unpaid servitude was not considered adequate cause for “dissatisfaction”.
The Nazis were anti-escape too. Those who attempted (or were thought to be plotting) escape from concentration camps were branded with a Fluchtverdächtiger badge in addition to the badge representing whatever crime against Fascism had originally brought them to the camp. Not only was it awful to be born Jewish or gay or simply workshy, it was equally contemptible to want to escape being worked to death or gassed.
Today, a CV overflowing with short-term or dissimilar jobs is seen as unprofessional or belonging to an unfocused, undisciplined individual rather than, as the case may be, someone who is sporting or widely-experienced. Frankly, a CV professing no deviation from a single career plan can only belong to a liar or a twat but employers don’t often seem to notice this.
Slave owners, Nazis and HR Managers. Those are the kinds of people who oppose escape.
Against the grain, some of us are happy to walk out on a displeasing situation. We’re Escapologists.