# 9 (2014) The Naked Rambler – Freedom Fighter or Lost Soul?
Although I had never followed his case particularly closely I was always under the impression (because of the amount of coverage he receives in the naturist press) that his cause was about the right to walk naked wherever we went.
But as I watched I realised this wasn’t the case at all. That his nudity has caused offence in some quarters and provoked the wrath of the authorities is not the be all and end all of his protest. It is not the reason why he does it.
Stephen Gough comes from a small town in Hampshire. He became a Marine, then a hippie and then a father. His lack of stability in his adult life thanks to his wanderlust, suggests he is a free spirit of sorts and that he is a protester, the kind of person always willing to stand up and be counted.
But I wondered, had his nudity not provoked the response it did, would he be persisting in walking his way round the UK ‘eau naturale’? If painting himself orange and wearing a deerstalker hat got him arrested, would he be doing that instead? Was it purely the fact that nudity got his cause for freedom noticed that kept him stripping for all the world to see? And was he doing it for his own rights, or those of everyone around him or purely for the attention? I found it telling that he only ever stripped naked when he was out and about, never at home, or in between protest walks. And I wondered if this was his mechanism rather than his cause.
To some it won’t matter. Certainly he is publicising naturism as a way of life so to speak. Whether you see that as good publicity or not is your take on it. But what if one day he got up, left his home naked and noone took any notice of him. What if the police stopped arresting him. What if noone cared anymore. Would he persist? Or would he find something else.
More and more what I saw in Stephen Gough wasn’t a freedom fighter or a naturist (ie someone who doesn’t have any hangups about the naked body) but a lost soul. A fragile creature looking for that ‘thing’ that justified his existence. No doubt his past experiences have had an impact on how he sees the world – from military restriction to the responsibility free life of a hippie commune.
I thought about other people who’d had that same aimless wanderlust and particularly of Christopher McCandless who first turned his back on the world he knew at the age of 18. He went on endless road trips in silent protest at what he saw as the materialism of society – a backlash against his privileged middle class upbringing. There was never any press interest in him however. At least, not until the end.
McCandless never quite found whatever he was looking for. He eventually died of exposure and possibly poisoning in the Alaskan wilderness at the age of 24.
I wondered what would happen to Gough if people stopped taking any notice of the fact that he was naked. Would he find something else to represent, or would he go back to Hampshire and try to pick up the pieces of the life he abandoned 7 years ago? And would that break him and his belief in who he was. He looks as if that at any point if the cause for his existence was taken away he would not know what to do.
We all need a purpose in life. Whether it’s just to raise a family, fight for animals, write a book, run a business or thrill seek by putting out lives in perpetual danger. We all need to have that something that keeps driving us forward. Because if you don’t have that ‘something’ what’s the point? Why are we here? What is our job on this planet if we simply wander around clogging up the environment and eating our way through the last of the world’s natural resources?
What if one day you woke up and that drive was gone? What would you do? It’s a terrifying thought because I don’t know what I’d do without my belief in who I am.
Without it, why are we here?