Sunday, March 14, 2010
I've been intending to post about this film since I saw it last weekend, but then a 3 day headache intervened and I've not done much at all since Wednesday (right now, Freedom to me would be a headache-free life!) I love the synchronicity of Blogland...Richard Jesse Watson was musing about freedom and gypsies last week, about what the gypsy life represents to those of us who are not gypsies, though perhaps, deep down in our child-heart, we wish we were. And then I had the opportunity to see Tony Gatlif's latest film 'Liberte'. Tony Gatlif has made some truly marvelous films ('Lachto Drom' is another favourite of mine) about the Romany people, their way of life and their struggle to keep that way of life alive against huge odds. This film was no exception, set in occupied France during Word War II, it concerned the edicts that prevented gypsies from living their traditional nomadic life, and giving them no other alternative, were used as excuses to round them up and put them into camps. Somewhere between 250 000 and 500 000 perished in Nazi camps. It is the story of one family, and the people of one small village who tried to help them. But it also deals with the ingrained prejudice that gypsies have experienced, and continue to experience.
It's something that I have wondered about, on and off. And not just with gypsies, but any people who are nomadic. We like things to be 'fixed' don't we? We like to know what's what, and that what's here today will still be here tomorrow. And people who move don't fit. We build our walls and mark our boundaries, on this side it's US and on that side it's THEM...but people who move across borders like rivers, who don't respect the lines we arbitrarily inscribe on maps, are, like rivers, uncontrollable. And like rivers, unpredictable...which of course makes them scary and different too. And so the gypsy, the traveller, the tinker, the tramp, the nomad, the homeless person...become the bogey men we scare children with. These people from other places who we can never get to know, never learn to see beyond the stereotypes because they're gone so soon, having been somewhere we've probably never been, heading for somewhere else we'll never go...because we're stuck. Which leads me to what I think is possibly the deeper reason for so much prejudice, beyond all the beliefs about being thieves, or racist ideas about 'brown-skin', or prejudices and ignorance based simply on different culture or language or being 'civilised' (whatever that might mean). It's envy. People have always been chained to one place for one reason or another; work, family, landlords, bosses whatever. But in this day and age, we accumulate so much STUFF because apparently that's how we show we've 'arrived' (though from where I don't know), and all this accumulation becomes a kind of chain around our ankles too, though we tell ourselves we have so much freedom (freedom to buy more stuff, perhaps?) So we can't just GO...we have responsibilities, we have to be at work on Monday, there's a meeting we can't miss, bills to be paid. And though I'm sure most of the time we are happy, we have so much to be thankful for, and being out in the freezing cold sleeping rough is not something you wish for when you're tucked up under the quilt in your own cosy bed...but sometimes we're not. Sometimes we do get the urge to just go...leave this crazy world and throw a pack over our shoulder and just walk away, walk to the next town, be someone new and different. Know that everything you own or need is in the bag on your back, that you don't need all that other stuff to be YOU. It's a hard, hard life and most of us couldn't cut it, but for many of us, the word 'gypsy' itself is synonymous with our most cherished and romantic notions of freedom. Something that is becoming harder and harder to find in our digital, plastic, CCTV world. And so, we still often punish those who dare to live like that despite all obstacles, because deep down, we wish we had their courage.
Posted by A mermaid in the attic at 4:28 PM