Sunday, March 14, 2010

Freedom...can mean many different things....

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.


Ruthie Redden said...

Christine, i so want to see this film! I am (as u might have guessed) one of those who feels a gypsy tug deep down in my child heart for the romantic version. The freedom from all that baggage (that i wish i didnt want), the freedom to come & go at will (and yet i yearn for a place to call home). Yet in reality the story down the years of the roma is such a heartwrenching tale isn't it. They are a brave people. x

A mermaid in the attic said...

Ruthie, I hadn't forgotten your red-haired gypsy ;-) ! Yes, I feel the same tug-of-war within myself...I've always been a homebody and I love my little house (though I wish I could pick it up and put it somewhere nicer), and I wonder whether as a white Australian I feel the need to put down real roots into the land more acutely, because I don't quite belong. And yet, at the same time, there is that desire to be able to pack up the ones I love and just...GO...leaving all this trivial and unimportant stuff that we think we need behind. As a child I was lucky enough to experience that in a small way, as my family packed up our little caravan and we did just around Australia for 5 whole months. It was the most marvelous adventure for two kids, we saw more of our nation than most people see in a lifetime, and I have wonderful, wonderful memories of it.

Ruthie Redden said...

Christina, what an amazing journey that must have been for you as children! The nearest i got to a nomadic life style was doing my student bit and living on a peace camp for a while, though it was an amazing experience! But, im still thinking, one day i should love to take off, at least for a wee while x

Judy Martin said...

Thanks for introducing me to this film, Christina.

I'm also interested in your comment above about being a white Australian and not belonging - I was having some of those kinds of feelings yesterday here in Canada as I drove past the Ojibway Cultural Foundation.

Where do I belong then?

Alice in Wonderland said...

I found your blog quite by accident, and I love it! I have always had this bit of Romantic Gypsy thing about myself, and I find that I often get "Itchy Feet" and finding somewhere where I really belong.
Maybe it is something that is inbred in all of us but has been buried so deep down my the material things in life, and our home comforts!
Luckily though, I live really in the wilds of Northern England, just before you get to Scotland, and the heaths are so romantic!
Do you believe in reincarnation?
Strange question, I know! But I'm sure that I have lived another life.
Anyway, I'm going to follow you for a while and see where this journey leads. I am a great believer in spreading your wings and go wherever the wind blows me!
Follow me at:

Wayward Harper said...

So I wrote a nice long comment to this post the other day but then somehow lost it! Argg!
Anyway, just wanted to say that wow, you've summed that up so well, I so agree with you. And thank you for mentioning the movie,I hadn't heard about it until now. I adored Lachto Drom (how great was the music!?), so I'm absolutely going to go see this one :)
There's a book that's a favourite of mine that I though you might like as well - "The Rom - Walking in the Paths of the Gypsies" by Roger Moreau. It's a really fascinating read, all about the origins and history of the gypsies. Cya!

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