Thursday, September 24, 2015

Shove Thy Neighbor

by Drew Martin
Love Thy Neighbor is always interpreted as an open-armed, peaceful embrace but I have never heard objection to the premise, which is one of land-ownership and material isolation that is bound in the word neighbor. This word does not exist if there is no unnatural division.

I have tried to love my neighbors but there are physical boundaries such as property lines, doors and walls, and cars; and, there other boundaries such as elitism, unsynchable schedules, loaded guns in their closets, and fears. The fears are about losing things that were accumulated and about what life might be like without one's personal bunker - nothing short of Mad Max. So what we then have is a justifiable yet unwarranted prestrike of self-defense: a constant defensive life.

My daughter who is soon to turn 17 recently said to me that humanity ended once people settled down and started developing towns. It is something she read, and it is actually quite true. The compromise of our freedoms starts with land ownership and division of territory, and it leads to slavery, unfair accumulation of wealth and territorial warfare. Sounds awful, but at the same time it is hard for us to imagine what life would be like without the boundaries of time and space.

For the most part, when we speak of nomadic peoples we are discussing ancient humans, or movements that have been extinguished in the past century, such as the shepherds of southern Poland.

Fortunately, for humanity, there are some humans walking the earth, and sleeping in a different spot each night. Each day is more important than the past or future. Fortunately, for us, a young French traveler named Raphael Treza, has documented the Hindu Kalbelias tribe of Rajasthan, North Western India with his film Cobra Gypsies.

At times it feels more like a music video than a documentary, but it is hard to say that Treza romanticizes their lifestyle even though it often reads that way, especially coming from a Westerner, who in one part of the film drums up the European colonist fantasy: to be the first white man these natives have ever seen. 

None-the-less Treza's closeness with and acceptance by the Kalbelias is endearing and, after all, for our voyeuristic benefit. It is more like he presents us with carefree but hardworking nomads in such a raw way that we, ourselves, automatically idealize them. I think this feeling has less to do with the exotic, and more to do with a genuine freedom they have combined with great artistic whims and style.

Watch the full documentary here: