|A scene from the movie|
In the 1980s movie, The Gods must be crazy, a Coke bottle dropped by the careless pilot of a helicopter upsets the lifestyle of a community of people in the Kalahari desert. Xi, a bushman, finds the bottle falling from the sky and he takes it home. For him as for all his people, the bottle is a miracle dropped from the heavens. They begin to use the bottle for various purposes like grinding food, producing music, and creating artistic patterns. Suddenly everyone wants the bottle for one purpose or another.
The bushmen had hitherto lived a very contented and happy life with the little they had. They used to think they were blessed by the gods with whatever food and water they could get in the desert. They thought they had everything they needed. But the bottle, descended miraculously from the heavens, becomes a bone of contention. Everybody wants to possess it. Jealousy and rivalry enter the community. Discontent mounts. Xi thinks that the gods were crazy to give them such a thing which was destroying the harmony that existed among them. He decides to get rid of the bottle and goes in search of “the end of the earth.” His journey will take him to lands where the “civilized” people fight with one another for all kinds of reasons. Xi initially assumes that these men are gods and tries to hand over the bottle to them. Since they do not accept it, he will continue his journey to the end of the earth, but not without contributing his valuable service in the fight between the good and the evil in the civilized world. He is given some money for his services. Xi cannot understand the meaning of money. Moreover, one gift from the gods has already wreaked much havoc in his little world. He throws the money to the winds as he walks toward a cliff which is the end of the world for him. Having thrown the heaven’s gift into the clouds that floated beyond the cliff, Xi returns home to be welcomed back by his happy people.
The movie is a hilarious comedy at one level, but a profound philosophical thesis at another. The savage bushmen are far superior to the civilized people. The bushmen have few needs and are happy with whatever they have. Anything extra may bring discord and has to be thrown back to where it belonged. The ‘civilized’ people have more than what they need. But they are not happy, never contented. Their desires have no limits. They must be crazy indeed.
This craziness led to a lot of violence. There has never been any time in the history of human civilisation when there was no war at all. Some civilised human beings always tried to grab something from some other civilised human beings. The more civilised we became, the more violent we became.
But there were some ‘less civilised’ people who denounced this acquisitive spirit of human civilisation. In the words of Yann Kerninon, “The entire artistic, political and philosophical history of the 19th and 20th centuries is essentially that of the struggle against the bourgeois spirit. Nietzsche, Artaud, Baudelaire, Marx, Heidegger, Freud, Rimbaud, Dada, surrealism, situationism, punk – all said or screamed the same thing: we had to crush the bourgeois spirit! The entire artistic, political and philosophical history of the 19th and 20th centuries is also the history of their failure...” [An Attempt to assassinate my inner bourgeois, New Delhi: Full Circle, 2011, page 39-40]
Our own 21st century has only aggravated the situation. We have reduced the entire value system into two values: wealth and utilitarianism. ‘Create wealth and more wealth’ is the professed motto of Globalisation. Wealth at any cost. Profit before people. Development. Progress. For what? To buy more apartments and villas, better mobile phones and cars, more grandeur. We razed down mountains and raised up valleys in order to construct cities. Mountains of plastic and electronic waste grew large and larger like the monstrous phantoms in Hollywood science fiction movies.
Worst of all, we have forgotten that we are human beings. We have forgotten to smile though we learnt to laugh louder. We sold our songs and our love to reality shows. We stifled the child within us and put on different masks to conceal the grotesqueness of the successful pragmatic adult. Tree plantation ceremonies and animal protection societies became rituals that testified to our love for the planet and its other creatures. We clipped the wings of our imagination with these and other contemporary rituals.
No, we can’t return to the innocence of Xi and his bushmen. But we can liberate our imagination, our dreams. When our dreams learn to fly, our mountains will generate new flowers, our rivers will sparkle with new life, and our valleys will throb with vitality.
We can live our life at the level we choose. But the choice has to be of the majority. Universal enough lest it be crushed by the might of those who cannot dream.
[Happened to watch the movie, The gods must be crazy, yesterday. This is the result.]