Burning Thoughts

I really liked the rough cut of this film so far and am interested in seeing how it develops. Some of my thoughts on it are organized below.

I really like the main characters and would like to hear more from them and perhaps others about certain things. For example, why do they think that people fight them so severely to stop them from crossing? There was some mention of racism, but do people think there are other factors? (Neo/colonialism and capitalism come to mind, though others may not use these terms). What and who do they think caused the situations they are trying to get away from? What do they feel should be done? Do they ever hear from people who cross? And what do they do during the day—much of this is probably trying to get food and find some work to get money—but they also do have times when they are not doing this stuff. Here I’m mainly thinking of the kids at the camps, since we see quite a bit of characters in the living areas.

It might also be useful to draw on comparisons to previous periods of policing of borders, and historical patterns of fear and oppression. The one I know most about is when Irish, Italians, Catholics and others were feared in the USA in the 1800’s and 1900’s (and also not considered “white”). The modern day counterpart is the US would be Mexicans/Latinxs.

I also think it could be interesting to hear from the film makers regarding their thoughts and experiences. Though I am not sure exactly how this would fit in, I do think it could be done in ways that don’t distract from or crowd out the story that is being shown.

One point that was very interesting was this constant use of human rights rhetoric by various people in the film.

Is the system illegitimate because it does not grant us rights or because it cannot?

Are “rights” even the best way to think about things? What about in terms of needs and ability to meet them? Doesn’t the fact that these governments are breaking their own laws show how meaningless those laws are?

Laws exist to control other people and resources. Those with power set and control the laws. Any law that becomes a threat or nuisance to them will soon be thrown out. Any reform can be taken away just as easily—no, far more easily—than it is accepted.

I do think this stuff about rights is a bit more than just semantics and shows some underlying foundations in how we conceptualize the world. We think about States as being necessary to secure our livelihood, well being, and “rights” even going so far as to conflate them with [all] “society” itself (Clastres 1987). These words, categories and meanings shape the ways in which we think, feel and perceive.

At one point a policeman says “Morocco is a sovereign country.” What does this mean? What is the reality? This is a very interesting word: it indicates a kind of “authority” but just whose authority is it exactly? I wonder if the actions of the guardia, government and seemingly indifferent golfers and rich[er] people really represent the views and wishes of everyone in Spain and the EU?

Instead of buying into this rhetoric about “sovereignty” and “rights” and “the will of the people” we should see these for the smokescreens that they are used as to deflect attention from who really holds power, controls resources and makes decisions about our lives and world. We should think in terms of human needs and desires, and our actual ability to meet them so as to get directly to the point.

Finally, there are some questions I think this film can hone in on to magnify its impact:

Why do we have borders?

It seems like such a simple question, but do we ever really ask it without assuming the answers are obvious?

In whose interests are borders really manufactured and policed?

Are we really separate from everyone else? Do we have different interests? And is that why we have borders? Or… are borders what cause us to believe we are separate and have different interests than the rest of the people–and living beings–on this planet?

Perhaps it’s the borders themselves which are problematic, and indicative of much deeper flaws in our society, thinking and ways of living. Like the border between those who can make decisions and everyone else. The borders between those who have money and those who do not. Those who “own” things which they do not themselves use, and everyone else who must then sell themselves bit by bit for access to a means of getting what they need to live and enjoy life.

An interesting point is raised about how discourse about the Sub Saharan Africans’ precarious positions on the Moroccan Border is absent from the media, unlike the plight of Syrian Refugees. I imagine the attention given to the Syrian crises over the Sub-Saharan African migration reflects American and European political and economic agendas. The middle east is an oil rich area with many regimes that are potential enemies to western States and multinational corporations. Drawing attention to the region can also be used in part to justify further intervention and control over the region. The lack of coverage to Moroccan & EU borders not only hides problems and defects inherent to the system and protects governments’ reputations, but demonstrates how these and other areas which lack resources desirable to these entities are ignored, regardless of the suffering that results. (Why USA didn’t go into Rwanda during genocide, as admitted by Bill Clinton, for example).

Who and how are people resisting borders and oppression? What is being done? What can we do?

There are people resisting, calling and acting for “no borders” [2, 3] who recommend donating not only supplies like food and clothing to people who need them, but also film equipment so that people forced into these desperate situations can tell their stories and document what is happening [4]. Some also engage in more directly confrontational tactics to aid migrants and break down borders.

Here you can see some images that people took of the remains of their camp after a raid

This is another video from an October 2015 raid with some dialogue. The person filming describes what used to exist there and what it was like to experience the police raid.

References

Clastres, P. (1987). Society against the state: Essays in political anthropology. New York: Zone Books.
[2] http://noborders.org.uk/aboutnoborders
[3] http://noborders.org.uk/news/no-borders-manifesto
[4] https://beatingborders.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/we-need-support/#more-1329

The Crossing – Reaction

Honestly the quote that began this article truly struck me. “ In the Congo you grow up thinking about escape. When I was little, no one asked me what I wanted to become. They asked me where I wanted to go.” Can you imagine being 5, 6, 7 years old and having your friends and family asking you where you wanted to go? I was only ever asked “So Mikaila, what do YOU want to be when you grow up?” and I would respond eagerly with, “I want to be a veterinarian and open up my own animal shelter, Grandma!”

Sometimes it’s just absolutely crazy how disconnected we are from the rest of the world, let alone our own world. It’s crazy that we don’t know about some of these life-altering events that take place right next to us. It’s crazy how much of a bubble we allow ourselves to live in – and not only live in but be content with living in. This is not how it’s supposed to be, this is not how life is supposed to work. We weren’t put on this planet to go in one direction for our entire life and individualize the world that we live in to the extent that we have become so naïve about the world that we actually live in.

Upon some of the boys showing pictures of their “heroes” Dr. Alexander writes, “One wears the uniform of his “good job,” where he works as a prep cook in an overcrowded kitchen. Another is standing beside a cement mixer on a dusty construction site. “They are living our dream,” I hear one boy say over my shoulder.” Is this not unimaginable? The fact that most people in the U.S. would look at these men in Europe and accredit their situation as poor or lower class, and there are boys who consider these men their heroes, living the dream of many, is absolutely absurd to me. Why do we have such extravagant, outrageous definitions of success and life in general? This is one of the many questions of the world that just blows my mind. The fact that the majority will define success monetarily or materialistically is something that I’ve been struggling with more and more. There are these men in the world who just want to cross over into a better life and would be extremely content and even ecstatic about a job as a cement worker and we are concerned about what new sports car we’re going to buy next? I simply cannot wrap my head around this idea.

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Picture taken from Dr. Alexander’s article “The Crossing”

I’m sorry – but is this picture real? The contrast in this image is so shocking but also something I’m vaguely familiar with. You have a group of men – beaten, bruised, and painfully abused emotionally and physically, climbing over a razor-wire fence as the backdrop to an image of a gorgeously groomed and bright green golf course, where two individuals are fully dressed, playing a game of golf. It’s actually unbelievable. When I was in India this past summer I experienced a very similar situation. My class was taking a field trip to the Dalai Lama’s temple, but in order to reach it you had to walk this mile-long path along the mountains.

Of course we were all ecstatic to be visiting the temple and everyone was laughing and smiling until something stopped us dead in our tracks. I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture but impoverished families lined the path we had to walk. Naked children held babies in their arms and all at once they came to us asking for money. They poked us with their fingers as they pleaded, “Ma’am money, money please, money hungry, ma’am money.” But our professor told us that we weren’t allowed to give them anything because if we gave to one we would have to give to all and it would end up turning into an aggressive situation.

backdrop-of-himalayas

View of Himalayan mountains from path to Dalai Lama’s Temple

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View of the families that lined the path to the Dalai Lama’s Temple

So we walked. We walked with our hands around our bags and ignored these children for an entire mile. I walked away from these kids that I desperately wanted to help. I bring up this example because on this path to the Dalai Lama’s temple is the backdrop of the most incredible view I’ve ever seen, the Himalayan mountains, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, the Dalai Lama’s temple, alongside the most crippling poverty I’ve ever witnessed.

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Front view of the Dalai Lama’s Temple

It’s just so hard to wrap my head around these things; it makes me feel so ignorant and naïve about my world – it also makes me feel so confused. It’s absolutely crazy to think that stuff like this happens every single day; it’s even crazier to think that not enough people care to do anything about it…