The Gods Must Be Crazy on the surface seems like a light hearted comedy where vastly different cultures come into contact with each other and struggle to find common ground and to communicate. There is another layer entirely to the film that is less obvious. With such different cultures and different understandings of what is socially acceptable and even what reality is, there comes a point where individuals from the different cultures need to find some sort of understanding of each other. Taking place in the continent of Africa, the film shows how even in a continent where most would assume that all cultures and types of living would be more or less on the same page there are clear and massive differences in the cultures of its peoples. These differences are so substantial that the cultures, while neighboring, live in almost different worlds entirely.
A particularly interesting scene is when a pilot flying overhead drops an empty Coca-Cola bottle from the plane window which falls to the earth unbroken. The bottle is then found by a member of the Bushmen tribe. The Bushmen that finds it is perplexed by the bottle as it is unlike anything he had ever seen. The film describes it from the Bushmen perspective as looking like water yet being the hardest thing he had ever seen. The Bushmen then brings it back to his tribe and the tribe is equally confused by the strange object. They take turns trying to figure out what the object is and what it is used for. The unique properties of the object make it great for a variety of tasks, none of which were the intended purpose of the bottle. They find it is ideal for decorating clothing, skinning snakes, as an instrument, and ultimately as a weapon. With only one bottle and many tribal people they soon found that they were competing over the use of the new object. With such great scarcity and so many different uses the bottle became a prized possession that ultimately ended up being fought over. After two tribal people ended up in a physical altercation over the bottle sentiment regarding the bottle shifted from enthusiastic to almost fearful. They realized that the way the tribe had been acting since the arrival of that damn bottle made them worse off than before it was found. This led to the decision that the object needed to be returned to the gods in order to rid the tribe of the chaos and violence it had brought. The rest of the film follows the tribe member that goes on a journey to throw the object off the end of the earth.
While this film had plenty of comedy, it also made me realize the stark contrast between different ways of living that exist at the same time. I found the bottle situation interesting because it was such a simple object but became such a luxury and yet such a bane at the same time. I also couldn’t help but feel bad for the other Africans in the film that lived in a semi-civilized condition because of the film’s reference to the infighting and civil war that still happens to this day in African nations. The use of children as human shields for the criminal leader of the guerilla fighter to escape from the country he was be pursued in made me think if the usage of children both as human shields and as child soldiers. The comedic aspects of the film start to seem to me like a necessity to balance out the ugliness of these other aspects of the film.
The simple bottle and the myriad of events that it brings in The Gods Must Be Crazy is comical but also seems to make reference to societal realities and problems that exist in the world outside of the Bushmen tribe. The introduction of scarcity brought by the new object is representative of the problems that are brought about by materialism and more broadly capitalism. The Bushmen before lived in a society without any real scarcity where people freely shared with each other and there was no sense of possessiveness. In a way the introduction of the bottle had an effect on the Milieu of the tribe in that it began rapidly shifting social factors in the tribe and initiated a type of Rhythm Chaos (Deleuze, 1987). It created haves and have-nots, or in this case one have and many have-nots. It seems that the introduction of scarcity alone can completely change the structure of a society. Scarcity quickly degrades egalitarianism within a society and is so transformative that it can shift that society into a smooth space. Also important regarding the bottle is the Nomadism relating to its use in the Bushmen tribe. The bottle had a completely different intended use but the Bushmen repurpose the bottle for multiple other tasks. This is done unintentionally because when taken out of the context of the society in which the bottle was created, the same object can become a completely different type of tool. The bottle was intended to be used as a container for liquid but to the Bushmen who had no context with which to relate the bottle it became a musical instrument, a tool for decoration, or a hammer. In terms of nomadism, the Bushmen are clearly living outside the existence of a state and it is tempting to call them nomads but after further analysis they appear to be something else. Nomadism seems to imply that the nomads are knowingly and somewhat willingly living outside the scope of their society (Nomad-Wiki). That doesn’t seem to be the case with these Bushmen as they are unaware of any state existing around them. This idea of a state is probably so far out of their norm that they cannot conceptualize what it is. Therefore the Bushmen cannot be intentionally living outside the reach of the state and certainly do not mean to disrupt or challenge it. The direction of Nomadism of existing outside the state and a large scale status quo is something that the Bushmen seem to take so far as to be beyond Nomadism. It is important in affirmative nomadology to have somewhere to go to escape society after you refuse to be a part of it (Holland, 2011). The Bushmen have that small plot of land and that place to go but never needed a general strike against the state as they were never a part of it to begin with. Therefore it is actually easy to argue that the Bushmen are not nomads at all.
Deleuze, Gilles & Felix Guattari (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. Brian Massumi). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Nomad Citizenship: Free-Market Communism and the Slow-Motion GeneralStrike, Eugene Holland, University of Minnesota Press. 2011
Nomad-Wiki (2017), Multiple Authors. https://nomad-wiki.wikispaces.com/