Settling back into my writing, this rainy September, I seem to have been waylaid by yet another movie just begging to become the subject of a post and that’s fine, I’m off in the flow and if that’s where the flow is taking me…These autumnal evenings are just made for nestling into a pile of cushions and dipping into the instant viewing movie lists, so that’s what I’ve been doing – choosing films to watch on spur-of-the-moment instinct in a way that was never so accessible or satisfying before I had a tablet to curl up with and I am loving the way media streaming is opening the playground of our consciousness up so wide.
This time, it was ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence‘, a film that had tempted me more than once before – and I’m more than familiar with the music score, Peter Gabriel’s stunning ‘Long Walk Home’, which has been a five-starred favourite of mine for longer than I can remember – and yet I’d always done a u-turn on actually watching it. You have to admit, a story about some runaway kids following a very long barbed wire fence to get home lacks instant appeal yet, last night, there was no question that this was the film calling out to me from the list and so I went with it…and it proved to be an excellent choice.
Although mine aren’t the type of ‘film review’ that stick to the flesh and bones of story or production but, rather, spin out into a place of much broader connection with the kind of universal life-themes that fascinate me, I also aim to provide relevance and interest for those who have not watched the film and so it would be useful to provide a brief synopsis of the plot.
The story is based on a biography written by Doris Pilkington Garimara, relating the circumstances of how her mother Molly, in 1930s Australia under a law (perpetuated until the late 1960s!) that made enabled white bureaucracy to forcibly remove half-caste aboriginal children from their homes and place them in ‘native settlements’ to be prepared for assimilation into white society (read, domestic servitude and menial work), was taken with two other children to such a settlement but managed to run away. Using the marker of a 5000 mile chicken-and-barbed-wire fence that had been constructed across Australia in the 1880s to keep out dingoes, and other predators, from the relatively fertile soil and sheep territory of the south-east, they traced the line of the fence back to their home territory and their mother and grandmother who, having heard of their escape, were eagerly waiting for them. In the film, we watch the three girls set off on their 1500 mile walk home, pursued by a tracker and the white authorities, who are increasingly desperate to get them back. It’s a long and harrowing journey yet, demonstrating sharp wits and a great deal of fortitude, two out of the tree girls manage to make it back to their family.
So, here is one huge great big fence running across a continent from one side to another, ostensibly to keep out animal predators yet somehow made much more of than this in this story as it becomes symbolic of the very control – by means of such artificial barriers against things becoming ‘mixed’ – perpetrated by a culture that dressed this up as, it’s very opposite, a philanthropic act of ‘assimilation’; for, in desperately trying to take control over the ever growing half-caste population, these white bureaucrats (in the person of A.O. Neville, so called ‘Protector of Western Australian Aborigines) were actually seeking to prevent ‘superior’ white man blood from being diluted into some sort of out-of-control middle race with these people, considered utterly inferior by Neville.
In taking control over the destiny of these half-castes, Neville sees a solution whereby their black blood could be phased out of the gene pool over a couple of generations and thus some sort of social ‘order’ reinstated. In essence, this rather desperate, relentless impulse to control a situation from getting out of hand can be boiled down to fear, plain and simple, and there is a tangible sense of this fear playing out, in that erratic and knee-jerk way that fear has of expressing itself, as the story unwinds and the missing children continue to elude the authorities and an increasingly anxious Neville. We watch his very belief system being eroded away by a course of events that is simply no longer under his control – no matter how hard he tries, he fails to get back on top of the situation yet these young girls, who in theory have everything stashed against them, seem to create their own good fortune through sheer determination and an unfailing belief that they are returning home.
The most touching moment of the film, for me, is when this repugnant-looking fence is transmuted into being this wonderful solution to the runaway girls, a lifeline that could lead them back home. They set off to look for the fence and, on finding it, there is this wonderful moment of unspoken joy as they embrace and grip tightly onto the wire, utterly heedless of the barbs, because they feel all the reinstated connection with the loved ones who are standing at its northern end, waiting for their return. The fence, this very instrument of white man control, is suddenly reborn as an arterial link with loved ones that nigh on vibrates with familial love and connection, momentarily eradicating all the endless miles in-between and providing affirmation to the girls that their journey is achievable, they will ‘get there’ and they will survive to experience the imagined homecoming that is all of their focus.
Everything about these girls – Molly, Gracie and Daisy – is an affirmation of trust, love and positivity against all the odds and Molly, in particular, remains utterly unfazed by so called obstacles, turning them calmly to her advantage without pitting herself against the way things are. This is in stark contrast with the way white culture is portrayed: to quote Molly, going through all of the whites she has ever encountered in her mind’s eye, “these people make me sick” and, in that all they seek to do (however well-intentioned) is to control then, in this, she makes a universal declaration because that is exactly what the will to control does to all of us. The more fearful and apparently out-of-control we become, the bigger the control-freaks we make of ourselves; perhaps a truism that lies behind the twentieth century obsession with eugenics (more typically associated with Hitler but wasn’t this Australian ‘assimilation’ policy just another facet of that…) Yet, as anyone who has ever sought to move past a state of overwhelm or chronic illness will know, it is only in letting go of control that we ever set ourselves free from debilitating and escalating fear and return to the kind of flow where there is a natural trust in appropriate outcome; a regained knowing that even when that outcome is not as expected, we can be sure it is, nonetheless, the right one since this is how the law of attraction works, no exception. Yet as we have continued to lose this innate knowing and (to replace this) sought to minutely control – to fence in – everything by means of our laws and social mores, we have lost our way, our direction ‘home’ – and the world we have created, our very culture, of control-freakishness is testament to this.
This is but a small fragment of the overview that was driven home for me as I watched this restrained and unassuming film in which facial expressions often speak louder than words. In any situation where human will seeks to assert control over everything, right down to the smallest detail and absolute minutiae of life, you can be quite sure that person – or, no less, government – is one that is living in extreme fear! I found myself bewildered and bemused at just how much effort was being exerted to control the whereabouts of three small girls by this man, Neville, who comes across as the very epitome of fear; almost the symbol of an age that we are on the brink of putting behind us now… By the end, the sense you get is of a man relentlessly pursuing an outcome yet hardly knowing the reason why anymore; given the gigantean effort they have made to do so, why shouldn’t these girls be allowed to go back to their lives and their families and yet the rule that they must be returned to the settlement, the imposed structure that must remain in place for all to be well with his world, has become everything to Neville. He honestly believes his own mantra that he is saving these people from themselves – and yet, isn’t it the case in our own lives that, when long-held (long unquestioned) structures and rules are dismantled, the reason they were there, and whatever they were meant to be ‘upholding’, is often found to have vaporised long ago…
Fences, walls and barriers – even the literal, physical ones we can touch in our world – play with energy, they are all about push-pull and take effort and mental energy to keep in place…oh, how so much energy expenditure, the kind which, in our emotional lives, is utterly draining to our health and, for the large part, without us even realising. Whilst letting go of these energetic barriers will inevitably result in a redistribution of the energetics that determine our circumstances, as withheld energy is allowed to flood in, the levelling and opening-up that follows is very quick to occur and the opportunities that are then allowed to manifest are an almost instant reward. In my own life, the release of certain energetic barriers that had long been ‘set up’, guarded and maintained against certain much-feared outcomes has proved to be utterly cathartic this year, demonstrating in each case that the very fears (whilst elements of them ‘came in’ to my experience almost straightaway) were not anything near as ‘bad’ or as terrifying as I’d been making them out to be and the payoff that has come in at many levels, but including the expansion of my art and writing into the international forum and into publication, all happened so quickly – within a week (and, in one case, within a few minutes…) of ‘taking down’ the gnarled old ‘fence’ and inviting everything in.
There is an interesting part of the story where Neville visits the settlement and calls certain children to him, to peer at the colour of the skin on their backs to determine if they are showing more sign of whiteness than others, in which case they would be selected for some sort of fast-track ‘assimilation’ processing. Just as everything he believes in can be summarised as facilating the perpetuation of polarity, with black at one end of a scale and white on the other, these children are the very embodiment of something I have come to believe in at the most fundamental level, the incorporation of everything…black, white, all shades in between. This incorporation of all is the default position, the way we ‘come in’ to these lives from the all-inclusiveness of our eternal selves; polarity is an add-on of our physical life-experience and we have created it for ourselves, to provide contrast and, in so many cases, the experience of pain and conflict. It is maintained and perpetuated through the application of very much (and as demonstrated in this film, tail-chasing) effort and I felt this to be a key message that the film succeeds in getting across.
So here’s a big one on the way to consciousness-broadening: the point of asking, how many of our own societal structures are ‘just there’, perpetually upheld, without anyone remembering the original reason why, and how many in our own lives? On my own route to reinventing my life, one of the hardest, and most cathartic, things has been to examine the very structures, rules, imperatives and learned patterns that underpinned my world (yes, and even kept it feeling ‘safe’) and ask ‘what is behind that, do I really need it or believe in it anymore?’ One of the biggest challenges of all is to dismantle some of those structures that we’ve used to define our ‘safety’ and free-flow into a way of being that allows for anything to happen, that surrenders the need to control outcome, that trusts that whatever unfolds will be the right thing – knowing that a whole vast new territory of potential will open up with that new mentality, stretching far beyond the old ‘fences’ that had ostensibly kept ‘bad’ things at bay but had also keep things (us) tightly held in, bridled, confined…Trust me, that moment of opening up to anything, without imposing any further conditions or criteria (‘…it must be this way or that way’ – these are just more fences), is when life really starts to get interesting!
When the ‘need’ to control outcome at all cost is king, we lose connection with something far more instinctive and useful to us, that unfettered version of ourselves that sees the much bigger picture as though hovering above it all and able to see without distortion. The control imperative overrides the very guidance system with which we were supplied for this life-journey, the satellite-hooked ‘soul GPS’ designed to keep us on some sort of homing route….back to where we get to be our intrinsic or ‘higher’ self within life; a ‘home’ which, as in the case of these girls, is somewhere we were already, at the very beginning of the story – only life, and the polarised viewpoint, has this habit of taking us off somewhere else; somewhere that can often start to feel like a detention camp. For those of us who, like Molly, realise this and give a damn (for there are just as many who choose to stay where they are ‘put’ by life – remember, it is all a choice), we are compelled to take what feel like terrible risks – for it can seem this way at the outset – and embark upon the journey back to this place where we began. To do this, we learn to take guidance from our higher-self, catching ever more glimpses of that self through the veil of cloud as we learn to regard that aspect of ourselves as something soaring way above man-made definition and control, fences and limitation. At the start of the film, Molly’s mother points at the ‘spirit bird’ flying overhead and tells her this bird will always look after her…and she’s right. Towards the end of the journey, she sees the spirit bird in the sky and takes it as a sign that she is almost home – her soul-guidance has not (nor could it ever have) failed her and the family are reunited.
Ultimately, once we set off on that route, we start to realise that we never really left; the journey and its hardships are an illusion and yet, for the time being, it can seem far easier – to those deep in their fear – to remain where their perception tells them they are still bound up in so much ‘stuff’. This kind of conditioning is so deeply embedded into the human psyche that it can take some time for freedom-consciousness to filter through; yet it is really starting to get somewhere at last and we see evidence of this all around us these days. Like Molly, Gracie and Daisy, I look forward to a time when we have transformed all of our barbed-wire fences into heartstrings, leading back to a place of reunion with each other and with ourselves.
So, lots of layers, loads of lovely metaphor and much that is thought-provoking – and this has been just a taste – to be found in what proved to be so much more than just a film about a very long fence and I am so glad I watched!
I’ll leave you to enjoy Peter Gabriel’s exquisite soundtrack:
Interesting and related:
- Us and Them (futilitycloset.com) This fascinating post about deer-behaviour reminds us how learned our behaviour is around borders, barriers and places we are told we should not go; conditioning that can become part of our very DNA, and yet: “As with humans, it’s the young deer who are testing the old ways. They are more and more deleting the border behavior that was there before.”