Forced Nomads

Nosotros 2016 © Shanti Kumari Johnson


Nosotros 2016 © Shanti Kumari Johnson

Nosotros 2016 © Shanti Kumari Johnson

Following the rhythm of the seasons suggests an ebb and flow: a life in harmony. Although this way of living may seem unstable to some, it holds the full extent of breath’s capacity… as though inhaling and exhaling not only with the trees and the plant kingdom, but with the land itself. For many, living a nomadic life is as clear as night, day and plenty. For others, boxed into a concrete home, the nomadic existence is not so evident, but they too experience nomadism of sorts. Through wondering, daydreaming and living vicariously through media or planned short trips.

The irony being that those who have adhered to nomadic practices, for example in Tibet, are then forced to relocate and settle into a certain square footage, impinging upon the freedom of their spirit, I am sure. As part of the obliteration of ancient traditions, most of humanity is being forced to relocate and in the interim adopt nomadic life styles.

But it is the heart, the soul, the spirit which is becoming the true nomad as we come to terms with our level of empathy as we experience in person or through the visual media, the massive waves of exodus in what seems like every corner of the planet. People walking away from their lands of generational origin, or people walking further into their ancestral place of emergence in search of answers and forcibly pushed down by the mere weight of economic plutocracy. Then there are those who cannot see the choice, stay put or run, metaphorically or literally.

WWI, WWII and all the wars small and large have blended into an omnipresence that glooms into our psyche and perspective, turning our spirit into an eternal forced nomad.

We cannot easily reside in the stability of our existence while being chased ferociously by the prospect of a never-ending war.

Some of us are walked out of our land by the hand of extremists holding weapons and wearing boots.

Some of us are blown off of the land we care-take by multinational irrationality.

Some are moved out by illness when the bio unity is broken.

Some of us are attracted gleefully onto greener pastures by the promises of olive-branched universities, institutions and corporations.

At times we drift in search of searching and we land with wide-eyed marvel on foreign soil and cultures.

It is then that we understand what looking to our past means to understanding who we are.

What is our free will? What is our will, and how much of it is free?

All along knowing the beauty and vastness of this planet. This is our home, no matter where we are located when we first open our eyes to see it.

Until we have the complete freedom to decide on which part of the earth would we like to stand on, walk on, run on, forage on, and feel at ease with, then we may call ourselves nomads.

We may call upon those who force others to do anything against their nature, to reconcile their intent.

Meanwhile, the plight of our humanity rests nestled on the palm of our capacity to reconsider.

As cities encroach upon the open untreated land, animals are forced to roam further and further until the city from the other side reaches the limits of the animals’ native land. The nomadic experience of animals is forced into extinction.

How far can the etymology of forced nomads reach?

The nomad who cannot go anywhere. The hunger-stricken people who cannot go anywhere but on their barren land. The famished people on a land devoid of water.

The heart of monetary wealth and the heart of devoid land.

The hands that create the wars, heal the left-over wounds and rearrange the panorama all at once.

How do we begin to analyze the concept of a human nomad and its origins?

Where it has been a tradition upon thousands of years and the souls are content and where it has been a sudden change of direction in an afflicted non-joyous way.

Freedom to roam is crucial, for the human, plant and animal kingdom. Crucial for the survival and integrity of the natural intelligence to continue sprouting diversity in abundance.

Animals like the pronghorns die because they are by chance forbidden from migrating when they journey further south due to weather, but find only fences they cannot jump or wiggle under and are found to freeze to death instead.

Natural nomadism restores land, cultures, animals and harmony.

Forced nomadism may generate confusion, aggression, sorrow and a general lack of survival of the ancient knowledge.

Wind turbines affect the migratory patterns of bats by misdirecting their journey based on their echolocation. Whether it is the sound made by the wind turbines, or the wind caused by them, attracting the bats, either way, hundreds of bats are dying. There are many examples of forced nomadism in the animal and plant kingdom. All in the shameful name of economic glory for the few.

For example, the extraction of natural gas by water pressure, contaminating the waters, creating a salt residue and affecting the wildlife that lives on the particular area. Roads are carved into the land where wild horses once roamed. Horses that were brought from other countries and now, they too are facing extinction.

We are continuously shifting, gradually or abruptly. Painfully or gently. All organisms are elbowing each other either through political/economic policies or through the vivid results arising eventually to reveal the apathy and nonchalance of change.

Nonetheless, the humans who are forced to become nomadic for a period of time against their will are the obvious surface of a problem that reaches deep within the roots of our beautiful planet. As our satellitic vision broadens so we can see the minutiae of mycorrhizal, the area that this life-supporting living organism covers shrinks before our eyes as we force our nomadic venture and spirit to guzzle it all.

If it is forced, then it is no longer a nomad, because by definition a nomad searches for pastures. Searching suggests freedom and pastures suggest abundance. Otherwise, it is just a forced push into the abyss of unrecognized slavery, cultural extinction, spiritual oppression, separation of family units, domination of natural living entities known unfortunately as “resources,” and massive exodus into oblivion of ancient pertinent knowledge.

Although it appears that the sovereignty of the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, humankind, the waters and the atmosphere has sustained the heaviest toll from nations’ forceful projections, somehow, for some, the internal horizon is not so gloomy, as many hold the magic of perception capable of turning an ephemeral cinder into a joyous colourful bloom.

Rivers that are forced to meander onto another path may find the means to survive in their relocation, continuing their participation in the healing of the biosphere. Continuing to redefine our personal identity as humans by measuring the distance we travel on this planet and how long we stay on a particular patch of land does not rob us of our immediate connection to this earth and to each other.


Shanti Kumari Johnson was born and grew up in Mexico City and lived in Montréal. She currently resides in Chicago where she works as a freelance interpreter, choreographer and ceremonial singer / dancer. Shanti has a published book of poetry, Untitled, with Gyldan Edge Publishing, which was recognized by Forbes Book List as “New & Notable” in 2005. Her choreographic work was nominated for a Dance Achievement Award in Chicago in 2004. Shanti teaches yoga to all ages and classical ballet to children and young dancers on their way to becoming professional.

Her most recent work is as the founder of a new program, “Yoga & Planting Arts,” and she is currently working with Stonehouse Farm Eco Retreat Sanctuary, offering summer weekend camps for children.