Divide anmd Conquer

August 15, 2012


With all the divisions in the world today, and with all the problems in the world today, why is it more and more difficult to come together to find equitable, workable solutions? The Story of Change offers a way to originate meaningful change.

Our world has no shortage of problems. That is a statement that practically no one disagrees with. We need real solutions to real problems and we need these to be implemented by the people, not imposed by overlords from above. The Story of Change (http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-change/) offers a way to originate meaningful change. It would seem that this should be an idea whose time had come. But it isn’t somehow. Why?

Change is a difficult thing to create and make real. It is difficult because it requires actual effort and because there are always some, usually in positions of power and influence, who work against changing the status quo. This is the nature of things. It was just as true in China five thousand years ago as it is in Washington DC today.

That being said, so what?  The responses people have to needful change are as various and changeable as the needs themselves. Some people get angry, some people get busy, some people ignore the problem full on, and some people just don’t care. We are at a time and place where most people think that they are unable to influence the future to be any better.  As Lao Tzu said, “There is no problem so large and complex that it could not have been easily solved when it was small and simple.” However, it is not true that there is such a thing as a problem that is beyond some form of solution. It may be that, for a time, a problem can be beyond an achievable solution. For the majority of Americans to conclude that our most pressing problems are serious, dangerous, critical and insoluble is a national sickness. This hegemonic apathy is a danger to our species.

Annie Leonard has been involved in a project called “The Story of Stuff” for the last five years. Beginning with the initial film project, “The Story of Stuff,” followed by the book of the same name, the project has produced eight film shorts:

Together, they provide a global view of many of the world’s deepest and most difficult problems, as well as offering ways forward, things that individuals can do, to make a difference and break the cycle of apathy that we have been living under.

These videos are excellent overviews of specific topics. They do a wonderful job of acquainting people, who may be largely ignorant of the issues, with the underlying science and the elementary mathematics of these problems, with the problems themselves,  and, some of the videos, with possible solutions to the problems.

I was part of a screening of the first film in the series, The Story of Stuff, to a largely conservative audience. There were two showings. At the first showing, the film was introduced as a thoughtful, worthwhile look at some of the problems in the modern world and some ways to work collaboratively, within the system, to change the system and improve the lives of everyone.

This audience found the film interesting and hopeful. They were interested in the idea of seeking meaningful change and of making change happen to improve the world. There was some discussion that some of the terms used in the film were a little confrontational and that a more gentle approach might be more effective in getting the need for real change across.

The second showing began with an apology from the presenter for some of the content of the film. It was said to be somewhat confrontational and rather biased, but that it was hoped that the audience would find it interesting.

The reaction of this group was immediately and dramatically different. One parent, who was there with three small children took them hurriedly from the room after five minutes. She complained that they should not have to be exposed to such radical thinking, and that the presenter should have known better. Her husband stayed to the bitter end, with his arms folded, a scowl on his face the whole time. He stayed, in his words, to confirm his opinion that this socialist diatribe was as bad as he thought it was going to be, and to educate himself as to the leftist lies that were being spread by this group of radical lunatics. At least half of the audience ended up agreeing with this opinion. Not one person could be found by the end who was in favor of any direct action whatsoever, at least, not until most of the people had left the room. A very few stayed to ask what they might personally be able to do, but not until the voluble complainers had all left the building.

People can very easily be led into completely different points of view. So, it is very important that these films be introduced to audiences in the right way. Presented in the right context, these films can be an extremely important communication tool to get important ideas across. Presented in the wrong way, these films are just another misguided liberal attempt to deceive Americans and convince them to give away what is rightfully theirs.

As for the films themselves, if viewed with an open mind, they provide an excellent introduction to difficult topics and thorny problems. If it were up to me, every child of school age would be exposed to this film series at least once. It is my sincere belief that we cannot hope to pass on our world to children who do not understand how that world functions. They will not be good stewards if they do not see any need for stewardship. My own children are environmentally aware, and as responsible as circumstances permit.

We do need to get a handle on real problems this country, and the world, faces, and get ready to make some tough decisions that are going to change the economic and political landscape of this nation (and this planet) because if we do not, we face almost certain eventual extermination as a species.  It really is that simple, that black and white. Which attitude will you choose to take?

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