Last night, I watched 21 Years as a Slave. It follows the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and then subjected to 12 year of slavery.
There was nothing enjoyable about the movie. It was violent. It was brutal. Through the whippings, the beatings, and rape scenes, it was flat-out painful to watch. Up until last night, I had never winced through an entire movie.
Several times during the movie, I found myself in tears. I left the theatre with an incredible sadness, and fell asleep with this heaviness in my heart.
How could these things have happened? How could one human subject another human to such pain and misery?
The movie is full of unspeakable acts. Yet, it is all true. That was the worst part about the movie. Nothing was hypothetical. Everything in the movie has happened in real life. In fact, it was probably much worse in real life.
But that isn’t all.
What is even worse is that this ugliness isn’t limited to the past. It exists today. Racism is alive and well. I have visited small towns in the U.S. and have heard the N-word used regularly. I have a friend from north Michigan who explained that they still held KKK rallies in the town courthouse. Even in California, which is relatively progressive, I can still look out in everyday life and still see vestiges of our history with racism.
And it the hate isn’t limited to race. People look down on the homeless. Or they hate on the rich. Or, they hate on those who are drastically different. These days, it seems to be the gay, lesbians, and transgendered. Past hate, there is pure evil (IMHO). The clearest example I know of is human trafficking.
Left to our own devices, there is an ugliness within mankind. It is fucking crazy, and it is not acceptable. The only hope is that as time goes by, we seem to figure some of these things out as a society. At the very least, racism is now illegal. Woman have equal rights. Of course, these changes are only by law. What really matters is within the hearts and minds of humans. Still, we make progress. We make progress, but much much too slowly. The fact that gay rights is even an issue these days is ridiculous.
I wish there was something I could do to work towards eradicating the ugliness. Maybe one day I’ll come up with something. For now, I only know how to try living to the best of my abilities. And, of course, write about it.
P.S. This is post number #51 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!
Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.
Or, check out my current project: Soulmix.
The best thing we can do is education and teaching the public about what happened. The people who made this movie achieved that goal, by showing it to you in the medium of film, and it got such an emotional response from you that you then told others about it. You will remember this moment. Film is special because it puts you right there so you can see it for yourself, you relate to the characters because you are human. I remember when Saving Private Ryan came out at the cinema, I didn’t sleep for a day afterwards, I was so shocked by what I saw … it was a great movie because it showed war as not glorious, but truly horrible like it is in real life.
A lot of people who are racists or deny that slavery was a big deal weren’t there to see it, or do not appreciate it from the other person’s perspective. But I bet if you showed them that movie, it would help to change their mind. How can you not? I think humans are wired to be compassionate when they see suffering first hand, but when it is out of sign and out of mind it is easy to not realize this. It is typically ignorance that allows people to continue their incorrect beliefs. There was a documentary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Eyed made about this where someone teaches a class on racism based on eye color, and they actively encourage everyone in the room to hate on people with non-brown eyes. By the end of the movie people gain a new understanding of what these things are like, people are crying, and all kinds of things. Very interesting.
There are so many horrible things happening in the world, but a lot of it is kept hidden away, so you do not take action. When people see it first hand how horrible it really is, they are usually not ok with it, and will try to do something, even if it is small. By educating everyone about what is going on, raising awareness, people will gradually come around … deep down most people want to do the right thing, if they know what is going on.
One of my current issues is that of factory farms. They are not like the farms that were around 50 years ago, with a cute barn yard and happy cows and chickens roaming around. Nowadays if you were to visit a modern factory farm you would be so horrified you would probably stop eating meat, the conditions the animals live in, what they are fed, it is all truly awful. The days of animals grazing over pastures and living happy lives are not around except on a small number of dedicated farms. And when someone tries to film these conditions, there are laws preventing this, even if what is happening is not legal. What ever happened to free speech? If people saw first hand what happened, they would be willing to spend the extra 5 cents to give the animals better conditions. But the farmers don’t want you to know this, because it would affect their business. Whenever they try to pass laws making a chicken’s tiny cage two inches bigger, the lobbyists get out and stop it, so a chicken is forced to live its entire existence in a cage smaller than its body. I like eating meat, but where is the respect for the animal? And free range is a joke too, that just means the chickens are crammed into a tight room with no room to move, and their beaks removed so they don’t peck each other to death. There is a small door in the barn that the chickens are too afraid to go through outside, but “technically” they are free range. It is all about misinformation … there should be laws requiring all farms to have 24/7 camera surveillance, so that the public is able to make educated choices about where they buy their food, things would change very rapidly.
So in summary, everything is about education. The more of the truth people know, the more they can take action. Most people want to do the right thing if they can, but you need to know what that the truth is. So we have to keep spreading the word, and hopefully things will gradually change for the better.
“there should be laws requiring all farms to have 24/7 camera surveillance, so that the public is able to make educated choices about where they buy their food, things would change very rapidly.”
You are in essence no different that those who you accuse. You want someone to lord over people to make the world as you wish. Your only difference is in taste.
No, there shouldn’t be any law that requires farms to have camera surveillance or whatever. If people want/wanted to have that, the demand would force the market to offer it. That ‘s what entrepreneurs do, remember? If/when people wish that, some smart farmer will implemented and make millions.
Unfortunately, this is probably the case. Unless there is a monetary reason to have the surveillance, it won’t happen.
But, with these food movies and documentaries coming out, they are raising awareness. Who knows where things will be in a few years?
Wayne! Good to hear from you.
I agree that it is all about education. And art is an amazingly important part of this education. And by this, I mean real and honest art. I found a great review of the the movie. This was exactly the movie that had to be made about slavery. No glitz or glam. Just honesty and brutality.
If more documentaries, movies, etc. come out exposing things, it would go a long ways. At some point, people need to take action, but raising awareness is always a good start.
Thanks for the pointer to Blue Eyed. Will have to check it out!
“Left to our own devices, there is an ugliness within mankind.”
I totally agree on the second part, while I totally disagree on the first one. You have discovered the reality – many people lean heavily towards pure evil. Not people of the past, people of today. And I really know how hard it is at first to accept that. The good part is that many more people lean towards good.
Ask yourself Alex, if you were “left in your own devices”, would you torture and kill people for fun? Do you really need an “enlightened” minority to be your daddy?
” It is fucking crazy, and it is not acceptable. The only hope is that as time goes by, we seem to figure some of these things out as a society.”
True. But it ‘s not because “time goes by”. History & Progress is *not* a linear process. On the contrary, humanity has taken steps forward and backwards.
“At the very least, racism is now illegal.”
Which means nothing on its own. The important thing is that the consensus is against racism.
“I wish there was something I could do to work towards eradicating the ugliness. Maybe one day I’ll come up with something. For now, I only know how to try living to the best of my abilities.”
This is exactly it. Make no mistake – advances in civilization are only sustained via wealth. In poverty, evil prevails – easily.
Increasing production is the key. That is why the only real humanitarian act is to produce. You, as an entrepreneur, are doing much more that simply getting rich.
Hey J J!
Great clarifications. I couldn’t of said them better myself. One of the problems with blogging on a daily basis is that I don’t get to think through thoughts as much as I would like. I’ve been thinking that after this 100 day blog challenge, I may sit down and re-write/combine some blog posts for higher quality.
“True. But it ‘s not because “time goes by”. History & Progress is *not* a linear process. On the contrary, humanity has taken steps forward and backwards.”
This is definitely true. I suppose I expect to live most, or all, of my life within the timeline of a single society that is moving forward. But is that really the case? It would be great if it was. But shit happens, and as you say, humanity does occasionally take steps backwards.
“Increasing production is the key. That is why the only real humanitarian act is to produce.”
Thanks for this… love the quote.