Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why I sometimes like to watch Bad Action movies.

So I really like watching Action movies. It’s usually the same simple plot, with a different buff Good Guy hero, and different bunch of Baddies.

The basic plot for those who don’t watch Action movies, goes like this.

Goodie is doing its own thing having a normal life, or is a Cop, someone in the Armed or Special Forces, or a Spy for the Greater Good of the World and Humanity. He’s an all round nice guy, has a nice girlfriend/wife /nice family.

Then suddenly, either a Baddie kills his girlfriend/wife /family, for no reason (just Pure Evilness) or because Goodie’s For The Greater Good armed organisation has gotten too close to exposing or stopping the Evil of the Baddie’s operations.

Whatever the reason Baddies has killed Goodies loved ones, Goodie is now very upset and will do a montage of working out at the gym, practicing its boxing or zen martial arts and being very upset (not crying though).

Then, because Baddie has killed Goodie’s loved ones, anything Goodie now does, like hacking into databases illegally, beating up naughty underworld crimesters for information, blowing up cars, running away from Cops or other agencies with three letter acronyms, or killing other Baddies with just one bullet or one lethal punch, is Completely Okay and Totally Justified because Goodie is Seeking Justice.

So the movie ends with Goodie doing all the above things, that if normal people or Baddies do them, are Bad or Evil things. But it is ok for Goodies to them those things, because it’s Goodie Seeking Justice and then Winning against Baddie (who is usually killed by Goodie in the Big End Fight, unless they want a sequel, and then Baddie will instead go to prison or fall off a cliff and you think baddie is dead until the sequel). Goodie then gets a new lady (usually one he saves during the justice/revenge sequence) and feels happy again.

I like watching Action movies because Good triumphs over Evil in one and a half hours. I like watching Action movies because Good does triumph over Evil happily ever after. I like watching Action movies because for a brief period of time I can pretend there is such a thing as Good and Evil, and it’s as clear and as simple as Black and White. Because that popular culture concept, is a fantasy in the world we live in. It’s a fantasy because there is no such thing as Good and Evil in the world we live in, because Good and Evil cannot be simply, clearly, nicely and cleanly separated. So I like the fantasy, I like the change from reality, I like the escapism from struggle.

If only social justice and social change were as simple as thinking Good and Evil actually existed, and then Good conquering Evil, and everything being happily ever after.

If only All The Evil In The Universe was contained within a Ring, and we could just destroy it. There would be no need for allies, self-reflection, awareness, growth, education, meetings, email lists, protests and solidarity. If only there really was just a large bunch of Baddies (and you can easily tell who they are because they look like Baddies), and we could be happy, and rest easy in our safe homes, safe families and safe spaces, once we’d ventured out and slain the lot.

Unfortunately this has been tried again and again and again with no real successes.

Unfortunately the Goodie and Baddie existence, and then the simple Good Triumph Over Evil Forevermore, is actually something people believe in.

Which I suppose is why we even have Goodie versus Baddie Action movies in the first place. It’s the stuff Empires are built upon, Wars are justified from and citizens are placated with. It’s also the binary/polarity/dynamic that Activists employ, Christians employ and Patriots employ.

Why would we do this? Because it’s easy, simplified. Because it works.

Good citizens and Evil Alien Terrorists,
Good Settlers and Evil Savage Natives,
Good New Zealanders and Bad Foreigners,
Good Christians and Bad-led-astray-Christians-who-aren’t-really-Christians-they just-think-they-are,
Good Activists and Bad Capitalists/Bad Falsed Conscioused Activists/Bad Non-Activists,
Good Feminists and Bad Feminists-who-aren’t-truly-Feminists-they-just-think-they-are,
Good Normal People and Bad Evil Criminals,
and so on and so forth.

Because this George Bushism “You’re either With Us or Against Us” is so well ingrained and such a big part of how we see and understand the world, it can be difficult not to simply invert the dynamic and continue to perpetuate it.

So for example a Capitalist Dominating framework says “Good People With Jobs, Bad People With No Jobs”. And when there are those of us who don’t want to be part of an ideology that puts profits before people and reduces people to a monetary figure, it can be easier to simply invert and say “Good Activists who haven’t sold out to the system by getting a job, and Bad Activists/Capitalists/people with jobs who just prop us the system”.

This is easier than looking at the intricate way in which the needs of People and Community to be self-sustaining and have an Economy, have been exploited, commandeered and forced into a Capitalist Economy.

So it’s a real tricky one, to see and then to find alternatives to. It’s tricky because “Black and White, Good and Evil, You’re With US or Against Us” is so easy. Because You’re Wrong and I’m Right is a Safe Space to settle. Safe because doubt is uncomfortable. Complexity is grey, or rather, colourful.

Safe because contextual, and holistic approaches are usually not quick, righteous, easy, and clean, and therefore don’t allow for banning, ostracising, imprisoning, lynching or running out of town as a end and final solution.

Restorative healing approaches and holistic pathways are messy and difficult, because they require the valuing of each person and all their gifts, journeys, foibles, privileges and socialisations, not simply forcing them into a pre-made box where they can remain forever, be it a prison cell or a label.

It requires continuous examination into how each of us perpetuate or are complacent in oppressive structures, it requires community and societal responsibility for all the oppressive structures that can and do, operate within each of us.

Social justice and social change that has space to include everyone not just the people we think are Good, requires holistic ways of thinking and living that are not just simply a larger longer version of the Good-versus-Evil-one-and-a-half-hour-long-Action-movie.

Social Justice and social change that is sustainable, holistic and not just simply a replacement of those holding power-over, is much harder than in an Action movie.

So that’s why every now and then to escape reality and indulge in fantasy, I like to watch Action movies.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I agree that the US vs. Them dynamic and the constant boundary setting that activists do is not really a positive way to try and achieve social change 'cause it doesn't acknowledge the malleability of people. If someone's a reformist or Green Party supporter at one point in their life doesn't mean they always will be, and I'd say most activists I know supported the Green Party and parliamentary politics before being exposed to grassroots activism and revolutionary politics. The black and white way of thinking reproduces the same self-other dichotomies that becomes the basis for exclusion of certain people who don't fit into the prevailing idea of "us" at the time and doesn't give people space get involved.

    And I think it's a form of ethnocentrism as well, a subcultural ethnocentrism that sees everyone else as inferior, but actually reproduces ideological hierarchies and prejudices and arrogance that we're all trying to fight. Then it just becomes about egos and the actual issues become disconnected and lost among the aesthetics of it.

    I like to think more in terms of yin and yang, not only as a symbol representing balance and complementarity but to dispell the myth that there is absolute goodness and absolute evilness that is unchanging and universal. It's a lot more complex than that and nobody is perfect or has all the answers and everyone makes mistakes. And because of the way we've been enculturated, we can probably never fully reach a point where we'd be non-oppressive, just existing as non-tangata whenua in a colonial society is perpetuating oppression. But as much as the emphasis is on individuals to change their behaviour, it's equally if not more important to focus on the institutions and structures that more directly fuck up the planet, slaughter animals and oppress humyns. Seems like a hard task, but collectively it's possible, and it's not called a 'struggle' for nothing.

    In terms of violence in the community though, like gender and sexual violence, I think there is a place for banning and exclusion because it's a practical safety net for survivors. But there should be a point if/when perpetrators have rehabilitated or changed abusive ways or done enough for the survivor and supporters to allow them back into the community. But in practice it's really difficult when abusers don't co-operate with any processes to deal with it and don't try and change their behaviour or free any remorse for their abuse.