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...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, August 14, 2006

Why We Will Win

Having seen World Trade Center last night, I was going to write another film review for Sundries' readers.

It had been a while, since my two last, Goal! and King Kong.

Quitely simply, though, I have two reasons why I refrain from doing so.

  • Despite good word-of-mouth, assuaging people's fears about another chockfull of conspiracy-goodness, peculiarly Oliver Stone world view film, this decent effort is simply the story of real-life joes stuck in the rubble of the World Trade Center. No more, no less.

  • Marrow stirred after I watched it, and I have to make sense of it, by writing it down for you.

  • The first point is easy to write about.

    World Trade Centre is a modern-day parable of survival, interdependency, and faith.

    For all that, it's not a film refuseniks can sink their teeth into, unlike Loose Change, that abortion of a documentary.

    It's not about Bush Derangement Syndrome, or cynically-posed dead bodies, or the latest rockets in flight of Hizboombah.

    No, it's about the simplicity of human circumstances.

    You are born. You live. You die. Finito.

    But back up one moment.

    Surely life isn't ONLY about plug-and-play details.

    We cannot just be so cloned in human experience, that one man's story is exactly like the poor schmuck living in an Afghani cave.

    You may say that the surroundings are different, but pain is pain, as is laughter, love, fear, or insecurity.


    But our circumstances are very different.

    There are some people who make history. And then there are some people who have history happen to them.

    By this I mean that some are passive actors in the play of life, content to let history define their lives, rather than making things happen, which is almost a subversion of fate.

    Americans have played that role in the latter part of the twentieth century and now, in the early moments of the twenty-first.

    These are a proactive people, not just content to let things slide into chaos without outcry.

    This is why Katrina had legs -- because though a natural disaster is no time for organisational genius at any level, one expects one's government to be on top of things nonetheless.

    But this is also why, if I were to ask you, which citizen would you prefer to be:

    A poor Indonesian peasant from Banda Aceh, or a poor black person from New Orleans, I don't even have to await your answer.

    We all KNOW which of the two, it is better to be.

    What it takes for that to happen is the quality of the people.

    Let no one misunderstand my words.

    It's not that Americans are better. It's that they expect better.

    This is what this film highlights to well, in its smallest details.

    Two lower-middle class guys who mean very little in the great scheme of things, have every chance of living because their lives are precious; each, irreplaceable. Not just for their families, but by their society.

    A world could be coming down around them, but if humanly possible, they will be saved.

    (The parallel with the Israeli soldiers whose kidnapp sparked off the second major Lebanese-Israeli conflict, is surely not lost on anyone)

    World Trade Center is not a polished film, like Stone's JFK, nor is it on par with Talk Radio, for its intense look at the banal.

    It has good supporting roles, well-developed character studies, and believable acting performances (perhaps Nicolas Cages' least self-conscious acting to date, and he has earned himself an Oscar nod next February).

    And yet, it's not the World Trade Center film so many want to see.

    These people want blood and gore -- to see the plane actually go into the Twin Towers, with piercing screams in THX, and slo-mo on the skulls as they implode on impact with the windows.

    Until that film is done, many many years from now, the kind of person who attends 9/11 feature-length films is the kind most likely to want to see human drama, the better to be reminded of what 9/11 really stood for.

    More fly on the wall, than fly me into the Towers.

    I am that kind of person.

    And so far, I have been fortunate to have been given three excellent reconstructions of the events of that horrific day.

    Not exploitative. Not maudlin. Not in the least hateful towards others.

    It's not about THEM. These films are about US.

    That is precisely the high-moral ground that is not due to posing, but to living, which we represent.

    Commentarists will never say this in mainstream film reviews, but there are unspokens in the West.

    The fact that most of us, no matter how rancid our personal conditions may be, would ever trade what we have, for what others take for granted.

    Societies which are choking in their own sputum of hate and doubt, forever putting off the messy realities of democracy. Terrorist organisations, which make a mockery of a country's government from within.

    Infrastructure, recovery time, and even bureaucratic byplays.

    All of this is better in the West. Much better. Infinitessimally better.

    It hurts them to admit it, and we are embarrassed to say it, but it's gospel truth.

    What hurts is for them to be reminded that a country is only as good as its people.

    A people whose shared cultural trajectory promotes certain expectations.

    So far, our films about this tragic event have been about people. Each one of us has a mirror image of ourself which to relate to on those planes, in that rubble, amongst the victims and heroes, both.

    In other cultures, feature films about this tragedy would be about hatred and violence for the sake of violence, the better to whip up loathing.

    Is there anyone amongst us who would tolerate a major Hollywood, anti-Semitic film about 9/11, a short 5 years after the event? How about a true conspiracy one, like Capricorn One was about the moonlanding?

    Only the most marginalised kooks, would do so.

    So instead, one of the foremost conspiracy theorist directors of our time, comes out with a simple story about two cops whose beat just got very messy.

    No doubt, every audience member in that theatre was thinking carefully, as they were watching.

    These five years have given many people a chance to reflect about their lives.

    Life often doesn't turn out the way we wanted it to. It's that expectations word again, raising its now ugly head.

    But it seems to me that no matter how unsatisfying our lives can be, that our shared experience elevates us.

    It becomes less a matter of me, than of we. That we that needs to be protected, because even if we don't have it so good, it's a lot better than what others have.

    This is when something deep inside made me sit up bolt upright during the film.

    One of the greatest claims after 9/11, is that extreme Islam cherishes death as much as life, and in this, our weakling Western culture is no match for their 72 black-eyed virgins.

    The theory goes is that we are too soft, and too spoilt by our "expectations" of life, to fight for it like our enemies can -- a choice which grasps martyred death with white knuckles.

    You know what?

    That is one of the greatest lies ever told.

    Since when do people fight for nothing?

    Americans and the West have the best life circumstances in the world, and it's time other people realised that some of us, at least, will die to keep that going.

    The proof is that we do -- there are any number of people who, if pushed by tragedy, will give their life for their fellow man, in droves.

    Look at me.

    I love life. Every day I thank God that I have lived to see another day. When I think of a time when I am no more, I grow dumb since I love this crazy world of ours so much.

    But I am one of those people, who would give my very life for what I have.

    And more than that.

    I would not do this because I have nothing. I would do this because I have EVERYTHING.

    We have EVERYTHING to fight for, to sustain, to continue, and to better.

    They may seem a self-obsessed, materialistic society, half rent asunder by its own political correctness, half unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices others are born making.

    But what they should see is a people determined to make things work, because history is a progress of liberty winning over tyranny, at every step of the way, no matter how slow or how obscure it is, to those living in the moment.

    We will win.

    If I had to explain why to a child, I would use a poker analogy.

    Every time the stakes have been raised, our society has met that bluff with an unflinching face.

    Maybe not everyone will finish their hand, and some will undoubtedly fold.

    But no one walks away willingly from that size of a pot.

    To the superficial, this is a monetary allusion, typical of what Americans find important in life.

    But it's nothing about the money that pot represents. It's about ourselves, and how we find our courage and savviness, in these circumstances.

    It's the challenge to the self, with the love we have for others, that keeps us going.

    So fear nothing.

    Let them rain death on us. We fight for life.


    • For whatever reason, Blogger is publishing one of the earliest "saves" I made, during the writing of this blogpost.

      Hopefully it's a glitch, because this is definitely not my finalised version.


      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Aug 14, 07:50:00 am GMT-4  

    • I'm afraid you may have accidentally hit the "recover post" button during composition.

      I hate hate hate that.

      By Blogger JSU, at Mon Aug 14, 08:26:00 am GMT-4  

    • Well, JSU, as you can imagine I know of that "recover" button for a while, which I am loathe to use.

      But no, there's something else going on.

      I did hit recover but only AFTER I saw my post changed -- the last read-through changes, not showing up.

      When I closed without saving the changes, it somehow then showed the MIDDLE version.

      Lastly, no matter how many times I updated the new corrections, it saved the odd "Stone's Loose Change" paragraph which I had tried to clean up at least 5 times.

      That was a good paragraph too...now shortened to something far more abrupt because I don't remember what exactly I said...ah well.

      I'm off to do some errands. We'll see if it changes again...


      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Aug 14, 11:41:00 am GMT-4  

    • Glitches, errors, whatever... still an amazing essay

      By Anonymous BrotherDarryl, at Tue Aug 15, 02:33:00 am GMT-4  

    • Indeed, what you said, and then some.

      They (the crazed nihilistic thugs who envision a global caliphate under strict sharia law) believe they will win because they are more willing to kill and more willing to die.

      We (the classically liberal democratic societies that view freedom as a fundamental human right) know we will win because we are more willing to protect our own lives, and we have far more to live for.

      (and blogger has been wonky lately)

      Great to have you back, I'll probably mention that on every comment for at least 2-3 months.

      By Blogger XWL, at Tue Aug 15, 08:36:00 pm GMT-4  

    • Very good review, Vicks, and commentary to boot! By happenstance I just finished reading "Americans will die for liberty" by Andrew Glimson, writing for The Telegraph. I recommend it!

      Despite your review, I won't be attending the film, nor will I rent a copy when it comes out on DVD or video. I simply refuse to put a penny into Oliver Stone's pocket.

      Since I've had some probs with blogger, and have forgotten what I just wrote, shortly after blogger has erased it, I have taken to writing in Word first. After it's what I want, then I paste it into blogger. Not perfect, but I have fewer "Oh, Crap!" moments. ;)

      By Blogger benning, at Wed Aug 16, 05:37:00 am GMT-4  

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