Why Life Isn't a Film
I wrote this opinion piece last year for a friend's online zine.
We like to think we are in Act 3 of a film.
That’s not surprising, the third act is the best part. They stop saying names you don’t know, they finally kiss and that’s where they keep all the good explosions.
We like to think that in Act 1 we were innocent and working on Aunt May’s farm and then Act 2 happened and we found out Father Christmas wasn’t real now we are just trying to get through in this hum drum world until the inevitable devastating climax and well-chosen eighties pop song over the director's name.
We seem convinced as a culture that we have taken the red pill, we see the truth, and now we must overcome it to get back to the simple innocence we knew in the first ten minutes. There is a fundamental flaw in this theory.
None of us are Neo, and that is a very good thing.
The real world has pacing problems. Great evils don’t take over the world, or spread to an overwhelming zombie plague. Ebola wasn’t spread by the Umbrella Corporation, it was spread by the bodily fluid of the infected (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ebola-virus/Pages/Ebola-virus.aspx#transmission) and I strongly doubt that World War WC will be hitting the box office anytime soon. Most notably because of the huge lack of apocalypse.
We don’t like our solutions to be partially helpful, largely preventative, and time consuming. We like big game changers that will fix the current, all-consuming problem that everyone cares about as much as we do (except the villain, of course) before the credits roll, and god forbid it be something we more-or-less already knew. Which is why it’s so painful that the solutions we already know, don’t get enough attention to work.
We are shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s why the budget for global peacekeeping is less than half of one present of the global budget for defence (http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/financing.shtml). Because we can watch a bullet make thing better or worse, but pity the world’s greatest peace keeper. They must prove their worth and all the lives they have saved, with all the conflicts that haven’t happened, all the people that are just fine, and all the money that wasn’t spent. Good luck keeping your job.
Or the guy who pitches human contact as a way of helping depression, anger, or chemical dependency. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifetime-connections/201501/skin-hunger-why-you-need-feed-your-hunger-contact) (https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-59810232/american-adolescents-touch-each-other-less-and-are). No realist wants to utter the words “Hugs not Drugs”, no matter how real the research.
News that doesn’t have a three act structure tends not to make the news, or at least stay there. And fear what all writers fear, the sagging and slow middle section. Remember #BringBackOurGirls because a lot of them still aren’t home (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-32299943) Why is that not in the news every night anymore? Because no news is no news.
We treat the opposition like the enemy. You can’t be wrong, you must be evil and ignorant. Then maybe you’ll be worth talking about, and if you find the secret of being worth talking to, tell me because I haven’t found it. (I’d include a link with this argument, but I think it would just be easier just to point you towards the lower half of the internet).
We can’t have heroes and villains in a real world. Most people don’t just want to watch the world burn. And if you want to see how complicated conflict is, try explaining what’s happening in Palestine. (https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/udc.htm). Or that the United States Military hasn’t been in a war since 1973. (http://niagaragenealogy.org/pdfs/timeline_of_us_military_conflicts.pdf). What have they been in since then? It was more complicated, that’s what.
I’m not calling anyone out here, I’m not trying to punish anyone, God knows I do this too. But the point is that we all need to stop. Stop looking for Hans Gruber in bureaucratic inefficiency and see the bureaucratic inefficiency. Paperwork is scary enough. We need to stop looking away from real solutions because they seem too much like what an unrealistic (or un-cynical) person might think. We need to stop sitting on our high horse and pretending were just on our toes. If we stop looking for the people out to get us, maybe we will see the lamp post we are about to walk into.