Happiness & Freedom vs. Imagination & Responsibility
(spoiler alert for the film Dirty, Pretty things that we had to watch in class).
I was in full agreement with Dr. Allen when he talked about the antagonist in Dirty Pretty Things, Señor Juan aka Sneaky, being the image of capitalism. The most telling moment of this is when Señor Juan is trying to get Okwe to join his shady business dealings as he offers…
“You give me your kidney; I give you a new identity. I sell the kidney for ten grand, so I’m happy. The person who needs the kidney gets cured. So, he’s happy. The person who sold his kidney gets to stay in this beautiful country, so he’s happy. My whole business is based on happiness.”
This lack of imagination and responsibility is at the center of what keeps people perpetuating broken systems of economy, government, poverty, and violence. This post by Ian Hanson captures a brilliant moment in Haruki Marukami’s Kafka on the Shore when one of the characters is musing about Adolf Eichmann. This Nazi mathematician later defended his lack of moral responsibility for his work not of not ethnic cleansing and enslavement but mathematical efficiency. Perhaps that is because he lacked the imagination.
One hegemonic notion in the US is that “our whole business” is based on freedom. The formation of the country, the foreign policy, and economy are based on freedom. If you don’t like it, you must not like freedom.
How many times in your life have you heard a politician sound similar to Señor Juan, spouting off about freedom while we spend a trillion dollars on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? When we talk about building a wall across the Mexico-US border? When we try to move on after centuries of genocide and denial of reparations for the enslavement of Africans and their decedents?
I felt happy at the end of Dirty, Pretty Things because I was surprised by the poetic justice for the villain and outright victory for the heroes. I have a similar skepticism for the world we live in. I carry it along with my hope to be surprised.