Thursday, September 20, 2012

A review of the documentary: Regeneration

from The award-winning documentary film, #ReGENERATION, explores the galvanizing forces behind the Occupy Movement and the state of social activism in our society. The film takes an uncompromising look at the challenges facing today’s youth and young adults as they attempt to engage on a myriad of social and political issues.

I encourage everyone to watch this movie regardless of your personal and political philosophy.  It's less about what activism is and more about our current behavioral responses to the events that are affecting our society (American society). It's not a perfect documentary, but it does present an honest, self-incriminating view of our increasingly narcissistic society.

Within the first few minutes, we are witness to soundbites from former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Although the clips occurred years apart and clearly not made within the context of the film's message, it provides an early example of the decay that's been eating away at the American spirit for decades. Consumption.

Are Americans more apathetic toward social injustices today, and if so why? The filmmakers do an excellent job of presenting this question, and then exploring a variety of factors that have contributed to the answer. The answer seems to be yes, the current generation is more apathetic, dedicated to consumption, but justifiably.

I don't believe it's fair to compare our current generation of Americans to those of the past.  In today's society, we have access to an endless stream of data.  Whose to say that American's during the 1950's would have responded to crisis in the same manner if they were also inundated with today's mass media. Where the documentary starts, is an example of how media has changed us.

We are undoubtedly a society of narcissistic, self-congratulating, self-absorbed, self-gratifying, consumers. We are addicted to our own self-worth which has been defined by what we own instead of who we are. Tucker Carlson of the Daily Caller website appears in the movie to say that we are taught to believe that we can grow up to be anything we want, but that just isn't true.

The individualism movement of the 1970's coupled with the promotion of self-esteem have created an entitlement among young people. Children are raised to believe they are special, unique, and have a wealth of talent waiting to be unleashed. I don't believe Regeneration is demonizing these movements but instead has made the case that by doing so, we've traded away civic responsibility. We've enabled our children to grow up to become assholes. And this is how our society works.

"Nice guys finish last" - a reference to baseball manager Leo Durocher in 1939, but relevant today. The film repeats the aphorism against images of Wall St and the New York Stock Exchange. The message here is, individuals are rewarded when they seek out their own self-interest, the rest be damned.  I don't think it's fair to suggest that only people operating in high finance behave in this manner. I worked for a newspaper and if you didn't fight for your story, it might get cut to make room for more advertising. Still, the point is made clear, nice doesn't get you noticed.

The movie uses several people from various backgrounds to properly frame the themes of consumption, apathy, and media propaganda.  Inside a Minnesota classroom, a round-table of high school students admit not caring as much about the environment or joining an outdoor protest because they simply are inside on their computers. The cold world of the Internet is where they live.  A hip-hop artist and entrepreneur in the film states, the man who doesn't know how to fish, hunt, farm, and survive on his own will become dependent on the government. I would add that they would also become dependent on business as well.

But who does that benefit? I would suggest that it benefits anyone who holds power.  The media in all it's forms has been a distraction for the American public. When broadcast companies lease public airwaves, they are doing so with the intent to serve the public interest.  But they make money selling advertising...even the news.

It doesn't matter which political party is currently yucking it up on capital hill of sleeping at 1600 Pennsyvalia Ave. They will all seek to employ the media to distract the public.  Democrats railed against the Bush White House and now Republicans are making he same claims against Obama's Presidency.  Whether it's a corporation or a sitting President, the media (both entertainment and news) will be used to keep the people busy while the "smart" people make decisions.

They do it because it works, and according to the film, they also do it because corporations that have homogenized the American landscape are literally paying for it.

We've grown up in front of televisions.  We are looking at some form of screen all day long.  Those screens are also advertising products, encouraging us to want things that we not need. Sometimes those things are even harmful.  If you feel you are immune to advertising or unaffected by propaganda I encourage you to do some research on mass marketing and sociology. But where this starts to rewire us as a society is in the classroom.

The teachers in the movie admit that it's increasingly more difficult to keep students engaged.  They can't compete with the readily available streaming media content that children take with them everywhere.  Kids are learning more from television, media and video games than from school.  Ultimately, these children grow up without critical thinking skills and the patience to discover their own truths about the world they live in.

Our education system is failing. But it's also suffering from self-inflicted wounds that has contributed to the growing number of young people who are apathetic and frighteningly cynical. Teachers are starting to realize that our adherence to a mythical version of American history is doing more damage than it's worth.  I personally have always cringed at the way my kids learned about our founding fathers. I don't believe they were evil men, but they weren't two-dimensional characters in a short story fighting for good either.  They were as human and flawed as you and I. When children start to realize this, they become cynical about everything they are taught in school.

It's a movie about how we got here.  Why are so many Americans affected by the same social issues, but unwilling to affect any meaningful change?  It doesn't discuss the validity of war, but asks the question, "If you don't like it, why aren't you demanding that your voice be heard?"

I would point out that there seems to be a small amount ironic self-promotion in the documentary for the band STS9. I'll forgive them for their transgression, if for but one reason. At about 65 minutes into the movie, Mos Def,  delivers a poignant rant from inside a Brooklyn, independent bookstore.  It's the best part of the film.

I am aware that some will view this movie as a call to action for the Occupy Wall Street movement.  This is a documentary about us and our problems. If we don't accept that we are willing participants of these problems, they will grow exponentially.  Finally, the movie doesn't offer any answers or solutions and neither do I.  The irony is that it's a very entertaining film.  That's OK, as long as we are critical about the media we consume and honest about our consumption.

please leave comments whether you agree or disagree, if you have seen the documentary, I'd like to know your thoughts also. 

- Eric McLeroy

follow on twitter @gunn3r11

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