I had a thought this morning, ideas colliding around. The Aliens are Here. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
1995. I was watching “Independence Day” at the Cinedome Theater in southern Washington. Will Smith pilots a spaceship out of the atmosphere, and says “I’ve waited my whole life for this.” I sat there with tears streaming down my face and thought: “me, too.”
After the movie was over, I went to the rest room. The Cinedome theater is in a very…well, let’s say “Redneck” part of the state, lots of pickup trucks, blue-collar Yee-Haw and a generous helping of Confederate Flags. There were a couple of denim overall clad gentlemen who fit the stereotype quite well, standing at the urinals taking care of their business with no idea I’d walked in. And I heard one say to the other: “Whoo-Eee! That Will Smith sure was cool! I can’t wait to bring my Daddy to see this!”
And I thought: Wow. We are entering a very new world.
I’m nine years old, watching an old (there aren’t any “new.” Sigh.) Ray Harryhausen SX spectacular, “Earth Versus The Flying Saucers.” The world was at war against the aliens, in an expression of the “if the aliens came, all of Earth would pull together. We would forget our differences”
Only one problem: in all the speaking roles, everyone was white. Also most of the crowd scenes. A couple of shots of Asians hunkered by a radio, and one of a roomful of Indian-looking men with maybe one African somewhere in a back row…but no, if the Aliens come, it is all the white people that will pull together. So diverse. Why, there will be English, and Americans, and Germans, and Irish and Russians and…
I watched and loved that movie as a kid, but I knew that white people were somewhat twisted about this, and figured it would take decades to straighten it out. One of the reasons I’ve fought to take really good care of myself: I intended to enjoy myself when things got better.
Well, as of “Independence Day,” which was the first movie that REALLY paid attention to that notion about the world pulling together, I’d stepped into a new world. Not fully balanced yet…but getting there.
And as of “Black Panther” we finally had a fully created fantasy film from “the other world” so to speak. And even though two white characters were FRONT AND CENTER, the first seen, and the first speaking in the commercials, the same white folks who used to tell me not to complain about “Earth Versus The Flying Saucers” were now whining about the fact that there were no white people.
Wow. As the great philosopher Sho Nuff said: Stings a little, don’t it?
I see a lot of complaints about diversity in films or comics. “Virtue Signalling,” “Social Justice Warriors” and “Political Correctness” are often the terms bandied about.
All right. I’m going to assume that people who say that are honestly representing their points of view. Let’s explore that.
Is diversity in film a matter of politics? Well…yes, perhaps, if you are doing it to achieve a direct political goal (change) or indirect political goal (creating a coalition. I’ll cover yours if you cover mine. Sort of like folks on the Right who defend the CSA), its political.
But shall we look at some other reasons: How it being thought about philosophically? Because you think it is the right thing to do BECAUSE IT IS TRUTH. Demographically, what we see happening is just…reality. The country is getting browner. If racism and tribalism were not a factor you’d see movies with a HELL of a lot more diversity than we see now. But every step in that direction, you hear the whining. Someone’s nerves are being tweaked.
How about spiritually? Racial diversity could be considered an expression of universal humanity, “Num.” Or religious diversity (Ms. Marvel being Muslim) could be a growing sense that there is one mountain, but many paths to its summit.
Psychologically? Maybe Emotionally? You could do it because you remember some aspect of your own life where you felt like an outsider. Perhaps felt depression and despair. Then you saw something in a comic book or a movie that touched your heart, gave you hope. And now, you look out at the world, and wish you could give that same gift to some other child. Pure naked self-interest. And as good as it gets.
For those who don’t care about ANY of those, how about economically? If you want my money, you show me you respect me. You let me see myself in that world, because NOTHING but your aversion and leveraging of advantage would keep me from being there in your fantasies. I see who you are by the dreams you feed your children.
How about Art as a question: “Who am I?” and “What is true?” Here, tropes can reveal cogitation. “Who are these black people” they ask, as they ask “what is the moon? What is an atom?”
If centuries of CSA brainwashing has warped the reality (assumption: human groups are basically equal. All my thoughts flow from this, whether you like ’em or not is not my concern) then what is the truth? Are we “Magical Negroes?” (This absolves guilt [why, they just LOVE helping us] and simultaneously confers some odd respect [well, they don’t have technology, but maybe they have something innate and more powerful than white science can understand…] That one is almost cute. Kinda like it: it is a desperate attempt by the logical mind to avoid a racist conclusion)
Politics is an attempt to win. Philosophy is asking “what is true?” Art is an expression of philosophy (it can be political, but I think that in the sense I’m using the word, it is ALWAYS consciously or unconsciously philosophical) , in the sense that there are only two things to write about: “who am I?” (what is humanity) and “what is true?” (the physical and ethical structure of the universe). So a philosopher who looks out into the world and says “why is X?” “what is Y?” may well write something touching those questions.
OR, they might say “what if some other quality than skin color was the most important thing about a character?” (Which was, I think, the motivation behind Michael B. Jordan’s casting as Human Torch, however bad that movie may have been. Not so much a political thing, but a philosophical one that decided to ignore the political push AGAINST such decisions.)
THE ALIENS ARE HERE
And if multi-national corporations are running studios, it is useful to ask if corporations are now complex enough that their actions can be best understood by considering them simple life forms. Because if you do, then they are life forms that eat money and shit products and services.
And that…can be a very good thing if you grasp the implications. It means that you can in essence communicate with an alien life form that is totally outside the binary racial or even gender system. It eats money and shits products and services. This is why bigots complain about boycotts (and yes, there are non-bigoted reasons to, of course)…boycotts work. You starve them (not enough resources, Malthusian crisis) or give them constipation (not enough market, Keynsian crisis) and like worms moving away from a hot needle, they will do whatever is necessary to stop that irritation.
Including being “fair” if they really really have to. Which leads them to trying different things, including hiring diversity. Which leads to different decision, creating different products, some of which scratch that itch. Money is made, irritation diminishes, the alien goes back to sleep.
So marching through all seven chakras, some reasons to embrace diversity:
Survival (making money)
Sex (Well…anyone who thinks human beings aren’t exogamous hasn’t considered that the only way you can stop us from boffing each other is to pass harsh laws against it. That doesn’t work, either. We relish images of people with whom we’d like to bump uglie)
Power: Yes, you can organize politically by exchanging favors. Also…money is power. Probably the most useful and fluid form, overall.
Emotion: The sense that something is right. Emotionally identifying with a person having a powerful emotional experience. And representation, when you have been excluded, is a POWERFUL experience.
Communication: Art can also be saying “this is who I am. This is the world I see” if you see a world of diversity, then you are being dishonest not to express it. Trust me: those who DON’T want a diverse world are not being shy about expressing THAT.
Intellect: Asking “what is true?” and “who am I?” Creating a valid world map. If racism and tribalism (white guys ran Hollywood exclusively. Of COURSE they were gonna make themselves look good. But it isn’t “Hollywood.” It is humanity. You think Chinese film companies or Indian film companies or Nollywood goes out of their way to fill their movies with people not their own ethnicity? Don’t you think “their own tribe” are at the center of most of their output? Of course) created “Earth Versus The Flying Saucer” in monochrome, what happens when you release that energy? You swing a bit, irritating the people who were happy with the status quo. They squawk as loudly as they ever accused Liberal “snowflakes” of squawking, and the irony is hysterically funny. “What is true” is that human beings are selfish…
SPIRIT: But that selfishness isn’t a bad thing. It all depends on your definition of “Self”. With some people, it stops at their own skin. For others, it is an infinite circle with no circumference. I love the Koisan “Num” concept (dammit, I only found it once, in a book printed in South Africa by a pair of anthropologists. Don’t know where the book is any more, but it had a red cover): “one soul looking out through many eyes”. That…is beautiful. And if you START with an alive survival drive, IMO it is the best place to live. If you feel this way, you might actually go out of your way to include “others” in your work, because it matches some internal music, a sense that instruments are missing from the Human Symphony
So: “Virtue Signaling”, “SJW” (implication: no personal skin in the game, pretending like you care), or “Politically Correct” are all implications of dishonesty and manipulation, or doing something because you want approval reaction from your tribe.
IF the above is true, then let’s try a little thought experiment, shall we?
Proposed: There are basic two ways to view this.
- They are saying: “you are like me. I wouldn’t do those things from any purpose other than naked self-interest. So if you don’t acknowledge me, if it doesn’t increase my connection to other poseurs, or build a political coalition…I won’t do it. I see nothing here that would motivate me if no one was watching.”
2. Or they are saying: “I am above you. I can’t believe YOU would do a thing because you think it is right. I would, and I’d do this if I thought it was right. I don’t.”
I’m sure there are others, but these two seem pretty reasonable, frankly. And easily dealt with. With #2, they are coming from a place of “Superiority”–and frankly, anyone who steps to me from that position will get laughed at (unless I feel sorry for them. Or unless they really are in some specific arena I care about). I certainly have no reason to want to engage with them.
With #1…well, at the core of that is a metaphysical discussion, isn’t it? A bit of “faith” about the basic nature of humanity. As it is possible to be a perfectly fine human being either way (I certainly prefer the notion that we’re connected, but know plenty of very good people who don’t feel all that connected to other people) I can simply listen to their argument, realize they are coming from a different position and let it go. Why argue? There really are different ways of living together.
And it seems to me that there are way more than 60% of people willing to live and feel connected, that when I look at all seven levels of motivation, they will find something that resonates. In terms of diversity, THAT is my tribe. There will be 20% of hard core “NEVER!” but…so long as I focus on building a coalition, and keeping them safe, and inspiring them with a vision, that 60% will win.
What are the principles?
- Love yourself
- Love one other person
- Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
- Find your tribe, don’t waste time arguing with trolls
- Win with integrity.
Can you see how this stuff fits together? Whether you start at the individual level ( just aim at the 60%) or the top level (appeal to Corporate interests by voting with your dollars), the most basic motivations (survival) or the most elevated (spirit) I see a road map to victory here, if the win is defined by helping the human race to a higher level of love, peace, integration and complexity. From 1/1 billionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe has been undergoing a continual march toward increased complexity, leading from stars to planets to life to intelligence and social construct. This is just what we do. And there will always be resistance as we evolve: most mutations create cancer, not Wolverine. It is good to be cautious. The ego fears death, and every time we go from individual to group, there is both loss and gain. This is just real human stuff.
Anyway…the aliens are here. And that might be the good news. Because if they come, human beings will all pull together. The “aliens” are corporations, nations, multi-national unions and banks. They don’t care about human concerns. They are not us, although they are made of us: they have emergent “differences” that are probably as hard to grasp as it is for an amoeba to understand an elephant.
But some of their motivations ARE understandable. We can talk to them, if we speak their language: money. And if we can speak to each other, as individuals. We can satisfy all of our needs…and still be spiritual beings living together.
All it takes is a commitment to two questions: “who am I?” and “What is true?”
And, of course, watching Black Panther for the fifth time.