Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Do you have a voice? - By Nick van der Leek

Since The King's Speech won the Oscar for best picture, ahead of 127 Hours, The Social Network and the unbeatable Black Swan, I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about.
It's a dreary film, lacking in action and full of boring British gentry.  I've heard that King won over The Social Network because it's the story of courage, and heart, whereas Social Network runs shallower, and there's less to sympathise with in Eisenberg's Zuckerberg?  Really?  No, the reason The King's Speech won goes far deeper into the grain of things.

For starters, it is the story of a humble and principled man rather than an ambitious narcissist.  It's the story of a courageous man stepping forward and taking the full responsibility to be leader, by making some personal sacrifices.  Leadership is sorely lacking in the world today, or should we say, moral leadership is what irks swathes of citizens.  We can also empathise with a man who cannot use his voice.  It is ironic, because today most leaders fill the air waves with lies and placations, and citizens are left voiceless.  The time is approaching when citizens are finding their voices.  We have seen this in Egypt, Tunisia, and now in Libya.

While all of this is nice to know, the darker resonance of The King's Speech lies in the acknowledgement of large scale fear, felt not only by ordinary citizens, but by most sensible leaders.  During his speech the cause of the common man is presented in line with his encouraging speech, but against the backdrop of world war.  Any man alive today who does not think we are once again on the brink of massive global carnage, both in the financial and political milieu, is either dreaming or very good at lying to himself.

[watching a clip of Hitler speaking]
Lilibet: What's he saying?
King George VI: I don't know but... he seems to be saying it rather well.

In fact, I believe Black Swan cuts to the core far better than The King's Speech.  While the King's Speech offers a distinguished response to calamity, and a happy, heart-warming, final result, Black Swan, despite it's fantasy element, happens to be more realistic.  The schizophrenia we experience in Nina Sayers speaks volumes about the choices we dance to on a daily basis, though we know we ought not to.  We are still distracted by movies, and home comforts, and commutes, and business as usual, while oil prices continue an inexorable rise.

We are now in a territory where airlines are obsolete, and which will propel the USA [and the world] back into recession.  Actually, we have never emerged from the last recession, and unless there is a deal breaker or a game changer, we never will.  We will go quietly, or loudly, towards permanent contraction.  If you're not sure what that it is, think of it in terms of compound interest that makes you poorer.

On a personal note, when I was a young boy a much older boy, for some inexplicable reason, hurled wet sea sand hard at my face, so that those find silica grains of beach sand stung my retinas.  I was blinded by a stinging pain, and it took a good hour to wash the last jagged rocks off my irises.  My father's response to this bully was "You have to fight your own battles son.  I won't fight them for you."  That theme has been maintained through adolescence and adult life, with my father seldom intervening when I've needed his assistance.  Has it made me a better, stronger man?  I developed a nasty stutter as a young boy, and it sometimes raises it's ugly head in stressful situations [like disciplinary hearings].

While I disagree with the basic psychology, what's certainly true is we are all alone together in a mess, and we can't expect a rescue from Superman, or God, or government.  We'll have to find our own way, and we can make it easier by taking hands and forming ourselves into functional [as opposed to dysfunctional] communities again.  We take care of ourselves, after all, when we take care of each other.

I have interviewed a few champions in my time, and it's interesting to play back the audio and to hear the hesitation [both in tone, and pace] of my voice in comparison to the measured, powerful, clear messages.  I remember that when I was at school I was often asked to read aloud to the class at the end of a lesson, or in the final minutes of a school day. I was already a voracious reader then.  Once in High School I had my jaw wired [shut essentially] with the introduction of an external brace.  Very soon I became a much quieter boy, and my interest turned from reading to writing.  An English teacher suggested one day that I was using writing as a ventriloquist uses a doll, to speak on my behalf.  Perhaps it was true, but I didn't appreciate the comment.  I had a voice, it was school society and all the mockery involved that silenced me, not my own lack of resolve.  Wasn't it?

We may be confident as kings in our cars, we may have lives exactly as we ordered them, but in a flash this can all change.  The system, after all, is based on money, which are based on currencies, which are based on the value of energy, which runs through everything.  That system is obsolete, sorry to say, and in finding a new system, many will lose their momentum, their confidence, their voices.  It is possible to find your feet again.  It is possible to clear your throat after a long, wounded silence, and to speak eloquently, and sensibly, without regret or bitterness, about what must be done.

In these times it is up to all of us to find our own voices, and to use them, to sing the same songs, and to shout, in solidarity, for constructive changes to society.  Some will elect madmen to govern them, and that will be their lot.  Some will elect hard working people of conscience who will put the interests of community first.  We can choose to be divisive, we can blame, we can fight, or we can work.  There is much to be done.  The world has to function different in future, and this will require news mindsets, new machines, and new energies.  You have a voice.  Now is the time to use it.

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