More Lessons On Human Nature From (American) Human History
After catching ‘docu-fever’ and watching one after another about political and financial systems (Human Nature, Inhuman Systems), I was surprised to find I still had an appetite for more (rip that band-aid off!) so I to wandered over to the U.S. history aisle. Actually, by this time I was beyond feeling horrified or disbelieving and was largely just thirsty for more information – by which I mean ‘more-than-my-white-washed-public-school-education-delivered’ information. Like most people, I’m naturally curious but after the awakening, that curiosity had kicked into high gear and I was in permanent learning mode. It was as if, upon realizing I hadn’t understood reality – I mean, at all – I was determined to find out just what else I really didn’t understand, including the very part of human history that I’d been living through.
I’m sure my decision to watch these films was also influenced by the political and social energies swirling in this country by late 2016 – and ever since then. We’ve seen increasing accounts of verbal and physical violence inspired by nationalism and racism and that this is simply an echo of our earlier history, the films below make unquestionably clear. It’s as if the collective ego that is America finds itself once again at the same crossroads, wondering how we got here yet never willing to truthfully confront the lessons of our past that keep bringing us here.
back to top
Films Revealing The Nature Of Systems Built By Us Complicated Humans
It all started with The Big Short, a fast-paced, well-acted dramatization of the 2008 mortgage crises and financial collapse. I watched the movie for the talented cast but ended up gaining a number of insights about U.S. financial systems – and then was outraged all over again. Afterwards, I found myself suddenly eager to find more documentaries about the other big events that have unfolded during my lifetime: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, the psychedelic counter-culture – all of it. This interest in documentaries was a new twist for me, by the way, as I prefer films of the entirely fictional, highly entertaining type. But the passage of time and technological advances are allowing us to retell these big stories from our collective past again, this time with far more truth and balance than anything most of us encountered in the classroom or in the media.
I was surprised to learn how many entertaining and informative films about US politics and finance I could readily find on the large streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu). And don’t get me started about the yawning abyss that is YouTube. Films about The Federal Reserve led to films about US history and then to films on human history. After a few weeks of this, the post-Trump election ideas I’d had of joining the political or financial or environmental battles seemed …. not wasteful, exactly; there must be a force stemming the tide to help minimize the suffering that will otherwise run unchecked in areas where profits are to be made. But all these films, especially when taken in quick succession, made it abundantly clear that there’s an underlying aspect to our nature that, as things stand today, would make efforts at political or environmental change short-lived at best. The understanding felt deflating but clarifying.
Of course, now I see these stories of massive wars, environmental stress and human suffering quite differently. It is no longer about who is winning or losing, who victim, who perpetrator. Instead these stories now seem like waves of intention moving through the collective human presence in patterns of upheaval and shift; it’s fascinating to contemplate. And it certainly feels like these massive social waves are coming more quickly now, with surges of invention / discovery / reaching switching back and forth more rapidly with surges of contraction / anger / fear. If a person’s suffering can bring about their individual awakening, then is collective suffering on the scale we now exercise it bringing about a quickened collective awakening? We do seem very intent on bringing about such suffering, us humans. On the other hand, in the US today we enjoy legalized marijuana and gay marriage, two individual freedoms that just twenty years ago would have seemed way out of reach. And now regulated psilocybin use on the ballot in California? Clinical trials using psychedelics to treat addiction? Such an interesting time!
So here’s the first round of what I think of as my ‘human nature refresher course’. I continue to enjoy a good historical documentary (making up time for using history classes to decorate my pee chee) and will share them as I find them.
back to top