Food for thought: Documentaries on present (and future) issues

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Margaret Mead

Recently, I  watched two documentaries (The Cove and The Yes Men Fix the World) that, although covering different issues, bring to light the same sort of behavior that is the root for many of our present day issues: from pollution to poverty and social differences, from child abuse to health research (or lack of thereof), it all boils down to one fundamental problem: people who are willing to lie, to manipulate, and to do whatever it takes to make us believe they are doing the best they can, while they are only thinking about their own well-being, and most of all, their own financial wealth. But can we be so easily fooled? Can people be so easily manipulated in an era where access to information is so easy?

Sometimes I think of gathering information as going to the supermarket: when the amount of products available take a whole aisle, you’re probably going to stick with what your parents or friends taught you to be best, instead of trying something different. Because more information doesn’t necessarily translate to quality, people might be unwilling to leave their comfort zone, and may disengage from searching for different information than what they already have. Of course the media doesn’t really help. Everyone knows that the media can manipulate us, and that what it covers might create misconceptions (to say the least) about what the world is really like, how people behave, how cultures function, …

In The Cove, we see that in Japan, where change can only occur if citizens within the country  realize what is happening and react to it, media is censured. The problem is denied, erased, and I wonder if not taken for a western-overblown-issue. But in The Yes Men Fix the World, we can see the media taking the acts of courage from these individuals – who are trying to open people’s eyes in a somewhat desensitized society – as hoaxes, pranks and something that should never be done or thought of. This sort of journalism is, as far as I’m concerned socially irresponsible. As I saw the journalist attack the “prankster”, without giving him time to talk, to explain, to inform about what he meant to do, I thought about the people who say our generation fights for nothing, or has no ideals. I know a lot of people with ideals who fight for their dreams every day. They are creative individuals who strive for a better world, and to leave it better than when they found it (although, by now, some things cannot be remedied). However I’m also aware that many people conform to this mainstream idea that things are as they are, that the world will never change, that people will be people. Media reaches these individuals daily, and if the media doesn’t develop a critical, responsible and conscious standpoint (that can reach everyone, instead of a “preaching to the choir” sort of information layout), we are doomed to roam in a world of information, not choosing, but conforming to what is given to us.


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