Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Film, "127 Hours," and the book, "The Fall of the US Empire -- And Then What?"

On this New Moon evening...

December 2010

Those involved with the film, “127 Hours (director, Danny Boyle),” must surely receive the honors they deserve. (James Franco was finally given a great and demanding role, and I suppose he was selected as co-host of the next Academy Awards in anticipation of a Best Actor nomination.) The film is a perfect mate to the recent film “Into the Wild (director, Sean Penn),” that many of us felt should have received that year’s Best Picture Oscar.
While meaningful in its own terms (enduring and surviving the most dire circumstances – a portrayal of the incident when hiker Aaron Ralston, his arm pinned down by a fallen boulder, had no choice finally but to cut off his own arm), the film takes on other meanings, some of them epic.
The biographical characters in both “127 Hours” and “Into the Wild,” one surviving, one dying, mature and arrive at the same insight, expressed in their own words, that the “individualism” that is part of the U.S. “faith” is a dead end delusion: Humans survive and thrive because of a blessed interdependence.
Seeing “127 Hours,” while reading Johan Galtung’s “The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What?,” the film became another in the thousands of current phenomena seen, from Galtung’s analysis, as symptoms of the death (we hope) of the American Empire. Aaron’s rash, self-absorbed behavior mirrors the current American collective myth.
While respecting Mr. Galtung’s copyright, which forbids me quoting him at length, I have to believe he would not mind my quoting his Dedication:
“To a country I love, the United States of America: You will swim so much better without that imperial albatross around your neck. Drown it before it drowns you, and let a thousand flowers blossom!”
I hope everyone will read his book – I have not reached the “And Then What?” portion of the book yet, but from what I have read so far I recognize what many know about our current U.S.A., that as the central “faith” of U.S.-as-Empire dies, those on the periphery, losing touch with that foundering center, begin to form coalitions with the others on the periphery in what might possibly be outposts for the possible post-Empire U.S. – The U.S. as a republic, for Mr. Galtung spells out the convincing facts that the U.S. position on the earth is already that of the latest dying empire, with all the conditions of previous dead empires.
Many of us know that the best comes from extragovernmental people-to-people responses to human needs. (I think of organizations like that of friend Gregg Biggs’s World Neighbors – organizations that help the underdeveloped set up microeconomies, etc.)
After the recent election, which seemed to fragment both the political right and the political left, leaving rational and compassionate people with no national leadership, I suggested to Dan Beam in the Crossroads Café that the pockets of progressive compassion and rational planning that exist in many separate places across the “red” and “blue” states might feel less helpless and hopeless (confronted by a bizarre electorate, and feeling under assault) if they reached out to each other and formed a bond and, perhaps, a common vision.
Those at the table came up with various progressive sanctuaries, naming “Austin,” “Boulder,” and probably most university towns. Dan suggested that such a concord of disparate “colonies” be called an archipelago (“a chain or cluster of islands”). For me it would be the Archipelago of Earthumans. A way to feel human solidarity.
I immediately fear that any such construct would become static and moribund in its own way, torn apart by inner dissensions, like all other constructs so I thought the first principle of that archipelago should be a frequent reminder, from Groucho Marx: “I would never belong to any group that would be willing to have me as a member.”
I might hope, however, that with religion being an automatic source of conflict that religious talk be carried on outside, and that those in the archipelago would limit its ethical code to the Golden Rule, an easy touchstone that conveys empathy, compassion, equality, fairness.
The intent is only to imagine or begin to create the post-Empire republic, or to begin to think in non-Empire terms, pan-human terms.
I thought I would ask people to add to the comments on this blog their own list of possible “islands” in the “archipelago,” understanding that sometimes that would be only part of a city, and keeping in mind that any individual in any obscure place in the US who looks forward to an end to Empire-thinking should not be excluded from such an archipelago.
Your sites for such an archipelgo in the Comment sections, please, and then perhaps following this fantasy notion, maybe someone would actually begin to form those links.
Mr. Galtung has been interviewed on several of Amy Goodman’s Democracy now programs, if you go to and search for "Johan Galtung"
or possibly paste this in your search engine:

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