Dear friends, the political and cultural and economic problems we are faced with today are not new. They have been around for millennia.
There are, in fact, historical records that show the same issues of graft, corruption, economic instability, bankruptcy and war politics dating back to the days of Ancient Greece. Back when the Delian League was formed, 2,500 years ago, kingdoms and states and their citizens and subjects were embroiled in situations that had nothing to envy from today’s cynical, end-of-days scenarios.
Sure, the Ancient Greeks didn’t possess nuclear energy, nor were they clearly and without a doubt eviscerating the entire planet through their actions, and neither was anyone else at the time. That ability remains unique to our day and age. But the politics and frustration, the conflict and erosion of the values of the day, the politics of war and the machines of unfettered development were as much part of yesterday as they are of today. Commerce and acceptance and art and creativity went hand in hand with debt, prejudice, betrayal and destruction, pitting belligerent against belligerent, people looking to gain the upper hand.
In that respect, we haven’t changed a bit. We are still all too human, all too absorbed in the short term aspect of life, even though we claim to have conceived and embraced the long term.
To make the argument relevant, shed a light on all that ails us today in a way that will help us understand what is happening, perhaps even tackle it efficiently, let’s take a look at a more recent period in time, something closer to home, yet still old enough to feel separate from our daily lives. Something so similar to what is happening today, operating on the forces currently misshaping our world, and yet of the previous century (1939).
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. A movie to remind us how all this is not new, not in a cute, ‘history repeats itself’ kind of way. Here we have a mighty depiction of the harsh political realities of the previous century, a story written and shot in 1939 about the cynicism permeating huge political structures and the dreadful manner in which things can go awry, and the titanic effort it takes to win a battle against the powers that be. A story that captures the ability of the press to shape and kill politics, the pervasiveness of graft, the readiness with which a system devours any person daring to stand against it, and the tenacity required to beat back the minions and claim victory for decency and common sense.
Fact is, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a gem of a movie, a timeless cultural statement. It could have been written today, and it wouldn’t have missed a beat.
From your tirelessly forthcoming and historically minded Spin Doctor,
Watch this space for Part 2.