University student Todd (Andrew Garfield) wants to enjoy the good life because "I'm smart enough to." He says his parents resent him because he's got the nerve to enjoy it. Intelligent, articulate, full of potential he's decided that working toward a better country, a better world is pointless.
Longtime Poli-Sci Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford), who's observed students becoming more and more apathetic and cynical, confronts Todd early in the morning.
Their long conversation is familiar.
A short excerpt from the movie which is set in today's world:
Malley: If all your rants about Congress and politics are true, Todd, if things are really bad, as bad as you say they are, when thousands of American troops are dead and more are dying every day, probably as we speak, you tell me, how can you enjoy the good life?
Rome is burning, son, and the problem is not with the people that started this. They're past irredeemable. The problem is with us. All of us. Who do nothing. Who just fiddle. Who try to maneuver around the edges of the flame. And I'll tell you something, there are people out there, day-to-day, all over the world that are fighting to make things better.
Todd: You think it's better to have tried and failed than failing to try, right?
Todd: But what is the difference if you end up in the same place?
Malley: At least you did something.
Without preaching or taking political sides the movie helped me realize anew that it really is we the people who will have to right the listing ship. As Redford's character says in the movie, politicians and big corporations, "...bank on your apathy. They bank on your willful ignorance. They plan strategies around it. They try to find out how much they can get away with because of it."
Manipulation. It bugs me. Deeply. When someone points it out to me I'm grateful.
I remember a man I truly respect saying that despite the errors of the sixties there was something there that he misses, that doesn't seem to be present in subsequent generations: passion. He's right. And I can't quite figure out what happened. Is it because the Flower Children, once full of passion, creativity, and energy have traded the garlands of flowers around their necks for suits and ties? Traded the VW van for a Benz? Left the garden to enter a security-gated, high-walled compound?
Or are we just tired? Tired of being beaten down by monstrous corporations who manipulate the hard-working everyman, or the impersonal government who's irrational laws and loopholes keep us fettered?
Uncle Sam is swirly-eyed, hypnotized, and in need of the Tin Man's heart. We the People are the courageous lions who see the danger. We are the clear-eyed citizens who recognize the senselessness. We are the strong who are told we are weak by lambs who know not their way. And, however incomprehensible, we believe those weak, wandering lambs.
Here's an example of the senselessness of leaders and the minion mentality existing today.
Excerpt from here.
Mother: School Took Girl's Crutches
By VALERIE KALFRIN
The Tampa Tribune
Published: March 29, 2008
TAMPA - Patricia Elalem said she couldn't believe her daughter's kneecap dislocated after what at first seemed like a minor injury.
Even more troubling to Elalem is what might have caused the injury to worsen. Elalem says a nurse at Walker Middle School in Odessa took away 13-year-old Amber's crutches last month, forcing the girl to walk in pain.
Patricia Elalem said the nurse told her she had to remove the crutches because of a school policy prohibiting them without a doctor's note and that the intent is to prevent other students from being injured.
"I was floored," Elalem said. "You don't take medically prescribed treatment away from a child."
Elalem has filed a notice of intent to sue the Hillsborough County School District. The notice is required by law for legal action against a government entity and gives the school district 180 days to respond.
Her attorney, Tom Parnell, said he did not know what damages he would seek because Amber is still recovering from surgery to repair her knee. "I'm hoping at her age she's able to recover," he said.
If Amber walking without the crutches has caused long-term damage, Parnell said, he will pursue a claim that the school nurse violated the girl's civil rights.
School district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the district's office of professional standards is investigating a complaint Elalem filed about the licensed practical nurse, Denise McKee.
"The school and the parent have two different stories," Cobbe said, noting she could not elaborate because of the pending litigation.
There is no district policy requiring a doctor's note for crutches, but the district's supervisor of school health has issued an e-mail to principals stating students must produce a doctor's note to use crutches or a wheelchair, Cobbe said.
"We ask for a doctor's prescription or a doctor's note, but there's nothing that says take away the crutches," Cobbe said.
Amber is an avid athlete who participates in basketball, track and soccer, Parnell said. She had orthopedic surgery March 13 to repair her knee after walking without the crutches and now carries a doctor's note at all times about using the crutches, he said.
The girl initially hurt her knee while kicking a ball Feb. 3, her mother said. The injury seemed minor until the next day, when Amber complained to McKee about the pain. Elalem said when she picked Amber up from school, she spoke to McKee about taking Amber to Tampa General Hospital, where Elalem works as a registered nurse.
Amber was diagnosed with a strained ligament; the teenager's knee was placed in a brace called an immobilizer, and she received crutches, with instructions not to put weight on the knee, Elalem said.
On Feb. 6, when Amber returned to school, McKee phoned Patricia Elalem asking for a doctor's note for the crutches, Elalem said. Elalem said she didn't know the note was required but phoned the hospital to have a doctor fax a note to the school. The school fax machine wasn't working, so McKee never received the note, Parnell said.
That morning, McKee took away Amber's crutches, Parnell said.
"She didn't give her access to the elevator. So Amber was forced to walk up and down the stairs until about 1:30 p.m., when she couldn't take the pain anymore," he said.
Elalem said her daughter called her, saying, "I can't walk. Come and get me."
On the way home, Amber said, "You know, the nurse took my crutches this morning and made me walk all day," Elalem recalled.
"I got home, took her immobilizer off, and her kneecap was on the side of her leg," Elalem said.
Amber tried physical therapy for a few days but needed knee surgery, her mother said. She had a reaction to the pain medication and was admitted to the hospital for three days. She now is taking medication and watching her diet because she has developed symptoms of an ulcer, her mother said.
"It's been a nightmare. It hasn't stopped," she said.
When I asked my daughters what they would have done in Amber's shoes they each definitively said, "I would have called you or Dad. I wouldn't have walked without my crutches."
What would have happened had Amber refused to relinquish her crutches? Suspension? Reprimand? Who cares? It would have been better than re-injuring her knee to the tune of knee surgery, a reaction to pain meds, and an ulcer.
But I don't blame Amber. From the story she seems like a good girl who does what she's told. She tried to do what her school nurse instructed her to do without making a scene.
I hope that in the future, she'll make a scene if necessary to stick up for herself.
Amber is like you and me. We do what we are told by those in authority, even when it makes no sense, often to our detriment. We are made to fear consequences without taking the time to think through whether the consequences are worse than the resultant harm of obedience.
Amber's experience should be a wake-up call for all of us, most especially parents. Teaching kids respect is important. Teaching kids how to respectfully decline is important as well.
And teaching kids that sometimes respectfully standing up - even alone - against those in authority is not only necessary, but is the right thing to do.
I remember one time a neighbor lady took her often difficult son's side after a squabble between my son and hers. She loudly began to berate my then ten year old son, Ben, on the sidewalk outside her home, for all to hear, except for me as I was a block away at home. Her son had provoked Ben, then lied about why Ben was defending himself. It looked different to her, but when Ben told her his point of view she didn't listen. With his little brother at his side my quiet but independent son listened to her rant for awhile. Then he said, matter-of-factly, "I don't have to take this."
He turned around and walked home with Joe.
My phone rang before the boys arrived home. It was my turn to be berated for raising 'an insolent boy.' The story oozed through the grapevine and I was told by a few friends, in no uncertain terms, that Ben 'shouldn't have spoken to [she who shall not be named] like that.'
Both my sons told me the story, honestly I believe. I knew the other kid and I'd been witness to his behavior. I also knew his mom and knew she was given to small hysterics when it came to her children.
I told Ben that it was fine to calmly, with all due respect, walk away when someone is treating you badly, even an adult, that he was right, he didn't have to take that kind of abuse and intended humiliation.
I stand by that.
It pleases me to see and hear about my kids standing up for themselves with intelligence even into adulthood. Their honor, bravery, and insight buoys my spirit every day.
They have passion. I hope they can hold onto it.
And with that I end this way too long post.
I'm going to be quiet and think for a long while.
“Find out just what people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” ~~Frederick Douglass, 1818–1895