“They Live” and the Occupy Movement: What is Social Justice?

The golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. – Keith David, They Live

If I were picking a favorite film director, it would most likely be John Carpenter.  In terms of film, my tastes run from the very peaks of cinema to the absolute depths, with a love for art and trash.  I completely, utterly appreciate attempts to make the most cohesive piece of art possible, but I also highly appreciate those that are able to entertain.  John Carpenter is one of the rare directors able to do that, balancing an artist’s hand with the panache of a modern-day P.T. Barnum.

Starring then-professional wrestler Roddy Piper, They Live is a scathing comment on the neglect of the working class in the United States, managing to wrap this message within the context of an alien invasion with aliens masquerading as politicians and those in positions of power. With They Live, Carpenter is able to sneak in jabs at Reagan’s conspicuous consumption obsessed culture while also making a piece of pulp science fiction entertaining to those who don’t even agree with the politics on display.

I recently watched They Live on Netflix and came to the realization the sheer amount of anger brimming under the surface.  Anger towards the incompetent, the greedy, and–perhaps most of all–the complacent.  They Live is, first and foremost, a comment on those individuals who let the world become one focused more on people being defined by product, rather than the moral integrity that inherently makes a person a person and separates us from the animals.

Roddy Piper and Keith David, They Live

A pair of black sunglasses changes everything...

That They Live got through the major studio system is a pretty major miracle (even if Carpenter had box office clout at one point, it was long gone here).  Even more so than that, the film represents an early warning shot to a current sentiment — fatigue from corporate greed and the resulting Occupy Movement.

For me, one of the more fascinating recent narratives has been the Occupy Movement.  What began at Wall Street amongst a small, but devoted group of  protesters has expanded nationwide.  Along the way, the Occupy Movement has fought for the idea of social justice, attempting to remove the barriers of injustice and greed and make many of these hidden barriers more apparent with sit-ins, protests, and commentaries, among other things.

This isn’t how many–including many of those in the media–have framed this pursuit, however.  To many, the Occupy Movement hasn’t been clear enough and represents some of the dregs of society — those who simply don’t want to work.  Others use codewords which imply entitlement or laziness resulting from substance abuse or other factors.

While this isn’t entirely untrue, it’s also simplifying what is being done on the ground.  The formation of any movement has growing pains; birth is always painful.  Occupy has largely been interesting in solidifying and clarifying their vision in moving forward to action.  Some of that action has already occurred in places such as Georgia, where many Occupy protesters have started organizing sit-ins at properties foreclosed on due to subprime and other unethical practices.

In defining the vision for social justice, much responsibility needs to be placed at the feet of the people themselves–those loans they decide to take out, where they choose to live, what they choose to eat, etc.

But we must also remain cognizant of the fact that not all Americans (or people elsewhere) are born with an equal shot, despite what we are told at a young age.  Redlining, gentrification, food deserts, cheap addictive and calorie-rich unhealthy foods, and predatory lending practices are all very real things.

Simply put, the Occupy Movement is more than youthful naivete.  Just like those black sunglasses in They Live, Occupy is bringing light to problematic policies and waking up the populace.  Well, at least those who are able to cut through the static.

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About John Donovan

Hey folks! I am what many would call a young professional. My interests largely lie with art, the social sciences and music. I am interested in how to leverage relationships and connections in creating a better, healthier, happier world. I blog at modernwaysofliving (modernwaysofliving.wordpress.com). Enjoy! View all posts by John Donovan

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