Changing The Lives Of Others Requires That We Change Ours First genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


When it's all said and done, very little in life changes...and the changes that are made are often painfully slow. All too often we get lost in our efforts to change (direct) others when what we really need to do is change (redirect) ourselves. This years election, more so than any in recent history, seems to be about change.

Unfortunately, prior to each election cycle, optimistic pundits suggest that the voting public has lost it's hunger for the typically tried and true red meat issues. These serendipitous proclamations suggest a new civility and a changing construct may be dawning. Unfortunately, as each election draws nearer, the painful reality of recidivism seems to rear its ugly head.

I've come to expect the worst and I rarely find myself pleasantly surprised by a better outcome. Returning to elections, in many ways, we've grown conditioned to the typical framing of the issues. We've also come to accept that voters will invariably fall into their logical constituent blocks by the time they reach the ballot box. The question is why?


This morning, as I read about the intention of the Christian Defense Coalition to launch their first salvo against Barack Obama...determined to characterize him as "The Abortion President" (see image to the right), I recalled the thoughts that crossed my mind last evening as I watched the acclaimed German movie, The Lives Of Others, wishing more of us had the wherewithal to make the heroic choices that are frequently facilitated by adversity...choices for change that are almost always daring displays of individual courage. Following a brief synopsis of the movie, I'll attempt to connect the dots.

Read a statement below from Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition:

"Senator Obama talks about bringing hope, faith and change to American politics. We now see this is all just political 'doublespeak.' One of his top priorities as President would be protecting abortion rights and even expanding them. If elected, Senator Obama would become 'The Abortion President,' with the most extremist policies on abortion of any President in history.

"Senator Obama's views on abortion are so radical that he even wants American citizens to pay for them. This would include Catholics, Evangelicals and all people of faith. He would also expand abortion rights through his passionate support of The Freedom of Choice Act.

Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan sent out the following statement:

"Barack Obama understands that the best way to reduce the need for abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. He is committed to commonsense solutions to achieve that objective and to changing the tone of the discourse which for too long has devolved into false and negative attacks such as this that do nothing to accomplish that goal"

The story takes place in East Germany several years prior to the fall of the Berlin wall. In the movie, an agent of the Stasi, a government run intelligence service determined to preserve the existing order and prevent all dissension, is assigned to monitor the activities of a writer and his lover, an esteemed actress. As Wiesler, the regimented Stasi agent, continues to listen to the conversations of the couple and their associates, he finds himself increasingly sympathetic.

He comes to realize that a plot is underway to smuggle an expose to Der Spiegel, a magazine in the West. The article's purpose is to detail the effects of the stifling oppression that exists...oppression that has resulted in the ruin of numerous artists...and countless the government. To demonstrate the point, the article cites the virtually unreported, and unparalleled, suicide rates that existed at the time in East Germany.

Suffice it to say that Wiesler aids and abets the process to smuggle the article to the West. Once published, the powers that be intensify their efforts to discover who wrote the article and who served as their enablers. By this point, Wiesler has become an unknown ally of the conspirators, carrying out acts of omission that place him at great risk. As the Stasi closes in on the perpetrator, Wiesler chooses to dispose of the evidence hidden in the couple's residence.

The magic and the essence of the movie is found in understanding the correlation between the desire to enable, create, and/or perform art (primarily music and plays) and the relentlessly oppressive nature of the state. Ironically, the juxtaposition of expression and oppression provides evidence that a marriage of inspiration and intimidation is capable of bearing fruit...or leaving one fully barren. As such, the potential outcomes in such a society can either be a testament to the irrepressible will of the individual (high art)...or an epitaph to the carnage of insufferable surrender and submission (silence and/or suicide).

Wiesler, a seeming shell of a man, who is in a unique position to choose sides by virtue of his position as a spy, abandons his state sponsored, and virtually non-existent identity, in order to enable the expression he lacks (the smuggling of the article), but longingly admires from afar. In doing so, he foreshadows the inevitability that the human spirit will eventually prevail...regardless of the structures that have been built to constrain it.

Returning to the 2008 election...I think voters find themselves in a position similar to Wiesler's with regards to the choices available. Convention tells them that Barack Obama operates outside the prescribed an enviable actor in an unfamiliar place...but one that is intriguing to many. The instinctual response...or metaphorically speaking...the state sanctioned response would be to surveil and scrutinize his actions with an innately ingrained level of suspicion. The audience, though enamored with his artful presentation, struggles to accept that his script can be applied to enable a transformation of the status quo...and therefore a better state.

At the same time, those who are invested in the existing system recognize him as a threat like none other in recent memory and react in predictable and prescribed ways to subvert the implementation of his system altering which they interpret as little more than harsh dissonance. Having been in positions of authority for years, the powers that be seek to retain the fearful ear of those who have long followed them in deference to their established ideological well as for the lack of viable alternatives.

Hence, Barack Obama's message, a threat to the status quo, must be misrepresented. As such, those who are beholding to the establishment are enlisted to carry out the character assassination and reaffirm, in the electorate, the belief that deviation is an unfailing recipe for rejection. Therefore, the sought after fall of Barack Obama must be visible, it must be inviolable, and it must be administered in full view in order to douse the dreams of a different dialogue...a dialogue intent upon illuminating an alternate approach to addressing that which ails our nation.

If one looks specifically at the effort to portray Obama as "The Abortion President", the objective is to offer the voters a narrow either/or choice...and nothing else. Groups like the Christian Defense Coalition seek to ignore the fact that Senator Obama argues in favor of bolstering measures designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies...a focus that seeks to circumvent the volatility that has for so long served the political purposes of those in positions of power. The goal is to offer voters (followers) a very defined of which, when made, can be viewed as wrong (sinful). If chosen, it is designed to reflect negatively upon the character of the individual and thus impugn what little independent identity they may still retain.

In other words, Senator Obama must be seen in a light similar to the artistic community in East Germany...romanticized by many, but relegated to the domain of dreamers who are disconnected from the realities that exist in the lives of others. This helps to insure that the metaphoric Wiesler's will never find themselves in the position to choose the kind of change that would allow them to explore their own well as the extensions that would emanate from such an expansion of the individual. A better way of life must never be more than an imagined and idealized theatrical moment. Men like Obama must be fictional lest they foment the freedom of thought that stands to subrogate the status quo.

America stands on the precipice of change...and the agents of the status quo have commenced their efforts to insure more of the same. The choice we have is between bolstering the walls that divide from the other...individuals from their identities...or acting to undermine the contrivances that seek to construe the agents of change as nothing more than scripted surrogates of a superficial self.

When we find the courage to act as Wiesler did, choosing to elevate the imagined over the immutable, granting ourselves one of the rarest of all gifts...the gift of change...we too will be able to state, "No, it's for me."


1 On July 8, 2008 at 9:11 PM, Jimi wrote —

Another excellent post Daniel and a theme, the threat to the status quo that must be misrepresented, that I'm going to use in my work. Thank you.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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The effort to define Barack Obama as “The Abortion President” are the acts of agents intent upon preserving the status quo. 2008, more than any recent election, is truly about change. What remains to be seen is if the voters have the courage to embrace... [Read More]

Tracked on July 7, 2008 5:28 PM

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