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Sat

04

Apr

2009

Decisions, Decisions: Blind Spot or the Great Squeeze
Saturday, 04 April 2009 07:27
by Carolyn Baker


Blind Spot rides currents of beauty and sadness, ultimately landing with a catharsis that comes when truth has been told.
-Jason Bradford, Willits Economic Localization
The challenge is to make it through the transition. If we don't plan for it and engage ourselves with it and look at our way of life and begin to change it in meaningful ways, then nature is going to change it for us in ways that we probably won't like very much.
-Richard Heinberg, author of "Peak Everything" speaking in "The Great Squeeze"

Always eager to preview Long Emergency, end-of-civilization-oriented documentaries, I recently found myself in a rather blessed quandary. I received review copies of "Blind Spot" from Director Adolfo Doring and Producer Amanda Zakem and "The Great Squeeze" by Director/Producer Christoph Fauchere and Co-Producer, Joyce Johnson, but as I watched both several times, I found it almost impossible to decide which one I preferred. Both are extraordinarily well crafted and feature stellar voices on the topics of Peak Oil, climate change, and population overshoot. Both directly or indirectly address the current global economic catastrophe and clarify the interrelatedness of all of the issues brought forth in the films.

Whereas "Great Squeeze" features more women than does "Blind Spot" the music of the latter is incessantly, hauntingly beautiful. Extraordinary cinematography graces both films, and both are approximately the same in length. But don't make me choose one over the other! I mean just when I was feeling dazzled with Doring's interviews of the likes of Derrick Jensen, Albert Bartlett, Joseph Tainter, and Max Fradd Wolf, along comes Fauchere with James Howard Kunstler, Lester Brown, David Korten, and Randy Udall. I ask you, what's doomer to do?

Well, what I did was simply watch both and appreciate their artistic excellence without deciding which is "better"-a relative term that must be qualified by the question "better than what?" Ubiquitous in both films is Richard Heinberg whose grounded realism, gently and tactfully delivered is always comforting to me. His style is warm, cheerful, and caring, but he never strays into misleading his audience with "ten easy things you can do" nor any misplaced activist cheerleading. No Kunstleresque wise cracks from Heinberg about obese Americans who eat cheese doodles and drive clown cars-just stark, unvarnished reality delivered by a really nice guy.


As for the endings which I won't divulge, both left me stunned with their harshness. By harsh I do not mean that I wanted someone to tell me that everything is going to be OK but rather, neither film brought their issues home to the viewer's inner life. Neither addressed the larger perspective of meaning and purpose or how one might make sense emotionally and spiritually of the dire contents presented in each documentary. In this respect, the two films felt vacuous and left me longing for Tim Bennett's "What A Way To Go", Thomas Berry's "The Great Story", or Joanna Macy's "The Work That Reconnects". The last scene of "Blind Spot" slowly telescopes onto the body of a dead bird lying on top an oil pipeline--a carcass symbolic of the civilization that annihilated it with little vision or inspiration.

Being as done as I am with saving the world or civilization, particularly in the face of all of the glaring evidence delivered in "The Great Squeeze", I found its statements by Lester Brown about how we must do so, unconvincing and almost ludicrous in the light of the testimony of the majority of the film's experts. Enter Heinberg again: What's really important, he says, is how we navigate the transition from the current way of life to the one that is being imposed upon us-Heinberg always holding as he does, the cold facts alongside the myriad possibilities.

Every viewer of every film comes to it with a different background which informs what aspects of the piece she/he might be drawn to. While many viewers would be fascinated with the scientific research of the films, I was fascinated with their psychology, that is, questions of how it is that humanity has arrived at this place in its history.

One reason, of course, has to do with the title of one of the films-the blind spot. Elke Weber, Professor of Psychology and Management at Columbia University's School of Business states that a blind spot is something to which we don't pay attention because it's removed from us in time or space and doesn't threaten us in any immediate way-until it hits us, so to speak, between the eyes.

But particularly fascinating to me in "Blind Spot" were a series of comments by Jason Bradford, biologist and member of Willits, California's localization movement, regarding the cultural constraint against change. When that's challenged, he says, it confronts generations of assumptions which puts the challenger outside the culture. As many readers of this review already know, that becomes very difficult to handle emotionally because one is constantly looking at the culture and rediscovering the insanity which created our predicament even as that culture is judging anyone who challenges it as insane. One then has to question how one knows what one knows. As one assimilates the rational evidence pointing to the collapse of civilization, enormous cognitive dissonance arises which forces one to either live one's life differently as a result of the evidence, or select from a cornucopia of defense mechanisms how one will assuage the dissonance.

"The Great Squeeze" offers a bonus chapter which traces the transformation of Greensburg, Kansas, devastated by a tornado in 2007, in choosing to rebuild its community with sustainable design and reliance on renewable energy. As a result of a sudden crisis that erased its infrastructure, Greensburg in a sense became a Transition Town almost overnight. A great deal of community organizing and the willingness of its citizens to incorporate the sustainable practices of their ancestors, manifested a rebirth most could not have imagined only a few years prior.

Perhaps the Greensburg scenario portends the destinies of countless towns around the world that will opt, over night or over decades, to create regions that work with, rather than against, the earth community. For me, it's no longer about "saving the planet" but rather, as Richard Heinberg emphasizes, cooperating with the changes the planet is forcing upon us.

As for "Blind Spot" or "Getting Squeezed", I couldn't possibly choose one over the other. Both films are spectacular and should be viewed by anyone concerned about humanity's current trajectory of self-and planetary destruction. Meanwhile, we must be about the business of creating as many Greensburgs as humanly possible in order to cooperate with the unprecedented, unstoppable changes about which we have little choice except to adopt an attitude of resiliency.
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