Back in 2004, during the US Presidential election, I think some might remember Micheal Moore’s “Slacker Uprising” tour, where he traveled around the US with various artists, giving speeches, rallying young Americans to vote, with the promise of ramen noodles and underwear for anyone willing to vote. This documentary essentially documents that tour and the failed attempt to swing the votes towards Kerry. To a large extent, the so-called uprising did help bring about a record number of young voters by the tune of 21 million. But unfortunately, as the film cleverly mentions, their parents voted for Bush.
Instead of playing in all the major theaters, Moore released Slacker Uprising a few days back for free on the Internet. The download is only available to US and Canadian residents, but thanks to the Internet, globalization, and an environment of non-enforced IP laws, you can easily pick up a copy for 1JD in downtown Amman.
While no where near as phenomenal as his previous award-winning documentaries, including Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, Slacker Uprising is more like a rock band releasing a DVD of a major tour for their fans. Nevertheless, the point behind it seems to be simple: it is an attempt to demonstrate what free speech is all about during a time in US history when the first amendment is being trampled on in countless ways. The point is to get as many people to see it before this coming election and it basically showcases Moore as he travels from state to state and rallies supporters. It is obviously a platform for the anti-Bush crowd and very pro-liberal.
The film is great at demonstrating the prevalence of free speech, or rather its struggle to preserve it in these dire times for the US. Although, from a film perspective, I didn’t find it as cutting edge and inspirational as I thought it could be for something targeting young, college-educated Americans. Nevertheless, kudos to Moore for releasing it for free, on the Internet, in what I think is a trailblazing demonstration of how the Web can be used for free speech and the continued dissemination of information.
That being said, I should note that the documentary inspired the following rant:
I have to admit, as a young Jordanian, watching this film, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is something phenomenal. On the one hand, having lived in North America for a long time, I understand what free speech means and a film like this and what it documents is very much the personification of that understanding. Yet, living in Jordan now, a country where (let’s face it) free speech is nearly non-existent in the “real” terms that actually count, this kind of film only inspires wishful thinking.
On the other hand, it’s a film filled with disappointment for someone like me. I remember staying up in early November four years ago, in my Toronto apartment, watching the live networks as the votes came in and the states were declared. I remember how the world was shocked when Bush was re-elected, and I remember going to sleep, uninspired and jaded with the American electorate that perfectly met my low expectations for it on that night. It was like watching a bad movie where you figured out the end in the first 5 minutes.
I remember thinking to myself, here we are, 6.6 billion people on this planet, with at least 80% of those people being governed by an unelected government and an unelected leadership. They have no access to free speech or free media. Much of their ailing status quo is supported, if not outright sustained by the American government through foreign funding and its various pressure mechanisms. Here they are, the overwhelming majority of this world being dictated to; with no control over their own destiny.
And then there’s the US and the American people. Privileged to have a system of ideals and that have lit a starved world for a century. My grief isn’t with the reelection of Bush, but more so with the many, many Americans who did not vote.
A young, politically-dormant population, unwilling to vote.
And so I think of our status quo in the rest of the “unfree” world; including the Arab world. A status quo that will only change in one of three ways: in a generational transition towards a functioning democracy, in blood, or, never. If history has shown as anything, I think those lessons do suffice.
And so logic pushes me to ask the rhetorical question of: this is our status quo, this is our reality, these are our truths…so what’s your excuse?
In any case, do check out the documentary. It is a fun watch and a clear demonstration of a right and a privilege that most of the world is not privy to.