Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Yes Men Fix the World
Last night, Sid & I went to a watch the Moore-style spoofy documentary The Yes Men Fix the World at a theatre nearby, which was followed by a satellite link-up to a live Q&A with the film-makers, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano (both aliases), from Sheffield.
The Yes Men are a group of activists who pose as spokespersons of powerful organisations - usually corporations, and sometimes the government - and infiltirate conferences and meetings. Once there, they make outrageous presentations on behalf of the company meant to highlight how dehumanizing and selfish their real goals are when seen from the perspective of the victims. The movie puts together many such successful ruses conducted by the film makers, who belong to this group including, speaking on behalf of Dow Jones Chemicals on the BBC announcing that they take full responsibility of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, launching a candle made from human flesh for Exonn at an energy expo, and more.
So far, so good. Yes, we agree that there is something rotten going on and needs a change.
But can Yes Men be that change. The Q&A that followed highlighted the shortcomings of such activism. Beyond saying, go out and protest - which they did interspersed with winks, jokes and self-mockery that somehow diluted the message - they had nothing concrete to advice.
It reminded me of a funny encounter, Sid and I had in Melbourne years ago. We were walking around the Central Business District of the city, when we came across a stall filled with left-wing, smash-capitalism style bric-a-brac. It was being run by two college student in full hippie regalia, who belonged to a group emphatically called Resistance. I browsed through the key chains and posters and then casually asked one of the guys, "but resistance against what, exactly". I had never seen anyone reduced to such utter confusion so quickly. Muttering unintelligibly, he turned towards his mate. She immediately and agressively came to his rescue. "It is resistance against everything!" That helps, I thought.
Yes, I dearly want to change the world. But really, I don't want to hand it over from one set of fools to another.