“I’m mad as Hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” – character Howard Beale portrayed by the actor Peter Finch in the film “Network”.
The other night I was up late watching the film “Network” and was astounded at the incredible insight that the writers of that screenplay had regarding what the American people wanted to say and needed to hear. I hadn’t seen the movie for years and sat riveted by the story as it unfolded. Though it was written 0ver 30 years ago the sentiments still ring true today.
In the plot, a television news anchor named Howard Beale has something of a nervous breakdown and more or less loses it live on camera before a national audience. He speaks out on behalf of the American public, and tells the whole world his honest opinion of things. The network executives, who at first are appalled by his outburst, soon decide that since the viewing public welcomed his ranting, they’d take advantage of the increased ratings and capitalize on his insanity by giving him his own program. In coming weeks as Howard’s show grows in popularity, they encourage his increasingly bizarre behavior until he becomes a regular nightly spokesman of the people and the only true voice to what the American public really wants to say themselves. Politicians tune in to listen, and they in turn begin to sway legislative agenda. All the pent up angers, frustrations and resentments of a whole people suddenly have a champion. Every person who ever feels themselves to be a prisoner of his own society can at last rejoice in the honesty and integrity of one very vocal and passionate man. It’s just too bad that in the movie that man fell deeper and deeper into insanity.
But other than the character’s growing instability, I think that is just what we need now in this country. We need a “Howard Beale”. We need someone who has access to mass media, be it television or newspapers, radio or magazines to actually speak out for the American public on a national level and tell our politicians and elected officials just what the American public wants and that we are fed up with the way things have been going. He’d say that we demand accountability on all levels for the direction our government has been leading us. Too often we forget that these people [our legislators] should be creating and enforcing laws, and directing national policy, only at OUR will.
How many times have we supported a legislator simply because he was the lesser of two evils? Because we thought he or she would do us the least harm and might benefit us on just one of the many levels he/she should be? Just because we agree on one issue, we end up supporting someone. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be totally against them otherwise. And then when we find that our elected officials have somehow let us down, we feel that we have no control over things and can only hope that down the road others might be elected in their place who MIGHT do a better job of giving us what we want.
The older we get the more we realize how hopeless that all is and we become more and more accepting of the fact that after all, in reality, all the control is in the hands of the powerful, not the voters. We just get to decide WHICH politicians the mighty get to manipulate. We even accept the fact that the “system” is rigged, and sometimes try to do our own rigging by using our own lobbyists and influence peddlers, begging and courting the very same politicians who during election time beg and court the voting public. And the vicious circle is complete. We have met the enemy and they is us.
If we had a Howard Beale we might also demand that corporate executives show more responsibility in the production and sale of the products we use. And we might demand more ecological responsibility from these corporations and from our elected representatives. It’s the corporations, not the individual citizens who do the most damage to our environment. Poison belching vehicles could be engineered differently. Factories could do less damage to the air we breath. Products could be designed to be environmentally friendly. As the Earth that we will pass on to our children becomes more and more fouled we sadly look to those in positions of responsibility, and wonder what can be done to correct the mistakes these corporations have made and are making right now as you read this.
In ancient Rome it was proposed by Marcus Aurelius that one system of government in an ideal society might be a “meritocracy”. In a meritocracy all people would be honored and would financially benefit directly in proportion to their contribution to society. A garbage man would earn more than a used car salesman. A good motorcycle mechanic would be more honored than an entertainer or sports figure. By the same token anyone in a meritocracy hurting society in any way, whether by design [as corporate officers might] or by incompetence [as politicians might], would be found liable and punished severely.
Of course the big danger of having a Howard Beale is just WHAT he’d say as he spoke out. A selfish or somehow distorted mind might lead the public down any one of a number of dark highways.
For that reason alone I hereby withdraw my name from any effort to elect me, Bummer, as the man to lead this great country into a new dawn of enlightenment. To speak out for the downtrodden and forgotten. To forge national policy. To make it legal to shop at the mall in the nude. For public drinking fountains to gush forth ice cold Budweiser. To eliminate speed limits on interstates. To return smoking privileges to all public restaurants and bars as well as all public buildings. To eliminate the necessity to renew drivers licenses, license plates and hunting licenses. To rescind the federal and state income taxes. To execute by hanging ANYONE who tries to mess with social security. To give food stamps to anyone who votes.and to take them away from anyone who doesn’t [or who can’t pass a drug test]. To provide free medications to our elderly. To triple the wages of all fire and emergency personnel. To change the DUI test from blowing into a tube to a driving maneuverability test [a small portable video machine will work] and these tests would be given to anyone caught driving like an asshole. To make it mandatory that EVERYONE becomes CPR certified. To give a comfortable lifetime pension to anyone who has a good service record for ten years in one of the armed forces and incentives to keep these ten year veterans in the service. To take away all special business privileges to anyone due to race or due to the fact that they’re not a citizen, and to ensure all have the same advantages and disadvantages when starting a business [it really should be an even playing field for all folks]. And last, but certainly not least, to publicize and promote membership for ALL motorcyclists in ABATE of Ohio Inc.
Pardon me, I guess I got carried away. As you can see I’m not the most politically correct person, but I am passionate about the fact that we as a people have no voice. That’s why we’re never heard. Duh! So start speaking out…loudly!