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Babel

Sat, Jan 6, 2007

Articles, Book & Movie Reviews

Babel

by Susan Rosenthal

In the movie Babel, human connectedness collides with social separateness. A couple vacationing in Morocco cannot comfort each other after the death of their child. When the wife is accidentally shot, we see an expanding nightmare of failed communication in the face of urgent need. We can all relate. This is everyday reality.

All is not bleak. The film shows several scenes of social connection: a Mexican wedding, the hospitality of strangers, a shoulder to cry on, a hand in the dark.

While ordinary people struggle to solve their problems, the authorities offer little or no help. Their priority is to identify the wrong-doers, compounding the tragedies and creating more victims.

“Babel” means a confusion of many voices or languages. Language is central to human communication. Other mammals maintain social bonds through physical contact: licking, nuzzling, and social grooming. The size of the group is limited by the number of individuals that can physically interact. Language overcomes this limitation.

Language makes it possible to link every human being on the planet by telephone, television and internet. However, the potential for global integration is blocked by class and national divisions.

In film, as in life, the human need to connect conflicts with social structures that block connection.

The movie’s tagline reads, “If You Want to be Understood…Listen.” Could our alienation from each other be overcome by better listening? If only it were that simple!

Some people refuse to listen because they profit from the way things are. Bosses are deaf to requests for better pay and working conditions. Washington is deaf to requests for more housing and health care instead of war.

Babel implies that human disconnection is the root cause of social problems. It’s the other way around. The few can rule the many only by dividing them. While the few profit, the many suffer alienation and fractured personal relationships.

If you listen, you can hear the global cry for justice.

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- who has written 155 posts on SusanRosenthal.com – Socialism is the Best Medicine.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. William McGrath Says:

    June 28/07

    Hi Susan,
    I have come across your blog for the first time and I am so impressed.

    One idea that has been on my mind for quite some time, is what a perfect society would be like. In my humble opinion I think that the model for a perfect society already exists in the human body.

    All the hundred thousand billion cells in each of our bodies can be compared to individual people in the human race. These cells are similar to people, they take in nutrients and give off waste, they come together in groups to make our eyes, heart, lungs etc, they all work in harmony for the benefit of our bodies, and one is not superior or inferior to the other. We can do the same when we get rid of our greed. I believe that we will attain that harmony eventually.

  2. Susan Rosenthal Says:

    June 28/07

    William: As I write in POWER and Powerlessness (p.180), genuine socialism would be organized much like the human body, self-organizing, self-regenerating, totally integrated, and with a flexible leadership that changes depending on the needs of the situation.

    In contrast, capitalism is like a cancer, where a few cells serve their own needs regardless of the damage done to the whole.

    What stands in the way of a truly cooperative society is not our greed, but the greed of the ruling class and our willingness to tolerate it.

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