As children, every year around Christmastime, my brother and I would sit with our parents and watch the timeless classic; It’s a Wonderful Life. It was a cherished family tradition where mother would bake homemade chocolate chip cookies and father would start a roaring fire in the stove. We’d sit together and enjoy the heartfelt story of a man realizing all the wondrous things he had in his life.
With time, all children grow up and move away. Sometimes, you start the same traditions with your family when you have children of your own. Sometimes the family traditions you enjoyed as a kid slip away in adulthood. Upon turning forty, I was struck with a sense of missing all things from my childhood and became nostalgic to recapture that innocence. Several friends and I got together this past Christmas to enjoy each other’s company for the holiday and someone brought It’s a Wonderful Life to watch.
As we watched the film my nostalgia was slowly replaced with the cynical feeling of disappointment. As an adult, the film suddenly took on a new feeling for me. Let me start by saying that I had just finished reading an article on government propaganda in the Hollywood movie making machine. This article outlined a secret plot where key people in the Bush regime had conspired with studio executives to churn out a whole crop of big budget films with hidden patriotic themes in hopes of subliminally inspiring the citizens to support the failing popularity of war efforts in Iraq. Although I’d laughed off most of it as suspicious ramblings of a malcontent, I had been left feeling a certain amount of paranoia.
Suddenly, I could see It’s a Wonderful Life as a propaganda film, designed to inspire submission to control. In the film, our protagonist desires individualism yet submits to a life of mediocrity out of his sense of duty. At each turn, he sacrifices more and more of his dreams to help make sure that the people around him get the things they want. Eventually all of his sacrifices lead him to the edge. Upon the realization of his wasted life, our protagonist regrets all the things he never got to experience and plans to end his misery. His guardian angel, a blatant metaphor for government control, shows him how all the people in his life would have suffered if he had not conformed and had been absent.
The people in control are not looking for individuality. They are not looking for free thought. They want our compliance and teach it to us at every level of our lives. Our children are taught to be part of the machine in their schooling. They are taught a whitewashed version of the facts instead of being given the good, bad and the ugly. As adults, we are taught by TV and the media to want the white picket fence and the two point five kids. We are taught that the only way we’ll be happy is if we become part of the cycle. If we get the nine to five desk job. Marry and procreate. Have the midlife crisis at forty and buy a red sports car or dump the wife for a newer model.
We are taught to blindly hate America’s enemies and love America’s allies until the roles change. The Taliban was fine, while they served their purpose but now they’re monsters. Once an ally, Manuel Noriega was now a monster. Once an ally, Saddam Hussein was now a monster. All these organizations and people are monsters that need to be dealt with because our leaders now say so. Nothing has changed in any of their natures. They were each practicing the same evils that we now persecute them for during their full times in power however it is suddenly unacceptable.
Strive for that nine to five, white picket fence and two point five, just like TV tells you to. Watch the news and accept the one sided journalism and opinionated reports that the media offers. Drink the Kool Aid.
In the end, it will be a wonderful life for all, so long as we conform.