Monday, June 4, 2012

Surviving Progress explains why we can't sleep at night.

Surviving Progress is a big-picture film that holds us to task for our excessive consumption.

If that charge comes across damning and pedantic it's a fair reaction, and at times the film's urgency and self-righteousness is hard to swallow. It is ultimately honest, though, and ultimately right.

It compares our current moment as a global society to the isolated empires of the past, the Mayans and the Romans, who grew too big and lost control of their relationship to resources, debt, and production. Like the life-cycle of an organism, the film warns of catestrophic die-back once resources are consumed unless some behavioral modification takes place.

After technosalvation is waved away as a possible solution, the featured voices cohere around the idea of curbed consumption.

The film is simple in its message, complex in its scope, and beautiful in its imagery. It is urgent and overbearing, propagandistic at times, but ultimately a very necessary bid at re-programming human nature to something more equitable and survivable.

Its main failing, in my mind, is that it edges too far toward notions of austerity, making a revolution of the way things work seem difficult and unpleasant for those living in the top echelons of world comfort. I look at the unhealthy, antisocial behavior that our current society encourages and I see very little loss in restructuring things to be less excessive and more human.

Radicals will find nothing new in this film, though it is nice to see it packaged quite well and endorsed by recognizable names. Try and see it, if only to reassure yourself that you're not going crazy, and to arm yourself with a pretty, engaging film with which to start conversation and advocate for progress.

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