By Rob Nilsson

The world is flat. The sun revolves around the earth. If we kill ourselves we will live. Green tea is made on Mars. Bug is Gub.

If you promote it they will believe it. The human is gullible, anxious for faith, determined not to be hoaxed… therefore susceptible to the most outrageous deceit.

How else explain Hitler? How else excuse O.J.? How else?

Increasingly we are a nation which pretends to govern by consensus, but not the kind envisioned by our framers. Polling replaces voting. Sales. These are criteria by which we judge the truth of things. Box office. Numbers of tickets. Awards won. Bucks in the till.

It takes a great deal of effort to protect what we have here. Ill gotten, or acquired fair and square, inherited or merited through Herculean labor and unlimited dedication. BELONGINGS REQUIRE ENERGY. The idea that accumulation should be unlimited takes a lot of time and effort to promote and to maintain.

The idea that corporate CEOs should make 60 million a year is not duty free. Billions of dollars, space age armed forces, anesthesia in the form of universal free TV, a priesthood of free enterprise Pharisees ruling over a society which has lost its sense of the sacred is required to make that obscene idea palatable.

In an atmosphere such as this there isn't much room for reality. I mean the reality outside this immense bubble of consumer-hood in which we live. No one wants to hear the bad news when the good is so fantastic. Above a certain subsistence level, even the relatively poor in this country are relatively wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Do not disturb the dreamers. Their sleep is required that the Play People play undisturbed.

So it is not surprising that one of the greatest films I have ever seen about the human condition can play for only one week at the Roxie Cinema, often to an almost empty house. Elem Klimov's 1985 Russian film COME AND SEE which tells the World War II story of a young Belarussian boy during the Nazi invasion is a film which makes English epic directors such as Kubrick, Lean or Spielberg seem like film students. But it has never been and cannot be distributed meaningfully in this country.

This is because we believe in Entertainment and the truth of the human condition does not. Entertain, that is. The truth of everyday life musses up hairdos. The actual daily behavior of every man, woman and child in this country (to say nothing of all the other countries) is so eccentric and uncomfortable it's hard to admit and even harder to make cheap comedies about. It's just too bizarre what we do in private, let alone in public. Too bizarre, tragic, fascinating, funny and… crucial. COME AND SEE thrives on that knowledge but Americans don't want to hear it.

For example, here in our American bubble we are now spending millions of psychic hours and countless humanitarian dollars on race/class/gender squabbles which divide people, create victims, foil justice and make most people mad, alienated, lost. Most of these struggles are promoted by post modern college gurus, disappointed Leftists who, after Stalin, Mao Tse- Tung, Kim Il Sung and Pol Pot seek another set of intractable ideas to try to explain away the human sump. Our publish or perish universities require increasing careerism from their resident radicals. But in spite of their post modern rhetoric the average Joe and Jill never seem to be offered tenure down in the neighborhoods. I wonder why that is.

There are still some artists left but how much time or money do we spend on Elem Klimov, Alexi Gherman, Mike Leigh, Mike Figgis, Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Sally Potter, et als, true poets of the art form of our time? How much time do we spend on universal issues which affect everyone, whether or not they subscribe (or actually belong to) this or that exclusive minority?

Since they're always crowing about their losses, let's ask the film distributors how much they're willing to lose on promoting the work of the true healers: poets of the dark rooms where images flicker on walls, images which can shock, can teach, can heal (or cut deeper), images which can pose the questions we must ask ourselves frequently and honestly. The real questions. The ones of love and death and love and hate and betrayal, lust, contradiction and the hard truths of our animal and psychic destinies.

Let's ask the film distributors why their only criteria of performance is profit when real artists, the ones they ostensibly help, never think of profit, find profit a positive hindrance when they look into the mirrors and windows of vision, ecstatic or sober. Let's ask them if the terrible fate of our national school systems is in any way due to their failure to promote honesty, simplicity, and reality as positive virtues in the films they distribute.

Or let's talk about sex. Just plain, honest, savage sex… to give an example. How about films which dispel the myth of funky Mantovani, cookies and ice cream? Last I looked, sex rode a stampeding elephant, and women were screaming obscenities! Leave the plastic national smile out of the bedroom in our films and in our lives. It is nowhere to be found under the real covers.

On the other hand, there are sincere people, seekers, dreamers, people who don't believe the official pap anymore than they buy into the Hollywood star system. There are strong souls out there seeking a virile justice which includes a feminine mystique with love of knowledge, personal attainment, poetic inspiration and passionate men.

Any movies for or about these people? Is gay sex the only one with legs today? Do we have to suffer one more weeper on Oprah proclaiming the difficulty of being homosexual? Believe me, it is tough enough to be heterosexual. Sensitive gay souls aren't the only ones who suffer for their sex. All real men and women, who want to develop their minds and hearts suffer from the freak show violent Yahoos out to crush anyone who seeks the edges of true passion. But you know even these Nazis in their turn will weep in front of someone they love some day, just as afraid as we are of a broken heart.

People will believe anything. Bats in the belfry. Jinns in their skins. Deviltry in the polity. It doesn't matter. If you tell it to them long enough… they'll believe.

But maybe that unreasoning belief poses some hope too. If people can believe that there's a rape committed every 20 seconds in South Africa they might also be able to believe that there are strong souls out there, gay and straight, all races, all creeds and colors who believe in the human encounter: scary adventures in being everything we can imagine ourselves to be, in another's eyes and arms.

I admire people who want to experience the dangers and joys at the epicenter of the life force. Maybe there are more of these people than we know, willing to forgo the official piety, obscene parodies of love, marriage and the eternal mortgage. Maybe there are souls out there who can be both full of both spontaneous love and reasonable responsibility, who can teach children that there's more to life than rules and regulations, that inspiration and poetic high vision rule the souls of people.

Om Khaltoum, John Coltrane, the young Bob Dylan, Leontyne Price, Satyajit Ray, Billie Holliday, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Robinson Jeffers, Naguib Mafouz, Adaf Soueif. Singers, poets and players who touch us where we know who we are, where we're going, and what we love.

People will believe. They'll believe in any old thing until they find the real thing. Then the earth begins to revolve around the sun once and more and Bug has no further need of Gub.

August, 2001