Saturday, April 10, 2010

Slow Change Exchange

A lot of people ask, "why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?".  And, the question for me has always been difficult to answer without lengthly explanation or discussion.  There's always so many voices in my head saying each and every different thing that I feel exhausted trying to articulate for someone who is simply curious and asking.

I see it similar to asking a vet why he/she signed up for the armed services. A complex combination of reasons, desires, curiosities, and needs.  Each person goes for different reasons even though many share some of the same larger goals - to serve, to learn, to change, to make a difference.

To help with this verbal vomit (as I like to call it), I try to find things in this world that can easily represent reasons why I have decided to travel.  Art is a fantastic aid for me, especially in the musical and cinematic forms.

For this moment, I want to focus on a movie that I have recently seen and enjoyed.  It tells three stories about American hardship.  It provides a snapshot of American life that many do not fully understand, including myself.

Antoine Fuqua's newest film, "Brooklyn's Finest" is a gritty and unforgiving portrait of morality in an American society.  It is a window into the lives of Americans who have lost faith in the system they live in and depend on - something that I think a lot of Americans can empathize with these days.  This system is simply a variation of others all over the world, it just happens to be the American system that Fuqua focuses on in his film.  It is as dark as I imagine the streets of Brooklyn's ghettos really are and I think it sets the new standard for American cop movies.

I want you to watch the film (rated R, please ask your parents first before renting it or downloading it illegally).  And the reason why is that I believe the three stories told in this film are not just American stories, but stories from all over the world.  It is why I wanted to leave my country and go somewhere else: to hear these stories being told outside of my own country.

It is why the movie "City of God" is so important and so difficult to watch.  I wanted to directly challenge my personal view of the world and this movie asks to consider a different perspective: especially from Americans who are affluent and middle class like me.  To question the idea of what is right and what is wrong is hard thing for an American to do. If you can do that, then ask yourself whether or not we live in a place where everyone agrees on these rules, or if we just follow them because we are told to do so.

I'm no anarchist, but I do believe there should always be a healthy debate about why we do what we do as a community.  And I think Fuqua helps to keep this debate going as well as focus it on the people who are taken advantage of the most.  After all, these are the reasons why we founded America in the first place.

So, why did I want to serve in the Peace Corps?  Same reason why I am curious to see what life is like in Brooklyn, or Oakland, or Detroit, etc. You get the point.  

I am not a religious person, but I do take comfort in certain parts of religion's wisdom.  A quote I hold close to me is Gandhi's "be the change you want to see in the world."

It is an idealistic phrase.  Not very effective when we consider the entire global community (or maybe even someplace like Brooklyn).  But, it provides me with a certain peace of mind when I decide to lead by example.  As you will see in this movie, being the way in which you want the world to be takes a lot of energy and a lot of courage.  Sometimes I don't have either of those, and so my change is slow.  Change is slow.  But, I believe it works.


Glennis said...

Gandhi's words are good ones to hold on to.

Chris said...

We Need a Few Good Writers!
*Travel with purpose after COS and author a travel guide for your country of service.*
Other Places Publishing, a start-up publishing house created by RPCVs, is actively recruiting PCVs in their final year of service to remain in-country after COS to research and write travel guides for their country of service. Our guides provide unique local insight, highlight those spots off the beaten path, and show the real country to travelers. If you’re up to the challenge, we’d love to hear from you. We’re particularly interested in hearing from R/PCVs in Central and South America. Check out for more info, or email Chris at Please pass this information along to other PCVs in your country. Thanks!

See our job posting in the May 15 issue of Hotline and check us out on Facebook:!/pages/Other-Places-Publishing/197817465785?ref=ts

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