24 Jun Brexxited
My facebook feed is filled with a sense of resigned shock today. Brexit just happened and while I am connected to many people in the UK I an quite confident that none of the people that I know wanted Brexit, or even believed it was possible. I don’t have enough knowledge of the situation to really understand it. However on the radio yesterday I heard a cab driver of many years explain that in the last year his wages have dropped 50 percent in the last year due to the flood of uber drivers. He did not express a hatred of immigrants or a sense of xenophobia but instead that the government was not listening to his concerns or considering the economic consequences of current polices in regards to people like him. When those in power lose connection to the people, the people tend to push back.
In the US this push back was seen very powerfully in the Occupy Wall Street movement. In the video piece above I simply went down to Occupy on day 16 and asked people why they were there. There was a diversity of answers but the people were generally unified in the sense that the government served powerful people and not them. As I look back at it now I would guess that half of those people would vote for Bernie and half of them would vote for Trump. I don’t think that very many of these people would consider voting for Clinton. It was this movement that propelled the popular support for both Sanders and Trump.
As a non-journalist casual outside observer of the social movements of the last 15 years I have seen a profound militarization of the police and marginalization of those who challenge power. As a filmmaker who follows stories for years I have also witnessed a media that treats those who challenge power with a benign sense of dismissal. By benign I mean that I don’t believe that there is a direct and clear level of corruption between power and the media, but instead that those who protest are often politely ignored. Occupy changed that for a moment. That moment soon passed, but the rise of Trump and Sanders brought renewed attention and energy to these voices.
As a white male child of two academics (psychology-dad and social work-mom) I am painfully aware of my own privilege; as well as the privilege that I have to challenge that privilege. As a filmmaker this privilege is not the same as press credentials or a press outlet. So when I go to political events or try to document difficult situations I am often at risk. The 2004 Republican convention in NY was difficult for me to cover because I was following around a credentialed press person (Michelle Goldberg) and was more often at much more risk of being arrested than she was. At one point she spotted the head of the NY Civil Liberties Union on a median in Herald Square. One one side of the median was a line of riot geared police. On the other was a mass of protesters that we were a part of. She darted to the median and I followed. “Mr. Dunn, can I ask you a question?” she flatly stated. He whipped around, “This is not a safe place. You need to leave right now.” he shot back. With her press pass it was a lot safer for her than it was for me. Still a couple of days later I shot at the NY City jail as dozens of people who had been held for days after getting caught up in mass arrests slowly emerged. Many of them were journalists. There were several occasions where I moved out of the way just quickly enough to avoid being ensnared in the orange netting that meant arrest.
At a trump rally last week I got kicked off the premises within minutes because I could not get credentials. When I make work- for the most part I see it as “for the ages”. This is partly because my intention isn’t to make “news pieces” but also because I don’t have a way to get it in front of viewers in a broad way. However, The Trump piece last week hit a cultural nerve to some degree and it reached 17k people- which means it had as much influence on the universe as a gnats wings on an elephants ear. When I make pieces like these I’m trying to observe a message rather than amplify it.
I don’t know what Brexit means, but it certainly feels connected to what is going on politically in the US. While I don’t know anyone who thought Brexit was a good idea, and I also don’t know many people who support Trump, the division between my friends over Sanders and Clinton is profound. Neither side feels listened to and it is clearly straining relationships. I don’t believe that this bodes well for the upcoming election cycle. Two days ago it seemed as if Trump was sunk, and perhaps he is. However, if those in power choose to ignore the grumblings for change, this profound demand to be heard, then things will probably get even more chaotic before they get better.