Some tears for the loss of individual power

I saw the movie Spotlight today. For those of you who don’t know, it retells the story of how the Boston Globe, in 2002, broke the story of how the Catholic Church had been covering up rampant child molestation by their own priests for decades. Tough topic. Good movie.

I have really come to enjoy movies like this that help shine some light on events that I would have otherwise overlooked or not have given as much attention to as maybe I should have. We lead busy lives, certainly, and I for one have a hard time keeping up with current events, especially those events which seemingly have no impact on my own life. In this particular context, I am not Catholic, nor do I know anyone who is, or if I do, I am unaware of it.

I am however a human being, and being so, I have experienced childhood as we all have. So in a sense, this story does have something to do with me.

This film made me cry. I was not expecting that. Is it so odd that I should cry during a movie? Not necessarily. But usually, the movies that make me cry are the ones we tend to think of as being “cry movies,” such as:

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
My Girl (1991)
Schindler’s List (1993)
The Notebook (2004)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Up (2009)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Never Let Me Go (2010)
Forrest Gump (1994)

… amongst many others.

In each of those movies, there are specific characters we cry for. In The Shawshank Redemption we cry for Andy and Red, in My Girl we cry for Vada, in Schindler’s List we cry for Oskar Schindler, and in Million Dollar Baby we cry for Maggie. But there is no singular character force in Spotlight which drove me to tears.

So I asked myself, what was it that made the tears flow? Surely the molestation of thousands of children by Catholic priests over the past 4 or 5 decades should warrant a sadness of such display, but it seems to me that that was not the sole motivation for my own tears, if at all. My tears came as a response to the sheer powerlessness the movie made me feel in regards to our very real lack of individual agency and personal efficacy in our dealings with any cultural hegemony, in this case, the Catholic Church.

The character I cried for was not a person but an idea. The idea that we are not we’s but I’s first and foremost. In the context of Spotlight, concern for the well-being of the molested individuals (the I’s) was set aside for the “good” of the Church (the we). Why is it that we cannot yet see clearly that true power manifests itself in the lifting up and caring for the individuals amongst us who suffer, even when said suffering is caused by our very own hands or at the hands of those whom we employ? Is it shame? Well, what is more shameful, the crimes or the cover-up? That’s a hard one to answer, honestly. They are both heinous acts. But the cover-up of the crimes showed a blatant disregard for the individual (the I) and a grand statement that the Church as a system (a we) is more important than the individual in all matters. I’m not so sure Jesus would have subscribed to this idea, though admittedly I’m no expert in theological matters.

I sometimes like to imagine a world where our organizations such as our busineses, churches, schools, and governing bodies, would adopt a way of being that expressed the notion that they should prostrate themselves before the needs of its individual members and not the other way around. To me at least, therein lies true power.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this movie. Thank you, Spotlight.

One thought on “Some tears for the loss of individual power

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