politics, review

Review: An Unreasonable Man

Before we begin, you should know that I have long harbored some affection for Ralph Nader. In 2004, when I was just starting to get seriously interested in politics, I saw him speak. Nader seemed to me to be the best candidate for President. He cared about and talked about issues that the other two well-known candidates weren’t. For further illustration of my enamorment (the best made-up word yet actually, that appears to be a word), notice the rhetoric of the two major parties being equally bad in this letter. That’s exactly like Nader.

To explain its title, the documentary begins with a quote from George Bernard Shaw:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

In these two sentences, the film’s thesis is clear: Mr. Nader is both unreasonable and, more importantly, progressive. As the filmmakers tell the story, Ralph Nader is not unlike Frank Capra’s Jefferson Smith come to life: an idealistic reformer unwilling to yield to the status quo.

On the possibility that Mr. Nader was a misguided reformer, the film is ominously silent. There are no memorable opponents to his landmark reforms of the 1960s and 1970s shown on the screen. The only opponents the filmmakers do show seem rather absurd anyway.

The most memorable opponent, and also most likely to lead us to like Mr. Nader, is the misguided men of GM. During the years that Nader crusaded for safety reforms for cars, they had him tailed by both private eyes and seducers. And not only did they not get any dirt they could use in a smear campaign, they were also embarrassed publicly and forced to pay damages of almost half a million dollars.

Throughout, the film shows Mr. Nader to be a hardworking man doing what he thinks is best, and with a group of young and reverent helpers. The notable exception is the great deal of screen time given to two men convinced that Mr. Nader’s run for President in 2000 and 2004 was not only the cause of the Democratic candidates’ defeat, but also the insane plans of an egomaniac.

In the end I have the feeling that this movie may be disliked by some. The conclusion that at least I took away from the film was that there is a very really possibility that Ralph Nader is, as Bill Murray said during his 2000 campaign, “the best American I know.”

Whether or not you agree with that statement, or are at least willing to let the film try to sway you to that conclusion, will probably determine how you feel about the film. I, for one, think everyone should give it a chance.

personal, politics, USA

From the past: Vote for me in 2024

Considering the merits of my former blogs while working on my current one, I went back and looked at some of what I’d written. To call most of it a little embarrassing is probably understating the truth. This piece, however, was something that I thought still had some slight personal and public merit. It is by no means perfect, nor is it necessarily in line with my current feelings. But I just can’t resist revisiting a piece of personal history. [This and many other embarrassing pieces of work can be found online, but for my own sake, I’ll leave you to find them.]

Written 18 January 2005 (nearly 30 months ago):

Dear America,

Few things confuse me more than politics. At least in the United States, they seem to be the most completely useless thing ever. Sure, the election of George W. Bush may mean that a few more animals lose their habitat, but John F. Kerry wouldn’t have stopped the inevitability of that animal losing his home. Sure, he may have delayed it for a while, but what’s needed isn’t minor change that the two party’s we have offer. What we need is real change. What we need is people who are only willing to focus on [more than] three issues per debate. That’s not solving the worlds problems any more than going to the polls is.

What we need here, and soon, is someone who will face up to what needs to be done, and do it. And there’s a lot more than need to be done than Iraq and social security reform. Those were syptoms of the problem, not really issues that should have been debated any more than the price of coffee.

This is why I want you to vote for me in November 2024. I know its a long way off, and the issues will have changed a lot by then, so I’m not going to talk about them here. They’ll be far more relevant later. I’ll most likely be running indepent, and unless Nader can make some real changes, will be fighting hard just to get my name on the ticket on all 50 states. But at some point in my life I think I really should be the president of this country. We were once the best in the world. Revered by the good guys, and hated by the pinko-commie-bedwetters. We’ve fallen far from that pedestal, but my administration will change that, have no fear.

I’m not a career politician. I’m thinking about becoming an Industrial Designer, and making a lot of cool [stuff] that people love to use. Or maybe I’ll become a philosopher. I could answer all of people’s problems. That might help the run to the White House a little more. Maybe I’ll be a Chemical Engineer. I’ll make Hydrogen possible, and end our dependence on foriegn oil. That should win me some votes from Republicans. Maybe I’ll become a historian. And look at all presidential races in history, see what it takes to win. That could be the best of all.

And although my path to the presidency is far from clear, I’ll run sometime. I really think I could help the world, and so I want to do it. I know its a lot of pressure. I know its one of the most dangerous jobs, because its so easy to anger people. But I think I need to do it, for the good of society.

So, I’ll see you on the stump, and remember to get out and vote for a better America.

With love,
David Hayes