On Saturday evening, Greg and I settled down to watch Captain Fantastic, a beautiful film centred around an unconventional family living in the depths of the Pacific Northwest forests. Ben, the father of six astute and brilliant children, has raised them in a secluded paradise, sheltered from the rest of the world. The children are subject to rigorous education and physical training through Ben and all share an outright rejection of ‘The Man’ and the capitalist system.
As I watched, I felt myself wondering what it would be like to inhabit that world where the nearest telephone is a drive away, or where the only music you hear is the kind you make yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking to scale a rock face in the middle of a thunderstorm as the family do in the film, but there seemed a certain wholesomeness in the honesty and integrity with which their lives were lived. As the plot unfolds, it reveals a stark contrast between the world of Ben and his children, and the world of rampant consumerism and dependence on technology. As a current resident of the latter, I felt myself appreciating the complicated simplicity of the former and wishing that I could live a life closer to that.
However, similar to living life as a feminist in a patriarchal world, it’s incredibly difficult to reject the negative influences that the world has on us and our behaviours whilst simultaneously attempting to navigate and inhabit that society. I found myself wondering whether a dramatic move to segregate ourselves from the rest of society would truly be the only way to achieve the peace, strength and inner morality that Ben and his family had achieved.
Realistically, we’re not all about to take ourselves away from the world because we have jobs and families and houses and, frankly, we all tend to enjoy some of what capitalism has to offer. Not only that, so much of who we are is informed by our interactions with other people, our subjection to alternative opinions and challenging discourses. Social interaction is as important to our growth and development as any of the education that can be taught in a classroom or learned from a book. So, how do we implement this balance in our everyday lives?
I think it’s about compromise which, ultimately, is something that Ben and his family have to reconcile in the end. I think that it comes down to finding that seclusion inside ourselves and treating ourselves as that sanctuary which can be temporarily freed of influence in the quiet moments. In a world where we are bombarded by media, advertising, and endless streams of conflicting messages, it’s up to us as individuals to decide what we’re willing to compromise over. As Ben’s children frequently quote throughout the film, “power to the people”; those elements that we aren’t willing to compromise on are those which we should derive power from and fight for.
If, by continuing to live in the world as opposed to removing ourselves from it, we acknowledge that we are inherently engaging in problematic behaviours, it’s a case of finding those principles that we as individuals are simply not willing to compromise on. For example, it’s unlikely that global fast-food corporations are all going to be replaced with organic, cruelty-free, healthy alternatives because there are billions of people who purchase their products every day, just as they are. This can feel overwhelming and disheartening but, if a person makes the decision to live a vegan lifestyle because of their distaste for those fast-food corporations, that is their compromise. They can continue to participate in the world whilst simultaneously refusing to participate in behaviours that they aren’t able to morally reconcile.
There are thousands of examples of this compromise and it’s not about ego-massaging or moral high-ground. It’s simply about trying to be part of the world, acknowledging the difficulties of this, and making concrete decisions about what will make this morally more palatable for us. This isn’t just centred around the individual either; there are millions of people sharing their views and opinions, speaking out about their particular fight, and this has a knock-on effect to the rest of society as other individuals take on other people’s principles as their own.
Of course, there will be times where people join together to rally against elements of this world and there is rapid social change as a consequence. But, generally, it’s likely that these ‘small fights’ will continue to be the driving force towards progression and change for a world that is more akin to the one we want to inhabit. Hiding away from it all isn’t going help that happen; you provide no positive influence if you’re not accessible to the world or if you don’t understand it. But taking the time to implement some of that “power to the people” mentality in your everyday life is the compromise to make if you’re struggling to navigate living in a world fraught with problems that often seem insurmountable.
Gah. All of these thoughts just from a Saturday night film.
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