Watching the video highlights of the Oscar winners serving up their deep political thoughts this past Sunday evening, I wondered how anyone could top the lady who recited the revolutionary slogan from the Communist Manifesto.: “Workers of the world, unite.” She omitted: “You have nothing to lose but your chains!” I wonder why.
I can’t answer that question, but I can suggest that Joaquin Phoenix topped her. He brought to (my) mind the late Dartmouth professor and poet Ramon Guthrie’s Asbestos Phoenix. One of Guthrie’s Asbestos Phoenix poems concludes: “It is always / half past hallowe’en / in the back of my mind.” That’s what time it is in the back of Phoenix’s mind as well. He brought it forward in honor of his Best Actor award — for The Joker. Yet he sought to be taken seriously as a philosopher of justice and benefactor of the living world.
Phoenix began his remarks like a pre-Socratic philosopher. Where others see many, Phoenix sees one: “I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively, and I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality. I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, one species has the right to dominate, control, use, and exploit another with impunity.” (Applause.)
Is this hanging together for you? Phoenix then takes a turn to Rousseau: “I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric world view, the belief that we’re the center of the universe. We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources.”
How bad can it get? He added: “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth, we steal her baby. Even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”
And then he broadened the terms of his cause to assert the universal principles of justice that drive his vision: “And I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up but human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop, and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.” (Applause.)
Stifle the laughter! He’s making amends for something left unstated. He keeps it philosophical.
Don’t hurt me bro!