I Am and The Butterfly Effect

The film I Am focuses on two main questions: “What is wrong with the world?” and “What can we do to make it better?” Tom Shadyac gives an interesting perspective to answer these questions as he sets out to make a film and interview several people including Desmond Tutu and Howard Zinn, two of the authors of essays we read during class. Tom Shadyac brings up an important idea, that money does not necessarily result in happiness. He gives the example of when, after he began to make money through his films, his house and all the stuff he was able to buy did not make him truly happy. I think that this is a really interesting opinion. It is common for people to think that more money makes a person happy, when in reality it doesn’t. Happiness comes when a person feels truly content in their life and that doesn’t matter if they have a lot of money or not. Tom Shadyac began to realize all of this and several other things after he experienced a horrible accident. After recovering, his viewpoint on the world began to change.

 

The Butterfly Effect is the idea that a small act in one place can result in a huge change somewhere else. I feel like this can relate to the film I Am in several ways. As Tom Shadyac continued to interview people, he began to realize that even though there may be things wrong with the world, there are also a lot of good things that we can focus on. While reading about the Butterfly Effect, I began to make a connection between it and a reading we did earlier in the semester by Howard Zinn, one of the people interviewed in I Am. He mentions the idea that the only people getting recognition for their acts are people with a lot of power and that courageous people who are truly trying to make a difference are not getting the recognition they deserve. These courageous people who do small acts of kindness to make a change don’t know that their actions can have huge impacts whether they realize it or not.

Amazing Grace

“Although there are flashes of impatience and sarcasm as she speaks, her comment on these matters, for the most part, are subdued, not openly indignant, and there is a quietness about her words as if she is already looking back upon her life and on New York itself from a considerable distance. Only once in the course of a long evening does she voice something like open anger, and this comes up not in references to the hospital but in speaking of the New York City press.”

This passage from Jonathan Kozol’s novel, Amazing Grace, discusses the mindset of a New York woman, Alice Washington. Alice Washington was a woman who, when diagnosed with AIDs, never lost her courage and strength. Dealing with situations like not receiving quality care from hospitals when she truly needed it or having to raise her son through her illness, Alice Washington always tried to remain positive. In this passage, we see that, although she may have had moments where she felt impatient or discouraged, she never let it control her. I chose this passage because I think that it is admirable that she was able to keep this mindset.

 

“The city had these murals painted on the walls, she says, not for the people in the neighborhood – because they’re facing the wrong way – but for tourists and commuters. The idea that they mustn’t be upset by knowing too much about the population here. It isn’t enough that these people are sequestered. It’s also important that their presence be disguised or ‘sweetened.’ The city did not repair the buildings so that kids who live around here could, in fact, have pretty rooms like those. Instead, they painted pretty rooms on the facades. It’s an illusion.”

In this passage, Jonathan Kozol discusses his experiences when riding in a taxi on his way to the Bronx. He remembers a woman named Gizelle Luke who showed him paintings on the side of buildings facing the highway. The pictures are of flowers and inside of pretty-looking rooms. When Jonathan asks Gizelle about the paintings, she said that they are not for the residents of the neighborhood, but for the tourists so that they won’t know too much about the city. The part of this quote that stood out to me was the part that says, “It’s an illusion.” This reveals that the purpose of these paintings is to give an illusion of the rooms inside of the buildings, that are not at all what the paintings portray.

Reflection on Change

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world” (Zinn 86). This statement could not be more accurate. After reading the essays by Zinn, Mandela, West, and Loeb, I noticed one huge connection. The idea that we all have the power to make a change no matter how big or small our actions are. It isn’t about starting a huge revolution or performing some big act, it’s about the little things. Things like speaking out when we see injustices or just helping somebody when they need it. A good example of this is when Rosa Parks refused to leave her spot at the front of the bus. Although it may have turned out to be one of the most crucial moments in history, it was her small act, along with the small acts of thousands of others, that started it.

We have to remember that if we want a change, we cannot just sit back and expect it to happen. In order for this to happen, we have to speak up and do it on our own. Working with others who share the same goals and who want to see a change can influence us to truly make a difference. Ever since I was younger, this has always been something that my parents taught me. They told me that I could do anything that I set my mind to and worked for and I think this is the point of what the authors are talking about in their essays. They all mentioned how even though some of these acts are not recognized in the news or social media as much as some of the acts of people in power, the small acts are just as important.

“We supported each other and gained strength from each other” (Mandela 97). In Mandela’s essay he mostly focused on his time spent in prison and how he wanted everybody to receive the same treatment. Although he didn’t talk much about making a change in society, I made several connections while reading. Not only is it important to work together with others to make a change, but working towards what Mandela talked about, equality for all, is one change that could potentially be made.

Democracy Reflection

A democracy is a type of government that is controlled by the majority rather than one single person. Since this is a very vague definition of what a democracy is, Aristotle goes into detail on the different types of democracies in his essay. A few of these consist of the rich and poor being equal in decision making, people being elected based on the property they own, and all people being equal in then government but the law being supreme. It is important to remember that the rich and poor having equal rights in terms of the government is a very good way to ensure that the best people are being elected to run the government. Aristotle continues to discuss both the importance of people obeying laws and the importance of having good laws to follow. Since people may follow bad laws as well as good laws, it is necessary to make sure that all of the laws are beneficial for society as a whole.

Benazir Bhutto, on the other hand, discusses the importance of both religion and democracy. One quote from her essay that stood out to me was, “Thus humans must seek and apply knowledge, must use reason, must consult and build a consensus for a just society on earth on which they will be judged hereafter.” Basically what this means is that everybody has to make the decisions that they will be proud to be judged on and the decisions that will make society better. As shown in the film, Bhutto was heavily influenced by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. After he was killed, Benazir Bhutto became the first female to be elected as the head of an Islamic government. She was very supportive of the idea of a democracy and she made her hopes for her country known. She was hopeful for a free and open society that was full of equality and hope. Benazir represented a form of reconciliation between different types of civilization and, for this reason, she was seen as a threat by several different religious groups.

Overall, I think that democracies are extremely beneficial. They not only allow for the rich and poor to be considered equal, but they also allow the people to decide who they think is the best person to represent their country.