Watching “Inside Job” with Neighbors: Preparing for Change

Posted April 7, 2011 in Blog, Featured, Learning, Movies. Tagged: , ,

On Friday April 1, over 170 people crowded into a room at the Festival Center in Washington DC  to watch “Inside Job,” an Academy Award winning documentary about the economic meltdown.

Elsewhere in the country, 40 other viewings happened in living rooms, churches, and community centers.  The theme of the April Fools Day parties was “Don’t Get Fooled Again!” – i.e., don’t let the bankers fool us with another meltdown.

The movie exposes devastating greed and incompetence at the highest levels of government and the private sector.  It demonstrates with a relentless barrage of facts how the “smartest people in the room” created the conditions for a huge economic collapse, and then had no idea how to stop it.   Even worse, none of them have paid any kind of price for the destruction they caused.

I watched the movie with some members of my new Resilience Circle in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston.

Afterward, we noted how difficult it is to be hopeful when the same exact people who caused the crash are still running the economy.  “I have a feeling they are going to fool us again,” said one person.   “We have the same CEOs, the same regulators.  Are we just going to go around and around, from crash to a mild recovery to the next crash?”

Fundamentally, the story we tell ourselves about the economy hasn’t changed.  We accept that the same people are running things, because we still largely expect things to back to the way they were.  And who better to resuscitate an economy based on cheap oil and unbridled consumption than the guys running things in the 2000s?

But many people know that’s not an option.  At my club the following Sunday we talked about whether we want a “recovery.”   People were clear that we want more jobs, fewer foreclosures, and less debt.  But:  “I don’t think we can go backwards to get what we want,” said one participant, the pastor of the church.  “We need to take stock of our reality now, and figure out how to make it better.”

We have been told that the experts know best, and that even though they crashed the economy, they’re still the experts.  We’re told that we should be patient, not question things we don’t understand, and by all means, keep shopping.

“These kinds of messages work to keep us paralyzed and isolated, and keep us from seeing other possibilities,” says Linda Schmoldt, a Common Security Circle facilitator in Portland, OR.  “We must envision a new economy and society based on real wealth, and create a new story about what is possible.”

Even though my club knew things need to change, it was hard to imagine a large-scale vision of something different.

But we found our way to small, new ideas:  “What if we had a garden here at the church?” asked the pastor.  “It would be something else for people to do, besides watch TV and shop.  I’d need help, but we could do it.  We could involve the teenagers at the community center and share all the food.”  Others chimed in:  “Let’s use Freecycle to find old things instead of buying new ones.”  “Let’s set up a website to list recipe ideas and grocery saving tips and things we can share.”

What’s your vision for the new economy?  What are you doing to turn it into a reality?  There’s so much to do:  you can help organize a Resilience Circle for your community, get involved in a Transition Initiative, or take steps to increase your independence from Wall Street’s phantom wealth traps buy buying and investing locally.

You can get the conversation started with your own “Inside Job” screening – the movie will be available for online streaming as of Friday, April 7.  It’s a really great movie to get people together and watch.  The experts got it wrong; we can kiss their old story goodbye and start writing our own.

(Photo: Midlife’s a Trip)