Letter from the i editor: "First, you've got to get mad"


Click to follow
The Independent Online

I may have mentioned previously the excellent 1976 movie Network, in which the late, great Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, a broken former news anchor, whose sad descent into madness is exploited by his cynical producer (Faye Dunaway).

As Beale’s deranged ramblings become a huge ratings hit, one night he exhorts his viewers to open their windows, stick their heads out and yell: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” It was (in the film) to kick off a new political movement in the politically apathetic post-Watergate America of the mid-1970s. “First,” said Beale, “you’ve got to get mad.”

How could director Sidney Lumet know then that 35 years later, after an inexplicably long period of even greater political apathy, Beale’s angry sloganeering would find itself being appropriated by a movement even more amorphous than in Network. After three-and-a-half decades in which so few got mad for long; in which the number of “those that have” grew; but in which the disparity between have-lots and don’t-haves became a chasm; the “human beings” Beale exhorts to action woke up.

Whether Occupy Wall Street can even be described as “a movement” as such — let alone claim the “we are the 99%” banner under which so many of the world’s cities witnessed protest – is still to be proven. There’s no doubt that tens of demonstrators became thousands in New York over the past weeks, and 200,000 filled Rome in a sign of just what could happen if the right triggers are pulled. But, “99%” or not, there is a substantial body of the population, who, after the crash, bailouts, bonuses and undiminished personal and corporate greed of the few, and the alleged “complicity” of the rest of the 1% – the politicians – have finally got mad enough to shout. It’s a start, but I’m not sure that even the actors know the rest of the plot.