Saturday, January 30, 2010

Syriana- A Late Review

I've had an overdose of political and espionage thrillers, thanks to Netflix's online streaming into our TV. I hadn't watched the 2005 landmark Syriana before, but I did a few minutes ago; and as usual I emerged with a feeling of having learned little.

Syriana is a brilliant film. It effectively traces connections between the Middle Eastern "Great Game(s)" and the strong motives behind US meddling in this region. If Clooney's goal was to inform Americans about their own culpability in the social, political, religious and economic lives of Middle Eastern people, I think he makes a good attempt at it. While it may not change minds (I'm reminded of a very dear Michigan pastor who in 2003 decried the idea that the US was possibly after Iraq's oil) it gives enough reasons to speculate on possible theories.

I'm no collegiate placard-holder one finds posting on websites like Democratic Underground. Some of my evangelical pals have surprisingly turned out to be among these shrill voices brimming with emotion and less with sense. But I can appreciate that the sinfulness of human beings, perhaps different in form in different cultures, are not different in essence. Greed here, lust there, pride elsewhere. They all originate from the same sources.

But the plot got me thinking. If sins are so endemic, why do we fixate on certain sins? For the above-mentioned bleeding heart liberal it may be a matter of US profit-motive. For a dyed in the wool neo-con the greatest sin may be someone's lack of love for America, as evidenced by her sympathetic opinions for the Iraqis. How often have I cringed on hearing the phrase, 'if they don't like (something the US did) they should live in Afhanistan'. How many times have I sighed on hearing the phrase, 'It's all because of Bush'. When these phrases come from Christians- and they have, from both sides of the opinion- they demonstrate a lack of love, both for the US and for the others.

Well- back to my question. The movie does portray the US as pulling the strings on every abominable deed. A cursory look at any ugly incident in the Middle East reveals that there are no good guys there- at all. Why then, the fixation? Perhaps because the US has more resources, influence, dominance? Perhaps because everyone (as the neo-cons say) hates us? Perhaps because we all think we are Americans and we have the right to criticize the US? Who knows?

So if Syriana made me think, it gave me no closure. In my theological blogposts I've mentioned that I like to stir the pot often even if I have no answers. But usually there are some overarching answers- like the truth of the Gospel, the reality of God's love and beneficence, despite seeming paradoxes. But besides a self-loathing attitude, I'm not able to penetrate the thinking behind this movie. Is it patriotica, in an introspective way? Maybe- but I'm missing something. There really is no gentleness in the narrative, no moral, no worldview that is apparent.

What I've always looked for is a worldview to inform our stories. As Muggeridge once said, it is far easier to feel righteous standing out on a street holding a protest sign than actually living a moral, righteous life. You see- I see a story without a worldview, and I see no human interest.

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