The Carousel

March 22, 2012

By Matt Palmer

It will seem odd to some that I am posting a scene from Mad Men Season 4 on a blog ostensibly about energy. But, taking people to unexpected places and inspiring different ideas about how we think about complex issues, has the potential to open new opportunities.

So, first, for those that do not know, MAD MEN season five starts on Sunday night. It has been eighteen months since the last season. The delay resulted from a dispute between the network AMC and the shows creator, Matthew Weiner. Mad Men grabbed me from the very first scene of the first episode. Watching it, I knew that there was something special going. on. Sophisticated writing, performance, all the production elements, imbue each episode with breathtaking and heartbreaking beauty.

The clip above comes from season four. Don Draper and his team are making their pitch for how to sell KODAK‘s new wheel slide projector. I have watched this scene many times, and every time it grabs me by the heart, and I feel a deep need to weep. The profound sense of loss conveyed by Don is something most of us can relate to. Loss of youth, loss of connection, loss of loved ones, loss of opportunity, and so on. These are things every human can identify with, no matter what culture.

The scene is a powerful reminder of the importance of human connection, to ourselves and others, and to the natural world that provides for us. Today we have many things that separate us from others: politics, religion, social status, education, etc. Yet, this polarization threatens to prevent us from tackling some of the greatest challenges ever to face humanity. All because we have been programmed to believe that being right, winning an argument, defeating the other side, is the only path to progress.

Is winning by making others lose the progress we want? By reflecting on how we show up with each other in our daily lives, at home, work, or in interactions with social media, we may see signals that point to incongruence between our actions and our mostly deeply held values.

Greater congruence between our actions and values with those who have different opinions about how to solve the many pressing issues we face around energy production and use, water, and food production, would inevitably tone down the rhetoric and polarization so prevalent in the current debate. Protest, debate, vigorous discussion are important ways of exploring multiple sides of these topics. Respect for others is sadly lacking when we engage with those with opposing views, often resulting in unnecessary acrimonious and hurtful attacks.

The current disagreement between the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Senate is a great illustration of this problem where the rhetoric of each side continues to increase. The inflammatory rhetoric being used to complain about the rhetoric is completely ironic. There is no shame in demonstrating respect for someone, even when they resort to unfair tactics. The higher ground always has better oxygen.

As Don Draper discovers, the pain of loss, lost opportunity, lost connection, becomes a burden and weight on his soul. The journey for redemption and forgiveness can be rocky, but as long as we can breath, the opportunity is there to choose a better path.

About Unintended Consequences Documentary Project

I'm Producing and directing a multi-platform documentary project on global energy called "Unintended Consequences".
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