Do not be deceived, I do not live in an alternatively quixotic reality in which I believe all others, particularly those in entertainment, ascribe to my individual philosophical persuasions. It is true, however, that successful movies, like Slumdog Millionaire, often communicate deep and exceptionally human messages. These messages can convey corresponding values and morals, and can sit anywhere on the wide range of human emotion and conscience – much like a childhood bedtime story or an episode of South Park.
The conventional wisdom would assume the makers of Slumdog, should any political or cultural commentary exist beyond the dramatic presentation, to be highlighting the plight of those, especially the children, living in the deplorable slums of Mumbai and similar locales spanning the globe. One could also say the depiction sheds light on struggles faced by the impoverished in industrialized nations, such as Dev Patel’s native United Kingdom or even the United States.
If experience is indeed the best teacher, then perspective runs a close second. In the July 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, rapper Jay Z was quoted following his 2006 trip to Africa as saying, ‘“I come from the Marcy projects, in Brooklyn,” he says, “which is considered a tough place to grow up, but this [showed me] how good we have it. The rappers who say, ‘We’re from the ‘hood,’ take it from me, you’re not from the ‘hood.’ You haven’t seen people with no access to water. It really put things in perspective.”’
Perhaps those who seek to constantly highlight the poverty in the United States would be well served to avail themselves to the perspective provided by Slumdog Millionaire. Of course, both the Slumdog story and its protagonist are fictional, and any discussion regarding residual morals taught by Slumdog is inherently academic. It is nonetheless worthwhile to glean truths from the story that can shed light on pertinent discussions of the day.
Decades of government intervention, planning, and micromanagement have wrought irreparable harm on the psyche of the American citizen. Rather than looking first to his or her individual skills, talents, and abilities, today’s citizen looks to someone else, namely the all caring, all understanding, and all compassionate government seeking to ameliorate every less than desirable condition of life and society.
What Slumdog illustrates, however, is the reality that every human has the inherent God given ability to change his or her circumstances; that the present struggles of life are not irrevocable sentences set before the foundation of the world. Some, of course, would say that Jamal Malik’s fortune resulted purely from a series of fortunate events, bestowing on him luck unavailable to so many other poor, unfortunate souls.
With persistence, determination, and a willingness to work, any person can be as successful as they want. Beyond this desire of the individual, success is the responsibility of no one else, and in a society that promulgates what President Bush called the soft bigotry of low expectations, this reality can be easily forgotten.
When the shackles are removed from the natural ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of the American citizen, true prosperity can be realized. The rising tide does indeed lift all the boats, and every person, just like the impoverished individuals on Slumdog, can lift themselves out of despondency and attain their full potential.