Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dethroning the Oppressor

I recently re-watched the excellent film 'Training Day', starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Take five minutes to watch the last words of Alonzo (Washington), which I think represent a good metaphor of the complex dynamic between Arab dictators, the public and the west.

Ethan Hawke is a rookie LAPD policeman who wishes to become a Narc in order to move his career forward. He is also intent on 'making a difference'. To me, he represents the west; well intentioned, wants a stable world for his middle class lifestyle, but is often clueless at how to propagate it down.

The crowd represents the oppressed Arab street. The west doesn't understand the nature of their problems and is often unwilling to admit it to the causes when they are known. Although most of the public is harmless, plenty of unsavory activity emanates from their community, shaking the west out of its comfort zone. However, they are aware that there are powerful forces that they may not be able to contend with and want to maintain stability. They often resort to coming to compromise with a crooked cop, a local oppressor, in order to maintain its uncomfortable truce with the west.

Alonzo represents the Arab autocrat. He is corrupt and brutal but also knows how to speak the language that the west is receptive to. It maintains its reign by convincing the west to support his cause. The west is often unimpressed with his behavior. None the less, he seems to understand the ways of the street, do the job that he is expected to do and most importantly contain this threatening mass force that is the Arab public. He uses his position with the west to heavy handedly run his turf, enriching himself in the process. The public pretends to like him, because of fear. The west pretends to like him, for exactly the same reason.

In the final showdown of the film, the good, naive cop withdraws his support from the oppressor, revealing him naked to his constituents. At this point the true feelings of the public towards their oppressor is revealed. He is unable to accept it, being accustomed to badges, honors, respect and admiration.

But at the end of the day, after Alonzo is dead, the public has to go back to its problems. There is going to be a vacuum of power left. Will it be filled by a new corrupt cop? Perhaps by a gang of local thugs?


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