Saturday, 24 May 2014 00:52

Review of the movie, Divergent: By Ozodi Thomas Osuji

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By Ozodi Thomas Osuji 

This movie can help you clarify who you are and your vocation in life. 

Last night (May 22, 2014) I went to a movie, Divergent. The movie depicted a society where at a certain age (say, after high school) all young people are tested and assigned to one of five factions. Each faction is a functional area (intellectuals, military, rulers, service, farmers etc.).  The idea is that each person has an aptitude for a given area of work and that that aptitude could be tested for and ascertained and he is assigned to that area and trained and thereafter lives the rest of his life performing the work that supposedly he is suited for. The idea is that the individual is best served to be where nature means for him to be and that society is well organized if folks are organized in this fashion. 

Both Plato and Aristotle talked about people been suited for certain professions and the need to train them for the functions they are suited for. 

Plato in his book, the Republic talked about subjecting children to vigorous and rigorous training and using examinations to determine what they do in life. The end result of Plato's education process is to select those who would become philosopher kings to rule Greece/society (their training supposedly ends in their thirties when they embark on ruling society...the framers of the US constitution read their Plato well and thus said that you have to be at least 35 years old before you present yourself to be elected to rule the American Republic). 

Aristotle, in his book, Politics, talked about how people have natural aptitudes for certain jobs, how some are natural soldiers, others administrators, or rulers, or merchants, or artists, or technicians or low level workers and some slaves by nature. Aristotle hoped that people would gravitate to the functional area they are best suited for. 

This movie, apparently, built on Plato and Aristotle and modern aptitude, intelligence and personality testing to fit people into areas that they are supposedly good at. 

The problem is that some people do not fit into any of the designated areas.  Those who are divergent do not fit any job aptitude area although they could perform most of them. 

The movie centered on a girl, Tris whose father was from the service class who tested out as inconclusive for any particular faction but chose to join the military/police class so as to protect society from danger. She went through the rigorous training her faction demands of recruits and eventually graduated. But before she graduated the leaders of her society suspected that she is a divergent and wanted to get rid of her. 

Divergents are non-conformists to society's norms and rock the carefully planned society where all are supposed to conform to the status quo.  Divergents rock the boat and shake things up; they disrupt the order that society desires in people. 

The leaders of society therefore aim at eliminating divergents before they do their job of destroying the status quo (and replacing it with what?) 

Edmund Burke in his seminal book, Reflections on the French Revolution reminds us not to throw out the current social order for untested utopias. Revolutions have a tendency to producing worse social systems than the ones they replace. 

The so-called Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917 produced a monolithic authoritarian, totalitarian dictatorship that was probably worse than the Tsars it replaced; the communist were monstrous in their employment of terror and brutality in intimidating the people to conform to their unnatural social order. 

In natural society individuals struggle for their personal survival; there is no empirical evidence that people are by nature social caring beyond caring for their immediate family members, and this is, as professor Edward Wilson of Harvard University told us in his book, social biology, due to their inherited selfish genes.  Professor Richard Dawkins of Cambridge University reinforced Wilson's pessimistic view of people and tell us that people inherited selfish genes and care for their offspring because those carry forward their genes and do not care for other people for those people's survival do not entail their personal survival. 

Tris was hunted and several attempts were made to destroy her. She was caught in the struggle between the current group of rulers and those who want to displace them (the intellectuals want to replace the rulers) and take over the government. 

In the end she and another young man, a fellow divergent who also trained as a law enforcer managed to outwit the society they were a member of and performed a lot of havoc. They eventually escaped from that society in a train going to outside it (the scene of the movie is Chicago, USA, a society that survived a horrific war and decided to organize for survival by fitting every person into a faction and rigidly enforcing social conformism). 

The movie ended with the two divergent couple of Tris and her lover boy escaping from their well-organized society; it did not tell us where they were escaping to or whether the well-ordered society has come to an end. 

The movie is saying that most societies expect to socialize their children to become social conformists and fear those who do not conform to accepted social categories, the divergent. 

If you are divergent you have rough time in your society, for the gate keepers of your society, the system maintainers see you as a threat to their social order, as dangerous and would do everything to destroy you so as to maintain their status quo. 

So, are you a divergent, a non-conformist to your extant society? 

The movie helped me clarify what I have always known about me. I am by nature a combination of a warrior and a visionary. I like the military and enjoy war; I would make an excellent general in a well-organized army. On the other hand, I am extremely intellectual; I am an idealistic intellectual, a visionary who has definite ideas on how society ought to be organized. That makes me what Plato would call a philosopher king.  I combine the aptitude of doing and dreaming. 

I see some divergent traits in me although I detest rocking the boat for the sake of doing so; if you over throw the current social order and replace it with a better one that is fine with me. However, having examined all the alternative social orders, such as socialism, capitalism, aristocracy, democracy, oligarchy, plutocracy etc., I am not sure that I know which one is best for mankind. Perhaps, a mix of all of the various political ideologies is ideal? Aristotle believed that in a good society all so-called political isms should be combined. 

The framers of the US constitution  accepted Aristotle's thinking (as well as the thinking of John Locke, Second treaty on government; Jean Jacque Rousseau, Social Contract and Charles Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws) and made Congress democratic, the presidency aristocratic, the judicial system aristocratic, and the military autocratic; they made room for merchants to seek profits (they built their economy around Adam Smith's view of economics in his book, Wealth of Nations, which was published the year America rebelled against Britain, 1776). 

Whereas my politics is fuzzy, I am sure of my economics.  In economics I am a mixed economist who wants to balance capitalism and socialism in such a way that individuals can pursue their dreams, start businesses and make profits but at the same time I would like to use the state to give all people education through university level and provide them with health insurance. Outside publicly funded education and health insurance I accept free enterprise economy and want to leave the individual to swim or drown. It is not for society to feed people; if you cannot feed yourself you ought to die. 

Life is, as Charles Darwin told us in his seminal book, Origin of Species, a struggle for survival and as Herbert Spencer in his book, Ethics told us, competition in which the strongest live and the weakest die. Natural selection is good for improving the quality of human beings. 

The movie could enable you to ascertain what role you are born to play in society. In my experience, most people are conformists and only a handful are divergent and rock the social boat; the mass of humanity live in abject fear and if you said boo they would pee in their pants. Given people's proclivity to fear and desire to live at all costs, including living as slaves, there will always be rulers and ruled. The bold rule the fearful. 

This movie is worth seeing. 

Ozodi Osuji

May 23, 2014 

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176