Monday, September 8, 2008

Today's Howard Beale Reminder

Paddy Chayefsky was a brilliant playwright and screenwriter whose early 1970s satires were amazingly prescient. His script for the movie Network predicted the rise of infotainment (gossip, astrology, and yellow journalism) as a replacement for actual network news. His script for the movie The Hospital predicted the triumph of business concerns over medicine in health care. I strongly urge anyone who hasn't seen these movies to check them out.

Howard Beale was a character in the movie Network. He was a news anchor who had a mental breakdown and . . . started telling the truth on the air. Here's some of what Mr. Chayefsky told everyone through Howard Beale over 30 years ago:

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job, the dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter, punks are running wild in the streets, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air's unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit and watch our teevees while some local newscaster tell us today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be . . .
. . . So we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we live in gets smaller, and all we ask is, please, at least leave us alone in our own living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my teevee and my hair dryer and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything, just leave us alone. Well, I'm not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad . . .
I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. . . I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the defense budget and the Russians and crime in the street. All I know is first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a human being, God_______. My life has value.' So I want you to get up now. I want you to get out of your chairs and go to the window. Right now. I want you to go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell. I want you to yell, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!'

The Collected Works of Paddy Chayefsky: The Screenplays, pgs. 173-174. At this point in the movie, the camera pans as people stick their heads outside their windows across the city and start screaming into the rain.

Here's my impression of Howard Beale:

You already know What's Wrong. You really don't need me, or anybody else, to tell you What Has Gone Wrong. Some of us might know a few more details about particular Things That Have Gone Wrong, but we all know the broad outlines of What's Wrong. You also don't need permission from me or anybody else to do something about it. Stop waiting for people to organize you, or mobilize you, to do something about What's Wrong.

I don't want you to get angry and vent. We've all been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It's long past time to move beyond empty venting. It's time for each of us to do something about What's Wrong. It doesn't have to be some heroic action. Just doing one little thing today about part of What's Wrong will make a difference.

That is all for now. Thank you for your attention.


Khadija said...

Greetings, Everyone!

Let me kick off this Howard Beale Reminder Day with a small example of what I mean:

Yesterday (the same day I wrote the post---it's past midnight now) I had talked to one of the secretaries at work about Evia's new podcast. [You can find a link to the podcast by going to the Black Female Interracial Marriage E-zine link on the sidebar.]

This particular secretary has a daughter who's in grad school. She agrees that young Black women in her daughter's age group need to expand their dating and marriage pools. She's horrified at some of the things her daughter has told her about the modern Black dating scene.

She's one of the women at work that I've been giving copies of various blog essays to. [Note: Rev. Lisa, if you read this please know that she really enjoyed your essay about "The Gold Digger and the Grave Digger."] And she discusses these issues with her circle of female friends and relatives.

Last night I burned a copy of Evia's podcast so that this secretary can give it to her daughter. And her daughter will pass it around to her Black female friends. This is how potentially life-changing ideas spread. One person at a time.

Everyone: I'm not asking anyone to tell what they did about What's Wrong. But it would be encouraging to hear people check in to confirm that they did something. Even if it's something small like what I did today. Every little bit counts.

Peace and blessings,

Latasha said...

Well, I've been so inspired lately by your comments and Evia's page that I am going to sit down with my daughter this weekend and together we are going to listen to her podcast and read some of her blog entries together.

Khadija said...


Welcome, and Happy Howard Beale Reminder Day!

Thank you for checking in about your contribution. Thank you for taking action. I truly appreciate it. For many decades, our misleadership class has programmed us to sit and wait for political "messiahs."

Well, Katrina and other events have clearly demonstrated that HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY.

So many of us have forgotten that we are all EMPOWERED to take whatever action we choose to help remedy The Things That Are Wrong. We are all EMPOWERED to take the initiative to do something. We don't have to wait for commands or instructions in order to do something. Even if it's something small.

Everyone: I'm not asking you to explain what you did for this Howard Beale Reminder Day [HBRD].(Although I would be glad to hear the details).

It's quite enough to check in just to say, "I did my own thang for this HBRD!" LOL! (I think there'll be one HBRD each month. Sounds good to me.) {smile}

Peace and blessings,

Sister Seeking said...

Salaam Alaikum,

I'm totally spreading the word about this blog!

Sister Seeking

: )

Checking out your blog list for now be back later to comment : )

Khadija said...

Sister Seeking,

{excited waving}

Wa Alaikum As-Salaam!
Ramadan Mubarak!
Happy Howard Beale Reminder Day!

I'm so happy you stopped by. And thanks for spreading the word about the blog. I truly appreciate it. I look forward to your return after you've had time to "test drive" the blog links in the sidebar.

Peace and blessings,

Anonymous said...

Everyday is Howard Beale day. I'm always talking to my sisters about self respecting and not being doormats and easy prey for the black destroyers of our people.

Khadija said...


Welcome, and Happy Howard Beale Reminder Day!

I'm delighted the hear that EVERYDAY is Howard Beale Day for you. Now THAT's what I'm talkin' 'bout in terms of what our people need! {raised fist salute}

[Your comment also brought back fond memories for me of dancing the night away in college to songs like the one by Ministry called "Everyday is Halloween"!]

Peace and blessings,