'You don't have to fit in'
Oliver Stone teed off on successive US administrations at the WGA Awards of 2017, called out the warmongering, speaking beautifully about moral courage and 'listening to your silences'
It was a very Oliver Stone sort of speech. February 2017 was only a few weeks after President Trump’s inauguration. There was a succession of concerned and angry speeches delivered in those months, from Meryl Streep’s beautiful tirade at The Golden Globes to David Harbour’s memorable defence of the ‘freaks and outcasts’.
Trump was at the heart of Hollywood disquiet, and given how the presidency unfolded, fair enough too.
In this Writers Guild of America acceptance, Oliver Stone bucked the trend of targeting Trump — by targeting everyone:
It’d be remiss of me not to remind you, especially you younger writers, that you can be critical of your government and your society. You don’t have to fit in. It’s fashionable now to take shots at Republicans and Trump and avoid the Obamas and Clintons. But remember this: In the 13 wars we’ve started over the last 30 years and the $14 trillion we’ve spent, and the hundreds of thousands of lives that have perished from this earth, remember that it wasn’t one leader but a system, both Republican and Democrat.
It’s an interesting delivery, quiet and measured, and suits an audience of a writer talking to other writers. After raising the issue of the military industrial complex, he elaborates:
Our country has become more prosperous for many but in the name of that wealth we cannot justify our system as a centre for the world’s values. But we continue to create such war and chaos in the world.
No need to go through the victims, but we know we’ve intervened in more than 100 countries with invasion, regime change, economic chaos. Or hybrid war, soft power, whatever you want to call it, it’s war of some kind. In the end, it’s become a system leading to the death of this planet and the extinction of us all.
Stone was receiving the WGA Laurel Award for lifetime achievement in screenwriting, and so, appropriately, he briefly shifts the momentum from dark avenues of human extinction to his own life and career, which has been spent confronting these issues.
I’ve fought these people who practice war for most of my life. It’s a tiring game. And mostly you’ll get your ass kicked. With all the criticism and insults you’ll receive, and the flattery too, it’s important to remember, if you believe in what you’re saying and you can stay the course, you can make a difference.
My favourite paragraph in this fluent and powerful speech is the conclusion, Stone’s encouragement to fellow writers to be true and decent:
I urge you to find a way to remain alone with yourself, listen to your silences, not always in a writer’s room. Try to find not what the crowd wants so that you can be successful, but try instead to find the true inner meaning of your life here on earth, and never give up on your heart in your struggle for peace, decency, and telling the truth.
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The most recent episode of the podcast was S1E44 with Andrew Rule talking about his eulogy for his father, Solomon in a singlet. The next episode is with Michael Cooney talking about his three years as speech writer for Prime Minister Julia Gillard. That’ll drop this week when I’ve edited.
I was also a guest on Andrew Rule’s ‘Life and Crimes’ podcast, talking footy bad boys.
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