Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Telling Stories Changes the World

Brave New Films reports that at least a million people have seen the Wal-Mart Movie: The High Price of Low Cost. Theirs is a classic community organizing strategy. There were no showings in theaters; individuals showed the movie to friends in their homes and still a million people saw it. More importantly, though, we know that Wal-Mart's business was down this Christmas. (Interestingly, Costco's was up.) While I suppose we can't attribute the entire drop-off in Wal-Mart sales to the movie, it seems probable that the movie-goers acted on the new information they had.

I sometimes worry that we're hurting the employees whose rights we're championing, by avoiding the store. Would they be better off if Wal-mart folded -as unlikely as that scenario is? However, the response of employees to the film and to the organizing against Wal-Mart's corporate practices has apparently been tremendous. If the social work truism IS true -and it's always worked before- that people are their own best experts, then I should just relax and trust them to know what they need.

The same energetic group is also beginning a collaboration with the ACLU and the Sierra Club. The second Thursday of the month -tomorrow, if I'm not mistaken- will feature two new television shows. The ACLU Freedom Files documents stories of people whose civil liberties have been threatened and their responses. The Sierra Club Chronicles tracks the stories of individuals as they protect their families and the land they love from pollution and corporate greed.

Cleverly, the organizers of Brave New Films are distributing these programs to television, the internet, or you can get the series on DVD. They're also expanding into podcasts, which I really must figure out. Follow this link for times and explanations: Brave New Films Television.

As they say, their strategy is long term and forward thinking. They're trying to tell the stories, to frame the discourse, so that people organize to reclaim the country. We really ought to pay attention.

And in that spirit, I'm going to order the new DVDs and see what I can do about hosting a screening.

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