J.D. Salinger & District 9

J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye", wrote some provocative dialogue for the character Franny in another of his books, "Franny and Zooey".

"I'm not afraid to compete. It's just the
opposite. Don't you see that? I'm afraid I will compete- that's what
scares me. That's why I quit the Theater Department. Just because I'm
so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else's values, and just
because I like applause and people to rave about me, doesn't make it
right. I'm ashamed of it. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of not having the
courage to be an absolute nobody. I'm sick of myself and everybody else
that wants to make some kind of a splash."

The movie District 9, is a smart film that deals with the cruel deportation of visiting aliens by humans to a life of squalor and dysfunction.  One human, in particular, chooses to help the oppressed aliens. A.O Scott in his review of the film states,

"At its core the film tells the story…of how a member of the socially
dominant group becomes aware of the injustice that keeps him in his
place and the others, his designated inferiors, in theirs. The cost he
pays for this knowledge is severe, as it must be, given the dreadful
contours of the system. But if the film’s view of the world is bleak,
it is not quite nihilistic. It suggests that sometimes the only way to
become fully human is to be completely alienated."

Weaving the two select writings together might illuminate a singular lesson for what it means to be fully human in a world like ours:

It takes tremendous courage, bold action, and deep conviction to live a substantive life in the midst of a superfluous world. Having the courage to be an absolute nobody means becoming a servant rather than a sensation. To be completely alienated is the surest route to the source of true meaning. Talk about going against the grain!  The "powers that be" vehemently resist any tampering with its systems.  Yet those who have the courage to become alienated and an absolute nobody go on to be the Mother Teresa's and Martin Luther King's of the world. True heroes in every sense of the word.

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