Writ Large

If you’ve never seen the short film “Powers of Ten” by revolutionary designers Charles and Ray Eames, it makes a brilliant point. What we see up close and what we see far off have an uncanny resemblance. 

While there’s a huge problem, for most of the world, in Russia’s behavior – or specifically, Putin’s behavior – towards the Ukraine, it’s a problem that is happening all the time, all over the globe.

You don’t matter; only what I want you to do matters. If you don’t do it, I’ll make you suffer. 

Earlier this week, you might have noticed the headline “Bernie Madoff’s Sister and her Husband Dead in Apparent Murder Suicide.” At first glance, its celebrity culture – the only reason this is a news story is because of the connection to Madoff. That 87-year-old Sondra Wiener and her 90-year-old husband Marvin – neither of whom even gets their name in the headline – were found dead is still under formal investigation, but it seems pretty straightforward that he shot her several times and then shot himself. Statistics for the United States show 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.


This ongoing theme that some people are people and other people are not people is logically inexplicable. But if you step back one frame into the belief that men are people and women are not people – sadly, the actions of these men seem to make a kind of sense in the context. She wasn’t an individual person, right? She was just a wife. If he decided to kill himself, she had to go first. 

Shift that frame again, and it’s that only white people are people, and people of color are not people. Again, logically indefensible, but inexplicably accepted. Whether this was originally imported by the Vikings into the British Isles is a matter of dispute, but the Britons did an amazing job of exporting it over the entire globe. There is a holiday celebrated by a different country every week of the year, and it’s called “Independence from England.” Here, we call it the Fourth of July. No matter how many Independence Days we celebrate, there are still people who think that non-Anglo culture is inferior, or just wrong. 

Shift it again, and only people with money matter, people without money do not matter. 

It does not make sense, in any logical way, that we accept these daily dehumanizations as just the way things are, but then, when it’s pulled all the way out to the big frame of international politics, it’s abhorrent and insufferable. 

It’s the same credo, writ large. Only people with power are people – but they only have the power we allow them to have. When we fully accept the concept that everyone matters, and that leaders carry out the will of the people (and not the other way around) we can begin to start to frame a re-humanization. 

What I love about “Powers of Ten” is that it shows all the layers of similarity; all the out and all the way down. 

Sometimes we do have to see things writ large to read them clearly. 

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang

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