Starring Anthony Hopkins as Anthropologist Ethan Powell / Cuba Gooding Jr. as Psychiatrist Theo Caulder
Director John Turteltaub
Dr. Ethan Powell had a profound experience living with gorillas in the wild. He was overwhelmed by the experience of being included into the group and being watched over by the Silverback. It gave him a very safe and comfortable feeling. However, he was derided by many people for “Living as a monkey”, which they felt was beneath a specimen of the human race.
What they couldn’t understand was that “those monkeys” accepted him as a human being in their midst; different but equal. When poachers came after the gorillas, Ethan protected the gorillas and the gorillas protected him. In that engagement with the armed poachers, Ethan Powell killed three of them, who happened to be corrupt Ranchers. The “Ranchers” killed most of the gorillas for some trophy-merchandise and apprehended Ethan Powell. Powell was extradited to the United States and imprisoned for manslaughter. Theo Caulder, an eager careerist psychiatrist does his mental evaluation.
During the interviews with Caulder, Powell explains how most people are “takers”. They have a sinister need for control; to be in control – to have dominion over others. It makes them feel important and powerful. When Powell surprises Caulder by grabbing him from behind in a choke-hold, he asks him: “What have I taken from you and what have you lost?”
Caulder believes he has lost control. After all, he was the free man, the rising star in Psychiatry who holds with his evaluation the future of the prisoner in his hand. Then, Powell explains to Caulder, “you never had control, you only thought you did. What you control for sure is the volume on your stereo or the temperature in your car. What I took from you and what you lost is just an “illusion”; the illusion of control.
Caulder has been grappling with a question that Ethan Powel had put to him early on in their encounter: “What has you all tight up in knots when you wake-up sweating in the middle of the night?” Towards the end of the movie the answer comes to him: it’s “the Game”. He tells Powel how important it is to him to be in the game; knowing that you’re cool with your superiors; with those who can do you favors. He knows how to please them, how to play them like a piano by saying what they want to hear. And Theo is on top of his game!
Powell’s situation looks grim; locked up in a high-security detention center for the criminally insane. Time and again, he stands up for his new family when they are abused by the guards who take a sick pleasure in exercising their dominion over defenseless inmates. This gets him into more trouble and the likelihood of a favorable evaluation and a transfer to a better facility are slipping through his fingers.
The moral of this intriguing story is that we condition our brains by the appearances of things and situations as they are. Since we imprison ourselves by buying into other people’s illusion of controlling our destiny, we need to learn that ”Freedom is not something that you dream; it’s real, it’s there on the other side of those fences we build all by ourselves.”
When Ethan Powel stops challenging the guards, he gives them back their cherished illusion that they are in control. And, when the guards back-off, Ethan finds a way to escape to freedom.
What’s the programing running your mind, controlling your freedom? What illusions are you clinging to? What would happen if you gave up your dominion over others and your environment?
What are the fences that we have put up all by ourselves and that have conditioned our thinking and belief that:
- we must cut cost to be profitable
- we cannot afford producing int he U.S.
- universal healthcare is too expensive
- we must destroy the competitor in order to survive
- we can use the hiring and firing of people like a gas-pedal in a car for speeding-up and slowing down
- internal competition among departments is a good thing
- anything goes as long as you make money.
Dominion is an illusion because everything belongs to a system whether it’s a simple device, a business, the economy, or nature itself. Our choice is to work with the system or to work against it. When you try to dominate the system you are more likely to fail because you either break the system or in the end, the system will break you. Systems are indeed that powerful!
In order to work with the system you need insight into organizational dynamics; understanding what makes it tick, which is not the same as how well you interpret financial statements! The former refers to relationships between means & ends and cause & effect and the latter refers to the effect or the symptom only. Are you working WITH or AGAINST the system of your organization? The financial statements will give you your answer!