A guide to mentally stimulating procrastination
by Jack McGovern
It may be tempting to rewatch old episodes of Breaking Bad every time you settle down with Netflix, but the 21st century godsend for the television lover is also a treasure trove of unique documentaries, most of them vastly underrated. Here, I will try to help you sift through the many documentaries Netflix has to offer.
First we have The Trial of Henry Kissinger, a solid documentary featuring plenty of interviews and clips of the man behind the curtain during the Nixon administration, as well as commentary from political advisors of the time and journalists, including Christopher Hitchens, who penned an identically titled short book on the subject.
Around the time of Nixon’s election in 1968, Kissinger and the former president allegedly ended peace talks with North Vietnam in order to extend the war and pursue covert military operations in neighboring Cambodia. This strategic move was part of Kissinger’s greater geopolitical strategy of maintaining U.S. power, and cost a staggering number of civilian lives.
The documentary provides an interesting look into the mind and ideas of one of the most influential statesmen since the end of World War II. It might prompt you to wish, in the words of Hunter Thompson, that after Kissinger dies, he is burned in a trash can.
The Weather Underground, another documentary related to the Vietnam War, concerning a fringe anti-war group of the same name, poses important questions about the nature of protest – especially relevant today. In the midst of the war, the group bombed a number of different government sites and freed counterculture icon Timothy Leary from jail.
Your inner artiste will be pleased too, as still shots of massive crowds are accompanied by droning Aphex Twin cuts, and Gil-Scott Heron blasts over different shots of the early 70s, conveying post-revolutionary feelings of the era.
At the end of the documentary, Mark Rudd, a former member of the group, looks weary as he is asked why he has been so reluctant to talk about his experience. He responds, “I find it hard to speak publicly about them, and to tease out what was right from what was wrong. I think that part of the Weather phenomenon that was right was our understanding of what the position of the United States is in the world. It was this knowledge that we just couldn’t handle, it was too big. We didn’t know what to do.”
Whether it’s the Obama administration’s drone attacks or acquiescence towards Israel’s expansionist policy in the West Bank, it is clear that U.S. foreign policy is still destructive. I don’t know what to do, either, but identifying the problem is a good start.
Finally, there is Marley, which explores the life of Bob Marley. Don’t be turned off, however, by the pop-reggae’s insane popularity and subsequent branding as a stoner icon.
Marley’s father was another rich British guy who owned a lot of land in Jamaica, which makes his status as an icon unconventional. His love for music developed, in part, as a response to the fact that he was an outcast in his native country and he ultimately died because of a disease that only a white person could get. Oh, the irony.
Still, Bob became the voice of Jamaica, and even played at the Zimbabwe Independence concert in 1980 not long before hi death. After viewing Marley, those Warhol style prints of Bob Marley now represent a lot more than the usual cliché of weed and “Is This Love.”
So if you find Netflix’s selection of documentaries daunting, check one of these out. It’s an easy way to educate yourself, and a refreshing break from the twisted rhetoric engineered to shock audiences gullible enough to part with their money, and naïve enough to believe it.
Procrastinating can be productive, too.