I watched the movie “Dark Waters” last night (Spoilers below.)
It’s a story about the true events in Parkersburg, West Virginia where unexplained animal deaths and white-washed stones were later found to be linked to the chemical manufacturing company DuPont.
As it turned out, DuPont had knowingly contaminated the local river and air with C-8, a man-made chemical commonly used for industrial applications to create a grease or non-stick effect, and caused thousands of people to develop cancer and other diseases.
It became even more controversial when it was found that C-8 was detected in 99% of the US population and is still used today by some countries in food packaging and non-stick kitchenware.
The hero of the story is Rob Bilott, a corporate defense lawyer who initially rubbed shoulders with corporations like DuPont but switched sides to demand justice for the little people of Parkersburg.
Eventually, he managed to gain million worth of settlements for the victims but this outcome didn’t happen without several years of public struggles and his personal sacrifices.
Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) and the farmer Wilbur Tennant (Will Camp) in “Dark Waters” / Source
In the movie, even after the scientific findings of C-8 and health risks were released, DuPont still planned to fight each personal-injury lawsuit individually (3535 in total), pressuring Rob and the victims to give up.
On hearing this news on the phone, Rob Bilott (played by Mark Ruffalo) told his wife:
“The system is rigged. They want us to believe that it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies, not the scientists, not the government. Us.”
— Rob Bilott, Dark Waters (2019).
I used to think that life is black and white and I could trust the system, but going through life mostly on my own, I’ve quickly learned that it’s sadly not the case.
Just because something is widely used doesn’t mean it’s good for me.
Just because many people think highly of something doesn’t mean it’s deserving of my respect.
Even though C-8 has been banned (mind you, with exemptions) and there are health guidelines available, but other related chemicals are still part of consumer products, remaining unregulated with unknown long-term health risks. In many cases, you wouldn’t know they’re there unless you specifically ask the manufacturers.
Basically, if I didn’t find out about this information, I would carefreely expose myself to these cancer risks on a daily basis. It’s upsetting to look up information about these chemicals and find casual advice such as “avoid non-stick cookware.”
Though I suppose the same has been done about many things in life — two obvious examples being alcohol and cigarettes. There are many risks found, but they have been woven so tightly into our daily lives that society has come to accept them.
(That said, at least when it comes to these vices, you have a choice to not use them if you don’t want to, as opposed to being at the mercy of too-big-to-fail corporations who knowingly used PFAS in manufacturing, harming the public.)
“Dark Waters” reminds me of another legal drama called “Just Mercy”, inspired by a true story with a real-life hero named Bryan Stevenson. Bryan challenged the system and saved many wrongly convicted prisoners from the death penalty.
In the last scene of the movie after Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, was finally freed, Bryan (played by Michael Jordan) said:
“I came out of law school with grand ideas in my mind about how to change the world. But Mr. McMillian made me realize we can’t change the world with only ideas in our minds. We need conviction in our hearts. This man taught me how to stay hopeful, because I now know that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Hope allows us to push for word, even when the truth is distorted by the people in power. It allows us to stand when they tell us to sit down, and to speak when they say be quiet.”
— Bryan Stevenson, “Just Mercy” (2019)
These people are examples of admirable individuals who are not afraid to fight against established systems when they see injustice. These people are independent thinkers who question the world as it is and make real changes.
They realise that they can’t blindly trust the information given to them and follow the rules set for them. They ask themselves “If not me, then who?” as they watch the people around them getting mistreated and nothing being done about it.
Everyone has an agenda, the underprivileged often left behind mercilessly.
Sometimes, that person left behind is themselves. They soon learn that no one is going to come and save them — they have to do it themselves.
In my own healing journey, I, too, learned that lesson the hard way.
As a woman, I was fed many lies by modern society — about what is worth having in life, about relationships with men, and about what it means to be a woman.
I plunged myself into the big world with a pair of dove eyes and simple beliefs, chasing after fantasies that were never meant for people like me and had no real value anyway. Not surprisingly, I fell flat on my face and had to pick myself up, piece by piece, in unfathomable pain.
My life was turned upside down — fortunately, I came out on the other side as a forever changed woman, knowing deeply that I have to think for myself and make decisions for myself because no one else will and can.
Nowadays, when good values become rare instead of common and injustice is in clever disguise, it’s more important than ever to think intelligently, be proactive, and have the backbone to fight for what you believe in.
5 Things to do for a good, honourable life
When I was younger, I was constantly in a “waiting” mode: waiting for someone to come and love me, waiting to be saved from myself, waiting to be made better, waiting for a day when people respect and treat me the way I want.
Guess what happened? I was stuck in a life I hated with the people who didn’t see me and care for me.
One day, I decided that I was done. I drew boundaries. I took care of myself. I went to find my own happiness and set my own rules. Well, I became my own hero.
Here are 5 things I do to live the life I love and I’m proud of:
1. Ask questions.
Never blindly take anything in. Always check the sources and put information into context.
If you don’t understand something or don’t know where a piece of information fits in, keep it somewhere — one day you might be able to connect the dots.
Question traditions, norms, and rules. Understand why you follow them and how they serve you specifically.
2. Make independent judgments.
You might read many articles and books. You might ask for advice from people you trust. You might get unsolicited opinions from people you get attached to — Regardless, never let them dictate what you do or what you think of yourself.
At the end of the day, make your own judgments. Decide for yourself what is normal and not normal, okay or not okay, enough or not enough. Have your own reasons.
3. Take action for yourself and the people you love.
Don’t wait around for someone else to do the right things for you (and your loved ones.) Ask yourself “If not me, then who?” and “Why not me?”
Chances are high the people you look up to are just as confused as you are and have no idea what they are doing. If something they say or do seems off to you, point it out, and explain why.
Draw on your own judgments and make decisions for yourself — you know you best.
4. Don’t be afraid to challenge established ideas and systems.
Just because something has been going on for a long time doesn’t necessarily make it right and fair.
If you have insights and evidence that show an idea or system is biased or founded on historically discriminating beliefs, draw awareness to it. Propose a solution. Live your life differently.
Many things nowadays are consumed on superficial levels — go deeper. Or at the very least, keep asking questions. Stay open-minded, but have conviction in your heart.
Be the change.
5. Have principles and know why.
Live your life with principles. Know why you have each of those principles and stick to them, especially in difficult times.
Your principles won’t apply to everyone — many people will disagree with you or even go to great length to shake your grounds.
Stand firm. Keep educating yourself and cultivating good values. The right people will see you and join you.