“I want to know, what is human conscience.”

“Human consciousness?” I asked, not hearing him correctly.

“No,” he said. “Con-sci-ence. When I search for this word in the English dictionary, I find that it is from Latin. Con means ‘with’ and science means ‘knowing.’ So conscience means ‘with knowing.’ With science.”

“I’ve never quite thought about it that way,” I told him. “But I’m sure you’re right.”

"Conscience means 'with knowing.' With science."

Conscience means ‘with knowing.’ With science.”

He continued. “But this does not make sense.” He pulled out a piece of paper. “The dictionary says ‘A knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right.’”

He held up the piece of paper for me to see, so I took it. “That seems like a reasonable definition.”

“But I do not understand. Knowledge and sense are not the same thing. Knowledge I understand, but how about sense? Is sense the same as feeling? Is conscience a fact that I can learn and know, or is it more like an emotion? Is it related to empathy? Is it different than shame? And why is it a compulsion?”

I must have looked as baffled as I felt, because he went on to explain.

“I’m afraid that even though I am trained in computer science, I have never felt such a sense or feeling. This is a big disadvantage for my work. I would like to ask you, can I learn to feel such a feeling? At my age, is it too late?”

~ from A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, 2013, p 306-307 (italics in original).

Why is the ending of Beatriz at Dinner so disturbing?

Because throughout the film, we have witnessed our own whiteness: normalized, privileged, comfortable. And then we are confronted with the stark reality of existential choice.

Salma Hayek is Beatriz

Salma Hayek is Beatriz

There are only three ways the film can end:

  1. White people heal ourselves and change.
  2. White individuals are killed.
  3. Healers die.

The first option is decidedly unappealing. The Trump-like character of Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) reeks of white fatalism, and his supporting cast stinks of white fragility. What can one do but ignore the damage and keep doing whatever provides pleasure?

The second option doesn’t solve the problems whiteness has created for all other living beings and the planet.

The third option is our history and our present. Are we so incapable of sacrifice, so afraid of discomfort, that we have already surrendered the future?

Brilliant, unsettling filmmaking suitable to this desperate era. A must see.

She was watching from a window.

We exist. We resist. We rise.

We exist. We resist. We rise.


I waved.

She waved back, then gave the universal symbol of prayer and respect.

I returned the gesture: “I greet you. I honor you. We are connected.”

She pressed her hand to her heart.

I flashed a thumbs up.

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