Sunday, June 1, 2008

Movie: Dalai Lama Renaissance

Last night we saw the movie Dalai Lama Renaissance. It is a documentary about a conference held at the Dalai Lama's (DL) headquarters in Northern India in 1999. The aim was to bring together a variety of "thinkers" to interact with one another and then with the DL to solve the world's problems.

The movie was not quite what I expected. I imagined a lot of very earnest and very silly discussion of ideas that even a first year economics undergraduate could recognize were hopelessly misguided. Instead, the film is actually something of a study of the sociology of conferences. This made it interesting to me, having been to many conferences, including some that got hijacked by the participants because the organizers were not clear about what they wanted, which was the case with this one. Lisa, on the other hand, found it quite boring, and skipped the last third of it.

Also interesting was watching the DL and the interactions of others with the DL. Even among the various professors and others at the conference the demand for a leader who would remove the burden of thought and/or action seemed remarkably high. An equally or even more interesting movie would have featured a similar conference of people who simply thought the DL was a good and interesting fellow but who were not otherwise invested in eastern religion and/or in out of the mainstream political and social causes. For instance, it would have been very interesting to see the DL interact with real economists, instead of popular writer Vicki Robin, identified as a "progressive economist" in the film. Progressive she surely is, in the current odd usage of that word to mean people opposed to most sorts of progress; an economist she is not.

The DL comes across as someone very happy, who is having a great time and who wants to make things better. Remarkably, given all the adulation and attention, he seems not to take himself too seriously. In that, if nothing else, he is surely a role model.