EXCERPT: Joshua Oppenheimer on "The Act of Killing"

Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer can be heard on author Sam Harris' Waking Up podcast to discuss his two Werner Herzog-produced documentaries about the (supposedly) American-backed genocide in Indonesia during the cold war.

In The Act of Killing Oppenheimer interviewed Anwar Congo, a high-ranking member of Indonesia's right wing para-military who is said to have killed one thousand people, and even brags about his exploits as a fighter against communism. Throughout the interview, Anwar demonstrates a candid attitude and is encouraged by Oppenheimer to role-play reenactments of his exploits. These reenactments veer strangely into specific film genres while Anwar attempts to see through the eyes of his victims; he becomes emotionally and even physically unraveled as the sessions progress.

Oppenheimer commented on The Act of Killing and Anwar's strange performances...

"I see my work as creating occasions, creating situations in which the inherent contradictions and horrors come to the surface in a way that feels overwhelming and -- despite it all taking place within the over-all safe space of making a film -- uncomfortable, for everybody involved. In The Act Of Killing I'm encountering the truth of boasting, bragging perpetrators... So I invite them to dramatize what they've done in whatever ways they wish in order to make visible the lies, the stories, the fantasies that allow them to live with themselves, the personas -- the contradictory personas they inhabit -- that allow them to live with themselves... 

You see this kind of recursive process of performing, of dramatizing, and then watching and responding. You see Anwar watching his own fantasies, his dramatizations and then proposing the next one in response and watching and proposing the next one in response. And what unfolds is this kind of fever dream about escapism and guilt. And we are sucked right into it with Anwar...

And each time Anwar watches the horror, watches his previous dramatization, we can see that he's terribly pained but as [Sam Harris] put it very nicely, there's nowhere for those emotions to go except further denial. So he proposes what he considers to be a kind of aesthetic improvement, as though if he can fix the scene aesthetically, he can dispel the pain and fix his past morally. And so one dramatization begets another, begets another, begets another until we're tobogganing through a kind of fever dream of shifting fantasies. It's the lies and fantasies that make up the killer's present. And the terrible consequences of those when imposed on the whole society... The corruption, the thuggery, the fear. [The film] is about impunity today, not about the events of the genocide a half a century ago."

Dehydration: The Real Killer Behind Chronic Obesity

At the heart of an obese person's life-shortening health concerns is a state of chronic dehydration. This is dehydration at the cellular level. As opposed to the well-familiar, central nervous system, "I'm so thirsty!" dehydration.

People think fatty proteins simply congeal in the arteries causing clogs. This is not entirely untrue, but the real concern with heart-disease is healthy cardiac cells.

Your circulatory system can handle a good deal of clogs and blockages, so long as its cells are supplied with an appropriate amount of energy, water and nutrients. You've probably noticed the reported links between obesity and cancer rates. A chronically obese lifestyle simply leads to unhealthy cells. Why? Not enough resources per-cell.

They say you should drink eight glasses of water per day. We don't actually know if that's true, but we know the correct number isn't zero glasses. It could be ten, but for the sake comfortably making my point, let's be conservative and say an adult of healthy body mass needs six glasses a day in order to keep all his cells adequately hydrated to the point where he will live a natural full life-expectancy. (You can get water other ways such as veggies, but the average American diet has way more incidentals which dehydrate rather than hydrate.)

The BMI chart say a 5'10" male should weigh 150 lbs. He needs six glasses of water per day, otherwise he'll have health problems earlier in life than is naturally expected. That's 48 oz, or two ounces less than a Double Gulp from 7-11. Not an unmanageable amount of water, but think about how often you only had two or three glasses of water during days where soda, coffee, beer and wine made up the rest of your fluids.

Now imagine you weigh 300 pounds. You have roughly double the amount of cells as a healthy person. And all those cells need hydration and nourishment. Are you drinking 100 oz. of water each day? You better be! Because there are only so many times your cells can die and replace themselves with perfect copies, without their basic needs being met.

For a well hydrated person, you are looking at about 80 - 85 years before you start getting cancer and heart-attacks naturally. When I say naturally, I mean, the DNA in your cells have these things called telomeres. Think of telomeres as the little plastic tips on the end of your shoelaces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aglet) which keep them from fraying.

Whenever a normal, undamaged cell in your body dies of natural causes (roughly once every seven years), the cell reproduces itself, The young cell is a copy, and then -- seven years later -- a copy of a copy. Every time it reproduces, it is exactly the same except the telomere is shorter. Once it starts to fray like a shoe-lace, you get liver-spots, skin-tags, heart-attacks, cancer... all sorts of originally unintended things.

If cells don't get the stuff they need -- oxygen, water and nutrients (nutrients are another thing the obese simply can't get enough of) -- we are literally starving our cells. By taking in too many proteins and sugars (which generate new cells) and not enough energy-sustaining phyto-nutrients (which keeps existing cells healthy) it's creating starvation at the cellular level.

Not unlike a fallen empire of history -- if your organs' infrastructural constituents are not strong and sustained over a long period of time, the entire thing crumbles from the inside out.

So lets say all our cells can reproduce about twelve times, before the noise of nature overcomes their structure. That's 84 years.

Now let's say that the cells of an obese person's organs are getting half of what they need -- and we'll grant the 26 year buffer during which all lifestyle damage is virtually reversible due to the Wolverine-like regenerative capabilities of youth. All other things being equal, they can expect 68 years of life, based on an initial (perhaps generous) 84 years of presumed natural life.

There's a reason there aren't many bariatric geriatrics, and that's because a chronically obese human enters their "natural" old-age much earlier.

This is not to say that we chronic 300-pounders (which this author is one) can necessarily compensate for our extra cells by simply knocking back two double-gulps per day. We don't know that the kidneys can re-insert enough of that fluid back into the blood stream for a sustained a period of time, especially without being artificially aged in their own right.

Best thing to do... well... you don't want to hear it, and neither do I.