I have just one word of advice for you: “Plastics,” said the parent’s comfortable friend to Benjamin Braddock. Plastics—the new growth field in 1967, the year The Graduate movie came out—just as computers and then the internet would be to succeeding generations. Plastics—a graduate could make a killing in it.
But Ben didn’t want any career advice just then. Just out of college, with no goals at all, the only thing he knew is that he wanted no part of the phony monied world that had been his upbringing. He lolled around aimless at his folks’ upper crust home that year and ended up in an affair with his mom’s socialite friend—her idea, not his. “Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” is a line from the movie that has endured.
It is the same Mrs. Robinson that Simon and Garfunkel sung about. Mike Nichols, film director, had been after Paul Simon to write news songs for the movie and he didn’t want to do it—he was busy. Finally he said that he did have this song kicking around about times past and Joe DiMaggio and Mrs. Roosevelt, and the director said he’d take it! Just change Roosevelt to Robinson and he had a deal.
This explains why baseball great Joe DiMaggio blew a gasket when he heard his name in the song—so says the Ken Burns documentary Baseball. Who are those hippy long-hairs to drag him into their immoral movie that had nothing to do with him?! Joe was a traditional type of guy. Others in baseball just barely calmed him down with the plea that, while the mention may not have had any context, it was a compliment.
That line about going into plastics is another line that endures. At what point did ‘plastic’ come to stand for an entire world of materialism devoid of deeper values? It couldn’t have been just then in 1967. The plastic revolution of consumption was just getting underway.
Yet if fits so well with an NPR report of 53 years later—of September 2020. There has never been any meaningful recycling of plastic! Ten percent is all that has ever been reused—tops. And the industry knew it all along! Recycled plastic doesn’t hold up well, is expensive to make, whereas new plastic is cheap. But with environmentalism sweeping the globe, that is the last thing people wanted to hear, so they weren’t told that. They were told that those recycling numbers within triangles on every plastic item meant something, and earth-friendly people the world over—I do it myself—sort out all their plastic for recycling bins. Waste Management sends the truck by a second time to pick it up.
It doesn’t mean a thing. It all gets buried—all but 10%. For me personally this would have been fine ammo—better than the ammo that I did use—when I was kicking back at some atheist deriding Witnesses for preaching about God’s kingdom whereas they could be rolling up their sleeves to help with saving the planet! Look, we’ve nothing against saving the planet, I told him, and when there are recycling laws on the books Jehovah’s Witnesses no doubt obey them more closely than most because they are good at obeying laws—they don’t figure that each new law is a line drawn in the sand by the government to take away their rights and so they have to cross it in order to prove their courage. Yeah—they love cooperating in this regard, but it’s a little stupid to think they are saving the planet when, in one gigantic industry blunder, millions of gallons of oil can destroy the entire seashore. The BP gulf oil spill had just occurred and President Obama was spouting tough talk about “kicking asses” over it.
It was a great retort to the anti-religion humanist, but the worldwide plastic recycling scam would have been even better. Can someone look this fellow up for me? I’ll run this new one by him. “Look, I'm all for local clean-up-the-park days. Same with clean-up-the-roadside days,” I said. No one of Jehovah’s Witnesses will ever speak against them. In fact, in Russia, Witnesses do clean up the public parks—or at least they did before the ban. I didn’t know that at the time, but when I found out I included that tidbit in Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.
“In Russia, congregations do it all the time,” Anton Chivchalov told me—the one who keeps an eye on the current persecution in that land. “Most congregations do it. It has become a custom for them. Parks are more or less okay, other people clean them too, but still there is garbage to clean, and sometimes the authorities just lack enough workers, so there may be tons of garbage at times. We clean not only parks, but any public areas. We usually ask the city administration to assign some areas for us to clean.”
I speculated within Dear Mr. Putin on how it must make a great backdrop for informal conversations on God’s purpose to make the earth a paradise. Do Witnesses still do it, with police guarding them to make sure no one talks about God? I’ll have to ask Chivchalov. Still, even as they did it, they did not imagine that they were negating the verse of how humans will be “ruining the earth” when God intervenes—ruining it, not saving it, and the NPR story that the emperor wore no clothes despite his loud voice—he recycles hardly any plastic at all despite telling people he does so they will not feel bad about buying plastic and will buy more—was an perfect case in point.
And young Benjamin Braddock, the aimless college grad of the movie, knew it instinctively—that the world his parents’s generation wanted to thrust him into was plastic—promising 100% and delivering 10%. ‘He probably went into plastics after all and did very well for himself,’ said some cynical commentator about the movie—so many of that generation sold out, as they do in all generations. Be that as it may, the author of the book The Graduate did not sell out—he died penniless in 2020, after a lifetime of giving away assets. More on him later.