Thursday, May 4, 2017

Baby Steps and Beer

Kendall Jenner gives a cop a Pepsi and  saves the world

I'm typically not the type to jump on bandwagons, especially since I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one, but the Heineken video, “Worlds Apart” sure nailed the  much sought after, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” vibe.  

And similarly, I usually don’t like kicking people (or brands) when they’re down but Pepsi used some seriously indigestible saccharine and bullshit in their similar attempt with their “Kardashian Saves the World” puff piece. (click left for the video)

While Pepsi tried to solve America’s societal issues with an overly dramatic and unbelievable gesture, Heineken delivered a simpler approach suggesting that baby steps can be used to share insights and empathy with one person at a time.  And if enough people take enough baby steps, we might actually get somewhere.  Or simply stated, “Drink a Heineken and listen to someone who you typically might not even want to look at. You might learn something or better yet, you might feel something. (click to the left for the video).

Where Pepsi failed, Heineken succeeded
The Heineken piece shows three pairs of people from opposing backgrounds and beliefs working together in the noble cause of putting together a bar.  During the exercise they are encouraged to share information about themselves and their beliefs with their work partner.  

The couples are matched with each other in the same way you would expect to see the pairings for a Reality TV show.  There’s the arch-conservative and the super feminist, the transgender woman and the macho man and two people on opposing sides of the climate change issue.  By working together and cooperating to build the bar, they are forced to see the positive traits of their respective partners as opposed to judging them based solely on their lifestyles, beliefs or labels.

At the end of the video, after the work is done, the partners are given the opportunity to stay a bit longer and have a Heineken with each other.  The results are encouraging as people who would typically not be expected to want anything to do with one another stay for a beer, and even exchange phone numbers to continue building their relationships.

Baby steps.

You talkin' to me?
And speaking of reality television, let’s go back 4 weeks to a Survivor episode (yeah, it’s still on the air) when one of the contestants, Zeke was outed by another player as being transgender.  This abhorrent action was undertaken in the hopes that it would depict Zeke as a player, who based on his failure to disclose his gender history, was deceptive by nature and thus, a non-trustworthy player in the game.  Fortunately, Zeke’s fellow cast mates, stood by him, unanimously and strongly condemning the player who outed him. (Can I stop telling you where to click?) 

Most notable among his supporters was Sarah, the policewoman from a Conservative Southern family where they would never have given Zeke a second look.  However, in the weeks that she and Zeke played and struggled side by side on the island, she came to realize what a special person he was.  His transgenderism (is that a word?) did nothing to change her opinions of him.

Baby steps.     

The next section is for people old enough to remember the late Harry Chapin.  (If you’re not one of them, ask your parents.)  One of Harry's greatest stories  is What Made America Famous. (They even made it into a Broadway show).

The song chronicles a typical night for two different groups of people – the small town middle-aged volunteer fire department contrasted with the free-spirited long hairs getting stoned in a run-down building on the seedy side of town. The differences between the two groups are as great as their stereotypes would suggest with neither group being very fond of the other. 

Harry Chapin...kinda hard to hate
Following the separate introductions to the long hairs and the firemen, we learn that the building where the former are hanging out has caught fire.  Knowing the location, the volunteers take their time responding, going so far as to rationalize that the kids deserve to sweat a little and besides, they just cleaned the chrome on the fire truck.  Fortunately, one man among them, the plumber, takes it upon himself to go alone to the scene and saves some kids who were clinging on for dear life.  As Harry sings from one young person’s point of view…

“I shook his hand in the scene that made America famous.
And he smiled from the heart that made America great.
We spent the rest of that night in the home of a man I’d never known before.
It’s funny when you get that close it’s kind of hard to hate."      

Baby steps.

Here are three stories where preconceived notions of another group or another person dictated a person’s attitude before they tried getting to know them.  But when circumstances forced them together, as Harry said, “it’s kind of hard to hate.”    

Now I am not suggesting that we commit to spending a month on an island with minimal food or drink, or worse, getting stuck in a fire for us to realize the virtues presented by a balding middle-aged fireman.  I am however suggesting the easier route of a beer (doesn’t even have to be a Heineken) or a glass of wine, or a conversation, or a reading of an opposing point of viewpoint.

It seem that lately, more than ever, we are being conditioned by 140-character tweets or clever memes to reinforce our opinions and prejudices.  On Facebook, divergent opinions are met with unfriendings.  On college campuses, picket signs are being used more and more to prevent other groups from voicing an opinion.  And rather than reading articles on line, a few memes are all that is needed to reinforce our beliefs and close ourselves off to a different point of view.. 

Granted, there are some pretty nasty people out there such as ISIS and our own brand of Neo-Nazis who would rather shoot your body parts off before engaging in a dialogue.  But for the most part, the other side of an argument usually does have a valid point or two, and if it is not enough to change your mind, it might be enough for you to develop some empathy for the other side and maybe not view them with such negativity and hate. 

Baby Steps

From the song Beer, by Reel Big Fish,

“If you're drinkin' well you know 
that you're my friend and I say 
I think I'll have myself a beer.”

This summer, I, Leonard No Middle Name Blaifeder commit to having a good number of  beers ... Heineken in fact. And I invite any Right Wing, Israel Bashing, Climate Change Denying, Affordable Care Act Hating Yankee fans who like The Godfather Part II more than the original to join me. 

Baby Steps and Beer. Who will you invite?


  1. I'll drink with you anytime Len. The parts about Israel and The Godfather don't apply to me (seriously, II is better?) and your know where I stand on baseball teams. And I've always liked Harry Chapin.

  2. Harry was the best! Good read, good analysis of what's wrong. But do enough firemen/hippies read or have access to this to create the dialogue you desire?

    1. Thanks, Les. If my North Carolina friends share, it will be a start !