It’s been a week since the Oscars, and I’m still processing Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech for “best actor”, or rather his shout out to inequality and injustice. I love these Oscar moments, just when you least expect it, here’s Phoenix with a profound and thought-provoking speech.
For those of you who missed it, here you go…
God, I’m full of so much gratitude right now. And I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room because we share the same love, the love of film. And this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know what I’d be without it. But I think the greatest gift that it’s given me, and many of us in this room is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless.
I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively. I think at times we feel, or we’re made to feel, that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality. I think, whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.
I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world, and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric world view — the belief that we’re the centre of the universe. We go into the natural world, and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal. And I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something, to give something up, but human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious. And I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.
Now, I have been, I have been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with, and I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of humanity.
When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. He said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.'”
I’m not trying to make this moment larger than it was, an acceptance speech by an actor who chose to use the Oscars as a platform for his cause or agenda. Luckily for him, his speech worked, it got plenty of attention from the media, and it obviously resonated with me. In fact, his speech led me to research other famous speeches, which truly were Oscar-worthy moments in themselves such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”. There are generations and generations of speeches, with words of wisdom, hope, peace, encouragement, dreams, and promises to make the world a better place. What are these words if no one is listening?