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Lottery of Birth (2012)LUMPENPROLETARIAT—One might agree with the sentiment evoked by M.I.A.‘s brilliant anthem entitled “Born Free“.  It seems to make sense.  One is born free, until confronted by the state and its justified or unjustified tyrannies.  Or, so it seems.  However, a documentary film, of which some of us have caught excerpts over the years on free speech radio, is gradually persuading us by the logic of its argument, encapsulated in the film’s tagline:  To take freedom for granted is to extinguish the possibility of attaining it.

The documentary film is entitled The Lottery of Birth.  Its initial release was September 27, 2012.  And its full title is Creating Freedom, Episode One:  The Lottery of Birth.  The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the Raindance Film Festival (2012) and is the winner of the Spirit Award at the Artivist Film Festival (2012).  The film’s website, Creating Freedom, describes the film as part of a larger project:  “‘Creating Freedom’ is a project comprising a series of films, paintings and a book on the subjects of power, control and freedom.”  However, as of yet, the film seems to be its primary component, apparently due to funding constraints

The film holds a respectable 85% rating at the film review website, Rotten Tomatoes, albeit from unpublished viewers, as the critics have either ignored, or remained ignorant of, the film.

The Lottery of Birth (official trailer)

From birth onwards, our minds are a battleground of familial, educational, cultural and professional forces that determine who we are.

According to the people’s encyclopedia:

“The lottery of birth is a philosophical argument which states that since no one chooses the circumstances into which they are born, they should not be held responsible for them, e.g., being rich, being poor, etcetera.

“The lottery of birth argument has been used by philosophers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  More modern day uses have been prompted by political theorists such as John Rawls, who explored the subject in depth in his book A Theory of Justice.”

This is a must-see film for all who are interested in the concept, theoretical or otherwise, of freedom.


Born Free” by M.I.A.


[An excerpt of The Lottery of Birth transcribed from a free speech radio broadcast] [1]

NICHOLAS WOODESON (narrator):  (c. 43:20) “How many American students are taught that between 1945 and 2005 the United States attempted to overthrow fifty governments around the world, many of them democracies?”

Unidentified British Male:  “If you talk about atrocities committed in the colonial period by the British Empire most people would just stare at you blankly.  They have no idea what you’re talking about.  If you talk about Stalin‘s atrocities, they’re fully apprised of those.  But Lord Lytton, in India, probably killed as many people as Stalin did, by very similar methods, exporting grain in the midst of a famine, huge, huge quantities of grain, often from places where there was a surplus of production, a very successful harvest, and engineered a famine in which tens of millions of people died.  But we hear nothing of this.  We know nothing of this.”

NICHOLAS WOODESON (narrator):  “How many British students learn about the work of the historian Mark Curtis?  Drawing on formerly secret UK government files, he estimates that Britain is complicit in the deaths of over ten million people from countries around the world since 1945.”

Unidentified North American Male Voice:  “Schooling can’t be politically neutral because it’s preparing people to play a role in society.  And roles in society are not politically neutral because they affect the distribution of power.  It’s either preparing you to empower those who already have power, or increasing their authority, or the distribution of their ideas, or by increasing their wealth.  Now, if you’re trained to serve them, then you’ve been trained to play a political role.  If you’re trained to pursue your own vision, to develop your own vision first and then pursue it, then that’s a political role also.”

Unidentified North American Male Voice #2:  “In the 1960s, in the United States, there was, of course, like most places in the world, an upheaval, a gigantic social upheaval of resistance and opposition to the past, to the structures of capital and power, that existed in society.  The government, of course, the elites confronted a problem.  They didn’t want this to recur.”

NICHOLAS WOODESON (narrator):  “In 1973, at the behest of billionaire David Rockefeller, an organisation known as the Trilateral Commission was founded.  Its early members were drawn from the United States, western Europe, and Japan.  Among them were the heads of major corporations, banks, law firms, and government. Concerned about their resistance since the early ’60s, the Commission set out to investigate its root causes.  Their report was entitled The Crisis of Democracy.” [2]

Unidentified North American Male Voice:  “And this Commission did an investigation focusing on education and on school systems because, of course, so much of the activity occurred on campuses.  And they actually came up with a conclusion.  It wasn’t the totality of the reasons for the ’60s, but it’s quite revealing.  And it was one of the reasons.

What they said was the population was being over-educated.  That’s an incredible kind of idea.  And, yet, it’s accurate.  They were saying—and they were very clear on this—that we were educating people enough, so that they actually expected to have a life, so that they expected to have a degree of control when they got finished with their educations.  And what they were encountering was their ability to control their own lives was marginal.  And people resisted.

“And what they [the Commission] decided was that they had to make a change in the educational system.  They had to cut back on the high quality education that they had until then—under the pressure of Sputnik and the rest—been spreading through society and, instead, increasing the more regimented education.”  (c. 47:55)

NICHOLAS WOODESON (narrator):  “The report regarded the education system as the most important value-producing system in society and argued that a programme is necessary to lower the job expectation of those that received a college education.

“Within two years of the report’s publication, all of the top positions in the U.S. government—the office of president, vice president, secretary of state, defence, and treasury—were held by members of the Trilateral Commission.  And the national security advisor was its director.”

[Transcript by Messina for Lumpenproletariat.org]


“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought […] Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.”  —Bertrand Russell (quoted by CreatingFreedom.info)


“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy even if I just got a good checkup at Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”  —Martin Luther King, Jr. (quoted by CreatingFreedom.info)


“A term like capitalism is incredibly slippery, because there’s such a range of different kinds of market economies. Essentially, what we’ve been debating over—certainly since the Great Depression—is what percentage of a society should be left in the hands of a deregulated market system. And absolutely there are people that are at the far other end of the spectrum that want to communalize all property and abolish private property, but in general the debate is not between capitalism and not capitalism, it’s between what parts of the economy are not suitable to being decided by the profit motive.”  —Naomi Klein (quoted by CreatingFreedom.info)


[1]  Listener-sponsored free speech radio, KPFA (Berkeley, CA), Pacifica Radio Network:

  • Programme:  UpFront
  • Broadcast date: 17 DEC 2015, 07:00 PDT
  • Host:  Brian Edwards-Tiekert

[2]  The report observed the political state of the United States, Europe, and Japan and says that in the USA the problems of governance “stem from an excess of democracy” and, thus, advocates “to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions”.  The report serves as an important point of reference for studies focusing on the so-called contemporary crisis of democracies.


[19 DEC 2015]

[Last modified 23:51 PDT  22 DEC 2015]