Lessons Learned from Pocahontas

Obviously the song “Colors of the Wind” is teeming with lessons, but the one I want to explore today is taught primarily through Pocahontas’ tone shift.

At first, Pocahontas is justifiably angry with John Smith. “You think I’m an ignorant savage, and you’ve been so many places, I guess it must be so. But still I cannot see if the savage one is me. How can there be so much that you don’t know?”

At this point, she’s incredulous, like, “You stupid, ignorant ass, coming in here and telling me I’m wrong when it’s obvious you’re the one who’s a friggin’ savage.”

But instead of continuing in this vein, she repeats those words, “You don’t know.”

And this is when it hits her. Pocahontas realizes that John Smith really is speaking out of sheer ignorance. And there’s nothing wrong with ignorance. The only thing about being ignorant that anybody should condemn is an active wish to stay ignorant. But Pocahontas’s revelation begins right there. Getting mad at John Smith for calling her a savage is like getting mad at someone for saying the Earth revolves around the moon. We should only get mad after we’ve presented this person with all the facts to support a heliocentric solar system, and then they continue to claim that the Earth revolves around the moon. Then they’re not ignorant, they’re just a dolt.

So now Pocahontas does a complete 180 with her tone. The rest of the song, as she goes around her home explaining her point of view and her culture, is positively joyous. That’s right, she gets JOY out of explaining her point of view to someone with a differing point of view. They’re not arguing, not shouting at each other, Pocahontas is simply, happily introducing John Smith to the way that she thinks, the way that she perceives her world.

This is the most magical moment in the movie, by far.

Their love story is fine, yes, but it’s this realization that’s the best moment in the movie. This moment where, instead of getting angry, Pocahontas calmly and persuasively makes a case for the legitimacy of her way of life, her way of thinking. Even if John Smith hadn’t been so completely converted to her side, wouldn’t he at least have been more willing to meet her in the middle? I’m pretty sure the answer is yes.

If this was the message that people who watched this movie took from it, how many fewer problems would we have: in our everyday dealings with others, in Congress, in international relations? The fact that nobody thinks exactly the same way, nobody totally shares anybody else’s ideology, is truly a beautiful thing. Everyone is going to have a different way of approaching a problem, everybody is going to have different ideas, and it’s the combinations of and compromises between these ways of thinking and these ideas that makes people great. Look at science, look at politics, look at anything, really, and you’ll see what I mean. I mean, would Galileo’s heliocentric solar system ever have been accepted without Kepler’s elliptical orbits?

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