I wanted to take a moment to share a recent podcast I participated in on The Inventions Show with host Tack Lee. Here is his excerpt from our chat: Live with your heart not just your head with Kevin Hancock, a sixth-generation family CEO of Hancock Lumber, one of the oldest companies in America which dates back to 1848. An extraordinary leader who is also an award-winning author and speaker. Simply Inspirational and transformational. Kevin shares his incredible journey of self discovery after being diagnosed with a rare neurological condition that made speaking difficult. How he had to think differently and reinvent leadership through dispersing of power. His mission to strengthen the voice of others and come into their own true voice.
So the article copied below fascinates me. I’ve been on this theme for a while but have not really known how to approach it. I’m trying to reconcile the following dichotomy – there are lots of American based multi-national corporations that want to lead for social justice in THIS country (which is great) BUT won’t touch the subject of social justice in China. The NBA caught my attention on this earlier in the year when the entire league refused to speak out for social justice for the people of Hong Kong…and now there is Disney with its latest movie – Mulan (the remade / non-animated version).
We watched the new Mulan as a family about a week ago. We all left feeling it was ‘ok’ and ‘oddly generic’ in the subject matter it approached and avoided. When a friend of mine sent me this article below from Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe – the ‘plainness’ of the movie came clear. You might give Jacoby’s article below a read and see what you think.
Here’s where I have landed – multinational corporations NEED China economically AND advocating for social justice in China will NOT help your cause so they don’t. Your economic success in the massive Chinese market depends in large part upon the Chinese Communist Party’s satisfaction with your behavior and messaging. In America advocating for social justice is seen as good for business – so they pretty much all do it.
I love advancing social justice in America. The only thing better, to me, would be to advance social justice globally but companies won’t take those risks. Corporate involvement in ‘social justice’ is still often a calculated business decision and until we get beyond that we will only be in limited and selective pursuit of a cause that should apply to everyone.
To do business with China you must placate China and I’m not sure if this current reality of this global economic phenomenon has yet been called into the light.
Disney Thanks the Dictators by Jeff Jacoby
I don’t subscribe to Disney Plus. But even if I did I wouldn’t spend $29.99 to view Disney’s ballyhooed remake of “Mulan.”
According to critics who have seen it, the $200 million picture is a mediocre piece of moviemaking. It reflects “a timid and studied thematic emptiness, an avoidance of any specific ideas or questions that might upset anyone, anywhere, at all,” writes Reason’s Peter Suderman. “Mulan fights for honor, for family, for finding herself and owning her power, which is to say she fights for vague and inoffensive banalities.” In the Wall Street Journal, critic Joe Morgenstern calls it “earnest, often clumsy and notably short on joy,” and concludes that “the film as a whole lacks the clarity of its animated predecessor, not to mention the earlier version’s gleeful showmanship, gorgeous design, and vastly wider emotional range.” Joshua Rivera, reviewing “Mulan” for The Verge , says it “feels like an anticlimax. . . . [It is] merely a serviceable film that’s rather easy to forget.”
The real problem with “Mulan,” however, isn’t its artistic failings, but its moral callousness.
Unlike Disney’s 1998 original, a key theme of which was self-determination and personal freedom, the remake heavily emphasizes the virtue of loyalty to family and community. In China, where the movie is set, loyalty is also a heavily stressed value — loyalty to the state and to the ruling Communist Party. It is not by coincidence that the new “Mulan” reinforces a doctrine so important to the Chinese dictatorship: Disney collaborated with Chinese authorities in making the film.
The company “worked closely with China’s government, all the while striving to present a main character and story line faithful to Chinese values,” reported the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. “To avoid controversy and guarantee a China release, Disney shared the script with Chinese authorities while consulting with local advisers.”
There is no indication that anyone connected with the movie objected to toeing China’s Communist Party line. When pro-democracy protesters were being brutally assaulted in Hong Kong last year, the star of the new movie, Chinese-born American actress Liu Yifei, publicly supported the security police suppressing the protests . That was appalling. But it was nothing compared to the discovery that “Mulan” was filmed within hailing distance of China’s Uighur concentration camps, and that in the credits at the end of the film, Disney thanks China’s rulers for the privilege.
Those credits, wrote Isaac Stone Fish in The Washington Post, are “the most devastating” thing about the movie:
Disney filmed “Mulan” in regions across China (among other locations). In the credits, Disney offers a special thanks to more than a dozen Chinese institutions that helped with the film. These include four Chinese Communist Party propaganda departments in the region of Xinjiang as well as the Public Security Bureau of the city of Turpan in the same region — organizations that are facilitating crimes against humanity. It’s sufficiently astonishing that it bears repeating: Disney has thanked four propaganda departments and a public security bureau in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China that is the site of one of the world’s worst human rights abuses happening today.
More than a million Muslims in Xinjiang, mostly of the Uighur minority, have been imprisoned in concentration camps. Some have been released. Countless numbers have died. Forced sterilization campaigns have caused the birth rate in Xinjiang to plummet roughly 24 percent in 2019 — and “ imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” fits within the legally recognized definition of genocide. Disney, in other words, worked with regions where genocide is occurring, and thanked government departments that are helping to carry it out. . . .
Why did Disney need to work in Xinjiang? It didn’t. There are plenty of other regions in China, and countries around the world, that offer the starkly beautiful mountain scenery present in the film. But in doing so, Disney helps normalize a crime against humanity.
So what else is new? For years, Disney and other studios have kowtowed to Beijing, subtly and not-so-subtly adjusting the content of their movies to satisfy the demands of the world’s foremost communist regime. In a recent report , PEN America, a nearly 100-year-old organization that champions human rights and fights against threats to freedom of expression, condemned Hollywood studios for “increasingly making decisions about their films — the content, casting, plot, dialogue, and settings — based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.”
There are numerous ways in which Hollywood “compromises on free expression,” says PEN:
[C]hanging the content of films intended for international — including American — audiences; engaging in self-censorship; agreeing to provide a censored version of a movie for screening in China; and in some instances directly inviting Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires. . . . Steadily, a new set of mores has taken hold in Hollywood, one in which appeasing Chinese government investors and gatekeepers has simply become a way of doing business.
Needless to say, US moviemakers have no hesitation about portraying American leaders, attitudes, or history in unflattering ways. In PEN’s trenchant observation,
Hollywood enjoys a reputation as a place uncowed by Washington, and one that is often gleefully willing to speak truth to American political power. This reputation contrasts strangely but silently with Hollywood’s increasing acceptance of the need to conform to Beijing’s film dictates.
Disney and other studios are private companies, free under the Constitution to promote any message they like. But their willingness to truckle to Chinese censors has a terrible impact on the freedom of others.
Beijing’s influence over Hollywood . . . cannot be ethically decoupled from the Chinese government’s practices of suppressing freedom of expression at home. Beijing enforces one of the world’s most restrictive censorship systems, in which films and other creative endeavors are subject to a strict process of pre-publication review by the State. China’s media is similarly under state control. . . . Vast categories of protected expression are criminalized, with peaceful dissidents serving years-long jail terms for their critical speech.
Independent civil society does not exist within mainland China, and the country’s Great Firewall represents the world’s most advanced and expansive system of digital censorship. In the areas of Tibet and Xinjiang, the repression of civil rights is breathtakingly severe; in Xinjiang especially, it is no exaggeration to say that millions of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are in detention camps or jail because the government has essentially criminalized their cultural and religious expression in the region. . . . Beijing’s imposition of near-total barriers to access for Western reporters in those regions, meanwhile, helps ensure that this narrative is unchallenged.
In short, the Chinese government works tirelessly to ensure that the only stories told within China are ones that it specifically approves. Beijing’s influence over Hollywood is part of this work.
So when Disney goes out of its way to thank Chinese government propaganda agencies and the public security department in Xinjiang, anyone with a functioning conscience should be nauseated. Disney’s Chinese partners in the making of “Mulan” are literally engaged in genocide and its attendant atrocities. For a parallel, imagine a Hollywood blockbuster filmed in 1930s Germany that made a point of thanking the Reich Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment in the on-screen credits.
Once, Disney had more backbone. In 1996, the studio produced “Kundun,” a movie about the life of the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama is reviled by the Chinese government, which routinely blackens his reputation and has made it a crime even to display his photograph. Beijing was enraged that Disney had made the movie, and vehemently insisted that it not be released.
But in those days, Disney knew how to face down communist dictators. It announced that the movie would be shown in the United States as planned, China’s threats notwithstanding. “We have an agreement to distribute ‘Kundun’ domestically,” Disney’s spokesman said, “and we intend to honor it.”
When China retaliated by restricting Disney’s access to China, however, the company abruptly shed the backbone it had briefly grown. “We made a stupid mistake in releasing ‘Kundun,’” then-CEO Michael Eisner told Premier Zhu Rongji in October 1998.
“The bad news is that the film was made; the good news is that nobody watched it,” Eisner added. “Here I want to apologize, and in the future we should prevent this sort of thing, which insults our friends, from happening.”
To repeat: Such bootlicking should nauseate anyone with a working conscience.
Maybe Disney has no qualms about its open and shameless collaboration with the brutes of Beijing, but the rest of us should. Don’t reward that collaboration with your dollars. Boycott “Mulan.”
This is the most thoughtful, data driven, reflective, and objective considerations of potential strategic responses designed to achieve maximum and balanced health, economic, and social salvation from COVID that I have read. –Kevin Hancock
- “400 million jobs have been lost world wide.”
- “We are on the cusp of an economic catastrophe. We can avoid the worst of that catastrophe by being disciplined.” – James Stock. Harvard economist.
- “The economic pain from the pandemic mostly comes not from sick people but from healthy people trying not to get sick.”
- “There have been few attempts to truly define the goal.”
- “Nursing homes account for 0.6% of the population but 45% of Covid fatalities. Better isolating those residents would have saved many lives at little economic cost.”
- “By contrast, fewer children have died this year from COVID-19 than from flu.”
- “And studies in Sweden, where most schools stayed open, and the Netherlands, where they reopened in May, found teachers at no greater risk than the overall population.”
- “If schools don’t reopen until next January, McKinsey & Co. estimates, low-income children will have lost a year of education, which it says translates into 4% lower lifetime earnings.”
- “Bars, restaurants, and casinos accounted for 32% of infections traced in Louisiana.”
- “Masks may be the most effective intervention of all.”
The thesis is that more targeted strategies would have saved / and still have the potential to save / more lives AND simultaneously create far less social and economic disruption.
This article was refreshing because, for me, it transcended politics. When was the last time you over-heard or participated in a non-political / calm / rational discussion of potential COVID management strategies with data and balance for all priorities? When I realized a couple months ago that our national Covid response would be the primary campaign debate theme in November I knew it would result in polarized thought limitations. Winning strategies usually reside in the gray middle but our politics live on the extremes and it’s costly.
Hello! Just sharing the following podcast and op-ed piece that I wrote on the importance of shared leadership, dispersed power, and respect for all voices. If you like them, please share!
- The Enlightenment for Change interview with Connie Whitman was one of my favorite podcasts to date! Connie was a great host–our discussion was deep and really fun.
- I was recently interviewed by The Startup for an article titled, A Lesson in Leadership From the CEO of One of America’s Oldest Companies.
- Thrive Global has been a fantastic partner in sharing ideas since the launch of The Seventh Power. Today they published an Op-Ed piece I wrote titled, Ninety Days in the Heart of America: Creating Change in the Age of Dispersed Power.
Looking for something fun to do next week? Pick up a copy of Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse and join us at the Bridgton Public Library on Tuesday, 3/8 from 4-6pm when Kevin Hancock will be on hand to discuss his book and sign copies! Books are for sale at the library now, or, the night of the event.
Copies can also be purchased at our newest bookstore in the Portland Museum of Art. While there, check out the amazing exhibit featuring the work of Edward Curtis, now through 5/29, featuring photographs he took while studying to write his book, The North American Indian.
In the upcoming months, Kevin Hancock will be making appearances at the Falmouth Memorial Library, The Mustard Seed Bookstore, Scarborough Public Library, and Raymond Public Library to discuss and sign copies of his book. In addition, you can now find the book at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick and Maine Coast Books in Damariscotta!
We also wanted to share this exciting review recently posted on Amazon from a reader:
“Kevin has written a very profound and moving book. What appears to be leadership lessons turns out to be a spiritual journey, in its deepest sense. It is personal and authentic, and written with a great style. We ALL can learn from this gifted author.”
Sharing your thoughts help share this story, and we would love to hear your feedback on our Amazon product page. To do so, simply click on the link below, view the customer reviews, and share your own thoughts about the book.
I spent the day at our sawmill in Bethel, Maine yesterday. At the end of the work day, I gave each of the 103 people who work there a copy of my book, NOT FOR SALE – Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse!
The day before I had personalized each book…took almost 3 hours!
I wanted to do that as a show of respect. I never want people at Hancock Lumber to feel like they are only wanted for their physical work. I want every person to feel important for their ideas and opinions. That’s really what my book stands for…strengthening voices…at home and at Pine Ridge!