The Postman can serve as a springboard for students and teachers to discusss the basis of civilization, and why people decide to form societies in the first place. The following areas can be covered either before or after the movie is seen. (The novel is not necessary in order to deal with these basic issues, although it will stimulate more intense discussion.)
POSTMEN (Mail Carriers) are some of the 'invisible' members of society we tend to take for granted -- ignoring both the people and the essential functions they perform.
* What do you know about postal services through the ages?
* What service do mail carriers provide? How necessary to any civilization is that service?
* We now have lots of alternative means to communicate -- so do we still need the mail? If you tried to hire someone to hand carry a letter to a friend all the way across the continent, how much would it cost?
* What kinds of things do we entrust to the mail system that we would not trust to other "strangers"?
* Go to a busy street and turn slowly. Count the number things you can see that are working well, and that would cause real trouble if they stopped working. Include all the times you see people cooperating, taking turns, or doing useful jobs. Turn again and count the number of problems you see. Compare the lists. What do the lists tell you about civilization?
* Imagine that nearly everything you take for granted has been lost. What would life be like? What fraction of the human race has lived under primitive or harsh conditions?
* Ponder what it would take for civilization to restore itself. Do you have something that you would be able to contribute to that effort? What skills do you want to learn, that could help build a better society?
* How do we treat mail carriers? Should we treat them so?
DICTATORS often try to make sure that people are separated from each other; they don't want them to talk to each other. The Postman character in the movie helped people to communicate and be informed.
* Why do dictators create fear in ordinary people?
* What power comes from controlling all the newspapers, radios, and magazines?
* In the movie, what could the separated settlements have accomplished, if they had united against the Holnists from the beginning? How could they best be united later? Can democracy work in a primitive world? Did it work 200 years ago?
* What happens to people when they have no hope for progress or for a better future?
The Postman is an old-fashioned HERO. He gives of himself, apparently without concern for his own safety. He assumes responsibility for others. He becomes a role model, provoking the conscience of others and prompting them to choose to act.
* Who have been heroes throughout the ages? Why were they heroes?
* What heroes have there been in the last century? In your lifetimes?
* Can sports figures be heroes? Politicians? Military figures? Ordinary people? Parents or teachers? Is it harder to be a hero when times are good?
* What makes a hero? When are heroes most needed in a civilization?
* The Postman starts out doing his heroic deeds by telling a lie. Is this honorable? Can heroes have flaws? Can good things come out of temporary lies? Out of permanent lies?
* Some people believe the Postman because they are gullible. What other reasons do people have for believing his story? Should they keep on believing it, or replace the 'good lie' with something better?
* Are there examples of 'good lies' around us? Should we abandon them? Replace them? Go beyond them? Can you think of something YOU like to believe, something that may not actually be supported by real evidence?
* Did Kevin Costner's character feel guilty about lying or leading people on? How did he try to make up for it?
* Was his character complicated? Can you think of other complicated people, who try hard to overcome their own faults?
The PATRIOTISM exhibited by soldiers and civilians in almost every civilization--especially in times of war or crisis--seems to have become an element of ridicule in our society. Today we seek personal satisfaction, pleasure, and possessions, frequently at the expense of others.
* Why does patriotism seem to bring ridicule today?
* Has patriotism been misused in the past, by other nations? By America?
* Are there many TYPES of patriotism?
* Patriotic feelings don't just apply to nations. You can be 'loyal' to a sports team, a cause, or a close group of friends. Does that mean they are always right? How do some groups punish disloyalty? Do 'friends' sometimes do that?
* Why is cooperating hard to do?
* What does compromise mean? Define "win-lose" and "win-win."
* What is a sacrifice fly? Does this baseball allusion apply to sacrifice in daily life? In an emergency?
* In the movies you enjoy, how are authority figures presented? Is the hero of the story usually a 'team player' or an individualist? (Cite examples!) Do most films preach for people to be individualists, or to conform? Have these messages had any effect on how people feel about patriotism?
* Can citizens show patriotism without supporting war? Can you be patriotic while criticising your nation's flaws?
* Can a country exist for long if people are taught only contempt for the things that bring them together?
* What did the Postman movie try to say about all of these issues? Do you feel that Kevin Costner got across what he was trying to say? Do you agree?
* What will you look for, next time you see the film?