Monday, September 21, 2009

Looking Forward to Michael Moore's Love Story

Hello, friends! It's been a while. I'm in Australia right now visiting my sister Amy and her family. I just realized that "the tubes" reach all the way down here--I guess they run through the center of the Earth?--or else I would have posted sooner.

The talk down here is all rugby, cricket, and the awesomeness of universal health care. So, I've been surfing the tubes a bit to see what's happening in the real world, where it's Fall and not Spring in September, where "Yanks" means northerners, and where free refills of soft drinks abound.

A quick perusal of my usual sites reminded me that we are closing in on an exciting date. October 2nd is the nationwide release of Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

By all the accounts I've read from the early screenings, Moore swings for the fences on this one. In what he calls the culmination of all his is work to date, Moore goes after not just another corrupt corporation or another unjust industry, but the very incentive structure and moral underpinnings of an economic system where the richest 1% of Americans control more wealth than the bottom 95%.

It's about time. Michael Moore has a way of consistently being a couple years ahead of the mainstream--in other words, controversial. Roger and Me (1989) documented the human effects of General Motors plant closings in Michigan. Bowling for Columbine (2002) shined a light on the gun-worshiping culture of fear that gives the United States its sky-high murder rate. His Oscar acceptance speech in 2003 called out "a fictitious president" for "sending us to war for fictitious reasons," two or three years before it was cool to talk like that. Fahrenheit 911 (2004) eviscerated the Bush Presidency, the "war on terror," and the media's cheerleading for both, all about two years before the movie's arguments went mainstream. And Sicko (2007) diagnosed the broken, profit-centric American health care system about two years before the current debate in Congress. Here's to hoping that Capitalism: A Love Story directs or predicts the national discussion at least as much as his previous works have done.

It is good news that a squarely anti-capitalist film is about to plop down into pop culture. Because it's time for us all to start connecting the dots between the myriad of issues confronting us. The national discussion, led by Big Media, tends to focus on issues in isolation. Over here we have stagnant wages. Over there we have environmental degradation. Hey look, home foreclosures. Here's a local news story about unaffordable health care. Environmental degradation. Here's a news program on economic bubbles. Here's an article on mercenary soldiers. It's long past time we started looking at what connects all of these problems and what stands in our way of solving them: in short, corporate capitalism.

Whether you favor gutting that system entirely and replacing it with something entirely new or whether you'd just like to see a number of meaningful reforms, anti-capitalism in the national discussion moves you closer to where you want to go. The point is, you don't start negotiating from a compromised position. (See the recent health care debate for why this fails.)

More on that later. Right now, we're off on a "bush walk."

Please fill me in on what's happening back home. Tea-baggers still trying to prevent civic discussion? Blue Dog Democrats still working hard for insurance companies?


Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Michael Moore is a national treasure.

200 years from now - count on it - students will be studying his films and books in civics classes.


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Camp Papa said...

Moore is a genius, for sure. I'm looking forward to the movie. It will take huge, sustained effort to break the myths that we Americans tell ourselves about capitalism.

Becky said...

Hey, are you following this business with the U of California? Some of my beloved Banana Slugs are occupying a building on UCSC campus as of today.

It's easy to say, "Oh, it's some more Santa Cruz craziness," but what's messed up with the UC system is a lot of what's messed up with the system Moore is talking about.

Becky said...

And here's more about it:

Dave said...

Wow, Becky. No, I had not heard about the strike/walkout/sit-ins at UC campuses. Interesting stuff on those sites you link to.

What I love is the apparent breadth of the movement: a strike by UPTE, a walkout by thousands of other students and faculty across the state, and a building occupation by students at UC Santa Cruz. I also like the ideological diversity in what the strikers and protesters are calling for (from the main message of "Block the budget cuts;" to "Education should be free;" to "We demand not a free university but a free society.") Some people would call that a weakness for the movement, but I call it a strength.

Any way you slice it, the state government's priorities are out of whack. The state spends more on a prisoner than it does on a UC student's education. And as long as UC President Mark Yudof makes nearly a million dollars a year and lives in a tax-payer funded mansion, there should not be cuts to jobs and programs and hikes in tuition and fees. The University of California is, thank God, not a corporation, and it should not be run like one.

It will be interesting to see where this thing goes.

Becky said...

It's really something. Public school teachers in Pajaro Valley (near Santa Cruz) and other places walked out in support. To me, that crossing of the barrier between "higher ed" and education in the state more broadly means that this is a serious movement. Like you're saying, the diversity of the messages seems strong.