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Silja j.a. Talvi
Silja j.a. Talvi
Stephen R. Shalom
Nonviolence Versus Capitalism
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Trajectory of Change
Jan knippers Black
Eleanor J. Bader
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Regan Books/HarperCollins, 2002
Review by Tom Gallagher
With a bestselling book and a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Michael Moore has definitely arrived, occupying a niche in American politics and culture somewhere between Ralph Nader and Al Franken. If youre looking for historical parallels, Will Rogers might come to mind, but ultimately Rogers was more of a cynic about politics in general than any kind of radical. Not that long ago, most people would not have suspected that the spot Moore has carved out for himself was even a possibility.
Books are not his fortefilm and television arebut books allow Moore to be somewhat more specific about what he actually thinks, and selling this many copies of a book with politics this radical is no small achievement, even if the politics come wrapped in shtick. Stupid White Men continues the story of the central character of all of Michael Moores published and filmed work since Roger and MeMichael Moore.
Being Michael Moore these days means that phone calls you and I might dream of making just may go through if he makes themlike the one to right-wing magazine columnist Fred Barnes. Moore was somewhat inexplicably watching The McLaughlin Grouphyenas on Dexedrine as he refers to themwhen he witnessed Barnes bemoaning a state of American education so debased that, These kids dont even know what The Iliad and The Odyssey are. We must give Moore credit for realizing that a person like Barnes might have the chutzpah to publicly blather about the works of Homer, without actually knowing what they were about himself. When Moore asked Barnes to discuss them, he started hemming and hawing, Well, theyre...uh...you know... uh...okay, fine, you got me. I dont know what theyre about. Happy now?
The book generally reads like it was written by a celebrity rushing to print while hes still in. The satire is not always the sharpest, for instance, the proposal that Northern Ireland be fixed by converting Irish Protestants to Catholicism. On the other hand, Moore gets serious from time to time. Levity may be okay for Ireland and the former Yugoslavia, but he wont treat the Mideast as a laughing matter. His suggestion that the adoption of nonviolent tactics by Palestinians would enhance their chance of success in forcing Israel to yield the occupied territories is not original to Moore, but it certainly bears repeating, even if it has as much chance of coming to fruition as his proposal for Yugoslaviabringing Tito back to life.
Although he was a prominent Nader supporter, he declined an invitation to join a Nader tour of states in which Gore and Bush were neck-in-neck late in the 2000 campaign because he didnt want to tip the election to Bush. His proposal that Nader advocate a vote for Gore in the swing states in exchange for a public Gore shift to the left on one major issue picked from a list that Nader would provide seems worth the attention of Monday morning electoral quarterbacks. While it seems unlikely that Gore would have agreed, Nader had little to lose from being unconventional and even a rejected offer might have quieted the pundits who thought Nader egotistical for insisting that the most important issues actually be addressed in a presidential election campaign.
Moore is in good form in his rant about what kind of president expands the death penalty, outlaws gay marriages, kicks ten million people off of welfare, supports three strikes legislation, and refuses to sign the International Land Mines Ban Treaty (thats Clinton, of course), but hes really at his best when it comes to George Bush, for whom he has designed a little Presidential Clip n Carry to help him remember the names of the heads of state he may encounter in his travels.
Some of Moores ideas, like his offer to pay the filing fees for the merger of the Republican and Democratic Parties that he hopes would allow the emergence of a party to represent the other 90 percent of us will play better on film, but some readers will learn of outrageous subjects that had previously escaped them, like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that only two nations in the world have refused to sign.
Your test questions are: (1) Which is the other nation that has refused to sign? (2) Why wouldnt the U.S. sign?
Answers: (1) Somalia. They dont really have a functioning government, so there may have been some legitimate confusion as to who got to go to the signing ceremony. (2) It prohibits the execution of children under 18.
If your choice is between a Moore movie or a Moore book, see the movie, but if you flunked the test and feel the need to study, Stupid White Men will entertain you for awhile. Dont stop until the very endits got the funniest About this typeface section Ive ever read.
Tom Gallagher is an activist and frelance writer based in California.