Reflections on Michael Moore's capitalism
The thrift in me allowed me to wait until Michael Moore's "Capitalism - A Love Story" came out on second run theatres - it was well worth the wait. The powerful effect that Moore has on his audience derives from the personal stories he relates combined with a sense of humour that highlights the bizarre nature of our capitalist society. The stories of the evictions, the factory shutdowns, the "Dead Peasants", and the visuals of corporate towers juxtaposed against abandoned and rotting houses gives a powerful visceral message to the viewer. The statistical information flipped past the viewer in a matter of seconds, all that was needed to underline the numbers behind the emotional reality of unemployment without much of a future.
The opinions of the Catholic church leaders who characterized capitalism as evil, as opposed to God's will, and the way of Jesus, emphasized that it went against all of the main religion's precepts about caring for one's fellow citizen and the common good. For a country that pledges allegiance "under God" these contrasting statements are powerful.
Another highlighted feature is his perspective on the political machinations of the power players between Wall Street and Congress. I knew that there was huge influence, but as presented by Moore, the controlling cabal appears to be the Goldman Sachs players, the old Clintonite boys who manipulated the markets and the politicians to enable their own hundreds of millions in earnings. Along with that is the story of the rejection of the bailout in its first appearance, followed by its acceptance after some heavy behind the scenes manipulation of the Democrats.
Contrasted against this were the efforts of a door and window manufacturing plant that occupied the plant after receiving notice of mass layoff going into receivership. The employees `won` their battle, but I must admit I was surprised at the meagre amount provided for each worker at $6000 per employee. It raised some questions: What would happen if the employers had occupied the plant, and taken possession of the production under their own cooperative guidance? What would have happened had they stood up for a larger benefit package as befitting the effort they had given to the company? What would happen if all workers occupied the factories they were expelled from and claimed them for their own?
Even with Moore's presentation, it only covers half the picture, and perhaps in the future we will see the other half. This film focussed on domestic problems with personal debt and financial devices so obscure that economists and their boosters cannot explain them (and never will be able to as economists' math basis is more witch's brew than true mathematical analysis). What was not seen in the film are the foreign influences that have a huge impact on the U.S. economy now and well into the future.
China is the biggest influence with substantial support from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. These countries own huge amounts of U.S. debt giving them significant influence over U.S. policy decisions. They are gaining control of the higher end industrial processes and information technologies that at one time had maintained the U.S. lead in warfare and economics (both closely related to one another).
The main point here is that because of this, the recession/depression will not be over for a long time for the unemployed workers who have watched their houses, their jobs, their lives and dreams of a future disappear into the maw of the corporate welfare provided by Congress. China et al owns their future. The corporations own their future. They are working together in order to continue that ownership. Yes, perhaps the numbers and statistics will demonstrate that the recession is over, but the reality for the tens of millions of unemployed, un-housed, uninsured citizens will not be over simply because the GDP statistics say it's over. The plutocracy is well established. But what if….
Moore comes very close to calling for a significant rebellion of the masses against their Wall Street and Congressional leaders. Several of the characters in the film express a sense that something stronger needs to be done. So what if…what if the 30 or more million unemployed, underemployed, disaffected all decided to march, not on Washington, but on New York, in order to claim possession of Wall Street and demand a change to the system. Supremely unlikely, but with the sentiments expressed in Moore's lense being as strong as they were, are the people at the top not just a little concerned that not just one, or two, or a dozen, but thousands and millions might just decide to create some form of mass protest?
That is an unanswerable question, but given the history of U.S. control of labour and its general population, that kind of mass movement is not likely. U.S. propaganda is pervasive and psychologically persuasive, and starts as soon as any child can watch television - it is normally called advertising, but also consists of all the shows that exhort compatriots to "free markets" and "capitalism", and to pledge their allegiance…another interesting concept, pledging allegiance to whom…or what? The soft barrage of consumer advertising for the better "American dream," combined with the corporate support of the mortgage and personal debt systems, combined with the U.S. debt to foreign countries, leaves the average citizen with little recourse to a moderate, healthy life with care for the sick, assistance for the unemployed, a modest universal pension, and universal health care.
Most readers have probably already seen the film, so my comments may seem redundant to some, antagonistic to others, but hopefully add the perspective that there are other larger influences at work on the U.S. economy. Corporate malfeasance both domestically and overseas almost guarantees the impoverishment of the average working U.S. citizen. Any chance we could see Michael Moore knocking on the door to the various corporations who have transferred industrial technology and processes overseas?
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.