By Michael Albert at Feb 12, 2008
John Ghrisham has a new legal thriller, and I have just begun reading it. I read all his stuff, actually, very much enjoy it. But here is the thing, just one small chapter in, and there is something worth saying. His books are not like mine...he he. This will be read by a ton of people, really, a big ton. It will likely become a movie with more tons paying attention. I don't think anyone in all those tons is going to turn away on grounds it is unrealistic, much less downright maliciously lying about America. And yet, the book begins in a manner that in just a few pages displays capitalism for what it is - vile.
The story is that a law case is filed against a giant chemical company for dumping, overtly it turns out, including lying, manipulating, and on and on, in a small town in Mississippi, so extensively that death is a routine result and the whole town must avoid water liek the plague. In the first chapter the jury decides the case - and against the odds the punishment for the company is $40 million - and since there are hundreds of potential lawsuits of the same sort, for other clients who have lost family members, etc., the big chemical company is in trouble. The rest of the book will be about the appeal. But in the first chapter we get a look at the billionaire owner of the chemical company, as well as his fleet of supporting lawyers, etc. and the look is like staring into the face of hell - but it is isn't the face of hell, it is the face of our economy, the face of the top and the infrastructure of our society. And yet, no one is going to put the book down saying, that's nonsense, we don't live in hell. That picture he paints isn't how it works. Instead everyone is going to read it, is going to recognize that it is how it works, if things aren't in fact worse, and is then going to read on. Of course if the title was capitalism sucks, the results would be different, but Grisham is too savvy a novelist for that.
This matters, I think, much more than most of what passes for insight or wisdom about the operations of American's minds. It says that virtually everyone knows everything is broken, even if very few of us overtly want to say so and even fewer think anything can be done about it. It says everyone chooses their life options based on the assumption of cotinued horror - which, of course, virtually ensures continued horror. It tells us there is a problem to overcome beyond ignorance, even more paralyzing than ignorance. I get tired of hearing myself say stuff like this, I admit...and yet, I can't stop myself. Because it does feel like it is as obvious as pointing at a nude monarch - yet, even as I do it, the monarch, striped bare, parades on.
Is all that is missing more people pointing? No. what's missing is more people providing reason for hope....real, informed, sustained, hope, in trun fueling real, informed, sustained, activism.