Sunday, October 4, 2009

GUEST POST by SUE LANGE-- Michael Moore: The Conscience of America

[Welcome Sue Lange to the M-Brane blog with this interesting and timely item.--CF]

October 3, 2009: I was all set to do a shill post on my latest release (Uncategorized,; $1.99) which is obliquely related to M-Brane SF because the collection contains my story “Zara Gets Laid,” first published here in the June issue. I was all set to promote myself, but then I realized the world has bigger fish to fry. There are more important things to do than try to wrench a buck out of the unsuspecting science fiction reading public. And I discovered that because last evening I attended the opening of Michael Moore’s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

Moore has a tendency to do that: make you rethink your priorities. With him, trouble’s always brewing somewhere and you and your irrelevant ass need to check it out. The trouble in the case of this latest movie happens to be the foundation of everything we know and love: our economic system.

This is not new for Moore. He started out knocking the biggest of the capitalists, GM. Since Roger and Me, his movies have portrayed formidable cracks in the American armor in the form of racism, gun affinity, selfishness, indifference to the poor and weak, and they all seem to come in some way from our undying belief in capitalism.

This movie, while not presenting anything overly new, does a good job of wrapping up Moore’s philosophy and illustrating why he feels the way he does. He makes a good case, especially since he hasn’t changed his spots over the years. Ever since GM pulled the rug out from under Flint, he’s been singing this song.

There are often moments in Moore’s movies when you have a tendency to say, “C’mon Mike, you can do better. Really now, how can someone lose a home they’ve had in their family for generations? If that guy hadn’t taken out a mortgage just to buy a new big screen TV and pair of Nikes, he wouldn’t have found himself subjected to the cataclysmically rising interest rates. And why do people go for those variable rate loans in the first place? Could Mike’s subjects just be dumb?”

And by the way, why does doesn’t his cameraman speak English? Are their chinks in Moore’s armor as well as in America’s? Lots of people think so. I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to hide his faults. He shows us everything about everything himself included. His best exposé, though, is when he shows us something creepy and dirty in the powerful. In this movie he showed us multinationals taking out life insurance policies on their employees, naming themselves as beneficiaries. It’s such an incredible idea, you almost have to laugh. Like a bad Monty Python routine: twisted, marginally funny, and in a language Americans have a hard time understanding. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my Monty, but that twit sketch was just this side of offensive.)

Moore has a way of distilling what seems to be a mass of convoluted and insurmountable problems down to a simple fact or idea. In this case the bad idea is each American’s belief that he or she will one day be a member of the 1% club. This group contains the 1% of Americans that hold 95% of the money. Yes, most of us believe that we will one day party with Bill and Sergey. Apparently we live in Lake Woebegone, Minnesota where all the children are above average.

This belief that we are special promotes a personal greed in each of us. From every guy that mortgages his children’s birthright to Roger Smith who pulled the rug out from under an unsuspecting city in the rust belt, we are all too greedy because we think we’re special.

I like Mike. I think he’s the conscience of America. He’s abrasive. He bugs us all at one time or another. Even Ray Bradbury, the conscientious icon of science fiction, is pissed off at him. And for what? For stealing the title of his own political statement: Fahrenheit 451. Seems he would have been on board with Mike, but Mike can do that to you. When he was filming down on Wall Street at quitting time, he was calling out to the traders as they were leaving the building. He wanted someone to explain derivatives. Most ignored him, but when he asked one guy for some advice, the stock broker said “Stop making movies.”

Good thing Mike has a thick crust. He’s going to need it, because this time he’s pulling out all the stops. He’s going to lose sympathy for this one. Pay attention to the song at the end. I don’t want to spoil it, but I’ll just say it’s not sung in French or with a Liverpool accent. Americans will understand the words. And recognize the tune.

And if there’s one thing Americans won’t tolerate it’s Satanism. Did I say Satanism? I’m sorry, Mike did not once mention Satanism in his movie. Doesn’t matter. Americans equate the actual word he used with Satanism. And that, folks, may be why we have a problem.

Sue Lange’s story, "Kangaroo Wars," is in M-Brane SF #9, out on newsstands now. Well, maybe not newsstands. M-Brane has not capitulated to the military-industrial complex and so does not have national distribution at all the Hudson newsstands across the continent. Get it: here. [Editor's note: Now is possibly the best time ever to start subscribing to M-Brane, and you can do it for free by pre-ordering Things We Are Not! New subscriptions will start with issue #9, containing Sue's fine story.]

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Anonymous said...


I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't comment. But I enjoyed your post.

Christopher Fletcher said...

I haven't seen it either, but the subject is quite timely for me since I have been working (in my mind) on a post for the Region Between journal in which I intend to present a very unfavorable opinion of capitalism and come out in writing once and for all as a person who doesn't buy it. It seems to me that I went through a long phase of my life where I was playing the game, that American game where a liberal and right-winger can disagree on the details of things but more or less still both accept that the capitalist system as it has evolved in this country is basically fine. That charade collapsed for me several years ago, and I have decided that I do NOT accept the system, I think it is fundamentally corrupt and wildly outdated. Also, just empirically, it's not working out the way they say it was supposed to. There needs to be a new-century paradigm and this country needs to embrace it or the future is going to get more and more bleak. And if they want to call that attitude satanism, then fine!


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