By Ardain Isma
When it comes to unveiling to the big screen all the wrongs plaguing corporate America, few people can do it better than Michael Moore, and his latest documentary is a prime example. Capitalizing on the same theme, Michael Moore has gone further this time in exposing the nakedness of Capitalism, its ugliest face. In this latest exposé, Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore takes an unequivocal stand against corporate greeds, bottom-feeding corporate sins, by reporting on the financial collapse of 2008 and the following controversial Wall Street bailout. Telling average Americans that they could be worth millions, Moore recaps an all too familiar theme from the Dead Peasant Insurance, where he exposed a sleazy move by companies that take out a life insurance on their employees, based on the probability that a certain number of workers will die each year, leaving the company with a highly profitable policy to cash in.
Going back to World War II, Capitalism tackles the root cause of the global financial crisis (GFC). With a humoristic style fit for a T.V. audience, Michael launches a direct assault on the ruthlessness that characterizes a system that he believes can no longer sustain itself, and that will definitely collapse on its own. He quoted one interviewee in the documentary as saying that “There’s got to be some kind of a rebellion between the people that have nothing and the people that got it all.”
Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 ushered him to the world map, was given an eight-minute standing ovation for this latest film when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand why. For a long time, the US upper class had been betting on the egocentric narrowness of many Americans to justify an unjustifiable system grounded in greed or in a winner-take-all culture. As Emma Thelwell points it out, “Moore serves up quirky film clips, long lost ads, jingles and news reports, with humor and aplomb, mixing in heart-wrenching scenes of GFC-fuelled devastation wreaked on ordinary working class Americans.”
Moore is blunt this time in his gut wrenching criticisms directed at those with no shame—despite this obvious financial meltdown caused by people who should have been otherwise in prison. But Moore is also able to, surprisingly, demonstrate how—if taught on the nature of beast—many Americans will indeed be educated and be ready to question why the country’s economy took this huge nose dive in the first place. One clear example is the emphatic position taken by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur against the US government’s bailout of the banks. Kaptur’s position is one that will dread the super rich to the core. She literally urges Americans to squat in their own homes, rather than allow them to be foreclosed, in total defiance.
Moore also points out to other members of the US Congress that are neither Republicans nor Democrats, like Vermont socialist representative Bernie Sanders. In other words, he wants to portray that there can be an alternative to this “madness.”
The essence of this latest trailer is to demonstrate that we are working in an intrinsically unjust economic system that only creates an illusory hope for the hopeless, but leaves little room or resources for everyone to reach a certain threshold in the comfort level of their life. In fact, many Americans are starting to understand the notion of class antagonisms, the ever widening social divide. Even some in the intellectual community are leaping forward to explain that perhaps a social democratic society based on social justice might be the recipe for the seemingly unfixable economic situation. One must remember the article written by Russell Shorto in the New York Times back in April. The article was an in-depth analysis on the European Welfare System titled “Going Dutch: How I Learned to Love the European Welfare State,” in which he discovers for himself the merits of strong social welfare programs within a Democratic system while living in Amsterdam. In it, he ponders, “I spent my initial months in Amsterdam under the impression that I was living in a quasi-socialistic system, built upon ideas that originated in the brains of Marx and Engels. This was one of the puzzling features of the Netherlands. It is and has long been a highly capitalistic country — the Dutch pioneered the multinational corporation and advanced the concept of shares of stock, and last year the country was the third-largest investor in U.S. businesses — and yet it has what I had been led to believe was a vast, socialistic welfare state. How can these polar-opposite value systems coexist?”
However ambiguous Shorto’s ponderous lines might be, they raise an important question. It is the question of whether this current order of social framework can continue to sustain itself, or is it at its twilight? It is true socialism (led by Marxism) and capitalism cannot coexist, but the social democracy à la Européenne could be the quintessential paradigm for the elusive recipe that everyone longs for in America. At least, that’s what Shorto had in mind back in April.
In outlining how the richest 1 percent holds more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent, Moore wants to say whatever the solution that will be found in the future, capitalism will certainly not provide the answer. Moore makes it clear as to what he really hopes to see. He wants his audience to walk away from Capitalism with “popcorn and a pitchfork,” and to rise up against “the biggest robbery in the history of this country” –the massive transfer of taxpayer money to private financial institutions—and to bury once and for all the system that allowed it to happen in the first place.
So, if Capitalism is not the answer, what is? Moore thinks it is democracy, but a proletarian democracy, although he did not say it explicitly.
Capitalism: A love story is a documentary that everyone should see.
Note: Dr. Ardain Isma teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at Nova Southeastern University near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is the chief editor for CSMS Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org