Michael Moore’s Capitalism Movie Hopes You Don’t Know Any Better

Capitalism: a love story michael moore reviewI’ve been a fan of Michael Moore’s work for several years, and so I was excited about the new movie. I applauded with the audience, at the end, and I found it an entertaining film,  but I do have to note some rather glaring inconsistencies in the message.

Before I get started on that, I want to note that I was a bit distracted during the movie. I had to duck out to the bathroom as images of Alan Greenspan flashed on the screen. Not to vomit mind you, but to urinate despite my best efforts to ignore the need. Adding to this distraction, was the appearance of the unibomber who came into the theater about 15 minutes in and sat down a few seats from me. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail on it, but let’s just say this was a very creepy guy with a hood, who really resembled a troubled outcast about to go on a shooting spree.  Thankfully, after making weird noises, twitching, and kicking chairs for 20 minutes, he got up and walked out.  After checking under his seat for a pipebomb, I was able to relax a bit.

So, distractions aside, I did enjoy the movie, however I found myself in disagreement with very much of it.  The premise of the film can sufficiently be summed up with the tagline  “Capitalism is evil”. In fact, that over-simplification is essentially drilled into viewers again and again with examples that, at times, serve only to discredit Moore’s perspective. There is a unabashed promotion of both Obama and socialism in this movie. There are also several instances of outright deception from Moore, the most glaring being the omission of Obama’s support for the “banker bailout” that Moore is heavily critical of.

While Obama is not explicitly depicted as a messiah in the movie, viewers are treated to the spectacle of several shots of African Americans yelling, bouncing up and down, hooting and hollering for the first half-black president, in the context of “the people overcoming”.  But don’t get the impression it’s all about race, there’s the not-so-subtle closeups of the only 2 (token) white people (both women) amongst the 30-40 black celebrants chosen for the scenes. Why use scenes that only serve to further the notion that Obama’s election was primarily a victory for “black America”? Were African Americans and a couple of women, really the only ones enthused over the election results? Were the scenes used to show support for Obama’s election at all indicative of the general demographical makeup of satisfied voters? If not, why this skewed presentation?

Viewers are paradoxically told that the government has been usurped by Goldman Sachs and other elite finance oligarchs, while reassured that Obama is a threat to their power structure rather than a direct participant in it, and then asked for help to essentially “take the power back” at the end.  But, I thought we were safe now? What happened to the Obama-mania and the statement that the rich elite are nervous over his election?  Michael Moore tells viewers he wants them to “join him”…  Maybe he’ll explain how you can serve him better in some other forum, but the movie gives no indication of his intentions.

Much of the film comes across rather disjointed.  We’re treated to scenes of evictions, and given the impression that people not paying their mortgages really had nothing to do with it…  These were just “victims of circumstance” with no accountability for their financial situation.  The cult of the victim thrives in Moore’s film, as we are told that housing is a “right” and illegal squatting tactics are promoted. I guess the Mexicanization of America, squatters and all, is an essential part of Moore’s plan for the future of the country. In fact, Mexico’s system seems to be supported pretty thoroughly by Moore, in particular their socialist government, socialized medicine, and disregard for private property. I remember when it was Canada that Moore seemed to hold-up as illustrative of his personal views. That Moore is now favoring the land south of the border over the one to the north, is another example of his increasing radicalization.

We’re told that the “rights” (such as the government confiscating your business on a whim), that a conquered and occupied Germany and Japan were “given” in their new constitutions, are “rights” which Americans got gypped out of by the death of a visionary president. Just ignore the fact that these “rights” and “freedoms” were literally forced upon battered, occupied nations, and don’t evaluate whose interest these new constitutions were actually serving. One just needs to look at present-day Germany, still occupied (for their own good, supposedly), to see how “free” it truly is.  This is a nation where people have literally died in prison because of statements they’ve made or books they’ve written.  To say there is a lack of free speech or freedom of association in a increasingly fascist Germany, is an understatement. Moore wants you to “demand” the “same rights” that the German’s got from losing a war, just as he earlier has exhorted you to demand the same medical treatment that prisoners of war have received while being tortured in American custody.  Am I sensing a sort of trend here?

Perhaps the most amusing deception in Moore’s film comes in the form of reaffirming the left/right paradigm, where we are told that the rich elite are literally fearful of the masses “equal voting power”, since they are so obviously outnumbered. Yes…  They must truly be disturbed by the very possibility that voters will exercise their will to elect the lone national political party whose campaigns they do not finance.  Oh, wait…  There isn’t one. Insert gloss-over of Obama’s funding by these same corporations, and then cue scenes of jubilation as Democrats come back in, and Republicans go back out.  The game of musical chairs continues, with Michael Moore sacrificing consistency and logic in the pursuit of shilling for Democrats. I guess we’re supposed to forget that these same banking elite types have excelled under both Democrat and Republic governments. Rather than coming to the conclusion that voting is only serving to create an illusion of support from the people, and propping up a broken system, Moore encourages participation in the two party system, offering no alternative to the exact structure he decries.

Moore plays upon the emotions of viewers to demonstrate that the entire capitalist system is based on greed and exploitation.  He is blunt with his radical views on the current system and his radical views on improving it.  We are told that the government (the same one he says has been co-opted by the banking elite) should have the ability to confiscate private property, and that people have the “right” to a secure job.  Where people will be working exactly, Moore doesn’t say. Moore claims a financial coup de’etat took place with the “bailout” , explicitly implies the government is run by corporate interests, and then ironically claims further government control is the answer. Confused?  You should be.

Overall, it’s definitely a movie worth seeing, and it does indeed highlight some absolutely unethical and offensive profiteering and exploitation.  The problem is, however, it’s a movie built upon generalization, over-simplification, and for a movie that hints at revolution, as is trendy these days, it sure tows the party line. Of course, expecting a movie about the evils of capitalism produced, in part, by Paramount, to be free of distortion would be a bit naive.

Capitalism may not be a flawless system, but when Michael Moore starts telling people to demand the same “rights” imposed upon nations that lose wars, it’s not unreasonable to question the motives of Moore himself. Fighting government and corporate greed by merging government and the corporate entity, and ensuring “secure jobs” by mandating citizens into government employment, is not the type of “solution” America needs. This is very much like advising someone who is concerned over the influence of the media on society, to have a lobotomy so they will have no mind left to manipulate.

Have you seen Capitalism: A Love Story? What did you think?

“You Did The Right Thing”

The principal shook my hand to assure me.”You did the right thing,” he said. Somehow I wasn’t convinced, but I accepted it, and tried to put it out of my mind.  I walked down the hall, back to class.  I was 13, I think, and wondering if I was going to see that little boy again.  I never did.  I was his “reading buddy”, and I had set into motion with only a few words, his removal from the school.

I was always good at reading, and one of the few children in my class who had a strong aptitude for it.  At the time I was reading mostly fantasy. Tolkien was a bit of a challenge, but I got through the Hobbit and then, later, the Lord of the Rings.  I was excited about the prospect of using my reading skills to help another person, and so when we were first told about this “reading buddy” program our class would be doing, I was supportive. We were all going to be paired up with children just learning basic reading skill, and were going to assist them to be more competent.  Sure, it doesn’t take much skill to help a child read a book that only has a handful of words on each page, but anything that involved reading was a happy prospect for me.  You see reading comprehension and vocabulary was singularly the area I most excelled. It was a welcomed diversion from dreaded mathematics and geography.

The first time I met my new little friend, I was remarkably comfortable.  It was really the first time I had had any extended interaction with a younger kid, since the school practiced a form of segregation during recess, and because older kids just don’t talk to younger kids.  I had no siblings growing up, although, I did very much want a brother when I, myself, was very young.  I was impressed with how well he handled the material, and I mostly just provided encouragement.

He was a pretty outgoing little guy, after a while, and he lived on the same street that I did.  The odd time, we’d end up walking back together from school and talking.  I can’t recall much of anything that we talked about, really…  I don’t recall much of anything of him at all. And I can’t say what his exact words were when he told me about how his father touches him.

I was surprised and yet somehow remained nonchalant as I asked him questions to try and clarify what exactly he was talking about.  I don’t even remember those, but I remember saying good bye to him.  I turned back to watch as he walked along the street, now only a few houses down from his own. I walked on home, in my mind a sort of conflict was developing.  I didn’t really know what to do.  “Could I just be misunderstanding somehow?  Could it be nothing? He didn’t seem scared, or traumatized or anything except a normal little kid.  Maybe it was nothing,” my mind ran through the possibilities and tried to rationalize. I let him walk back home…  A decision which may or may not have been prudent.

I didn’t ask for anyone’ advice that afternoon.  The next day, at school, I had decided in “better safe than sorry” fashion, to go speak to the principal.  I told him what was said to me, and his face grew increasingly grave as I spoke. “You did the right thing,” he told me.  Was I convinced? Maybe not 100%, but I wanted to believe I was doing good. I wondered why it had to be me that would be put into that position. Later that day, I saw the principal talking to the child in his office, right as the police walked through the front door.  How I just happened to be there at that moment, is another mystery, and yet I did. That was the last time I saw the boy. I was assigned to another child as their “reading buddy”, and the program was ended shortly later.

I didn’t really know what was going to happen to him, and I can’t say at what point I began to feel the weight of the decision I had made. My mother, upon my telling her the story, once I had gotten back home that day, was not explicitly supportive. Rather than reassuring me, she mentioned the consequences of the event, and the possibility I had over-reacted.  How much of the uncertainty that followed was a result of that, I’ll never know.

Him and I developed a relationship, even if it was a superficial one.  He looked up to me, and he trusted me.  I didn’t make the decision to phone the police, but I did make the decision to tell the principal.  I can only imagine that the principal himself spoke to the boy afterward, and felt certain by what he was told, that crimes were taking place.  The idea the entire event could have been some misunderstanding is absolutely horrifying, but it’s not a valid argument for silence.

It was so many years ago now.  I can’t remember his name, or even his face really….  I can’t help but wonder what became of him, and if his life truly was improved by the choice I made.  I wonder if he felt betrayed, sitting in the office (a place nearly completely associated with bad behavior), and being questioned. Wherever he is, I hope he is well, and that I did do the right thing, like I was told.  I think there’s a strange compulsion we sometimes have to deny the reality of something too terrible or burdensome to accept. It would have been easier to just rationalize what I was told, and forget about it…  And, in fact, I have forgotten it. Yet between quickly casting it from my mind, I repeated those words to the principal, and so transferred that burden onto him.  I’m not sure then, why I still feel the entire chain of events rested solely on my own actions.

Did I do the right thing?  I hope so… I hope so…  But isn’t it a strange thing to hope for?  I still want to believe that maybe it was just a misunderstanding, but it not being one is the only possible way I can feel vindicated for turning his life upside down.  It was a burden that seemed to great at the time, and perhaps remains one today.

The Snowball That Won’t Melt

School was finally over, and Mike and I marched out, and began to walk.  I was 12, and Mike was my best friend.  We set off towards my house, a 15 minute walk through the newly gathered snow.

Now, the thing about snow is, not all of it makes good snowballs.  We’d been told it was “packing snow” that you had to look for.  That’s the kind you could squeeze together easily and it would stay together.  The fluffy, white powdery kind wouldn’t do the trick…  Not if you’re throwing them.

I bent down, quickly gathering the snow and knew within seconds that we were in luck.  Off we went then, snowballs in hand.  There’s sort of an unspoken rule that once you’ve made the perfect snowball, you have to throw it at something.  You can’t just juggle it around, and then toss it aside.  Let’s face it, the reason you want a perfect snowball is because you’re looking for a perfect target.

As we walked along the sidewalk, we just didn’t find any perfect targets in sight.  In fact, the only sight aside from the bright rays of the sun, the blanket of snow on the ground, and the wooden fence we were passing was a little girl up ahead.

I think she was wearing a dark pink jacket and humming, as she walked towards home.  Not being accustomed to throwing snowballs at girls, let along a girl who looked to be nearly half my age, I kept scanning around.

She was at least 40 feet ahead of us. Finally, I decided on a plan.

“I’m going to throw this snowball way, way up into the air…  and I’m going to nail that girl right on the head,” I told Mike.  He didn’t believe me.  I didn’t believe me, either, and that’s why I threw it.

Up it went, like an arrow.  Way up. As we watched it, almost mesmerized by the white ball spinning up further and further against the backdrop of a too bright sun, a suddenly realization came over me.  In fact, hints of certainty started to form right as I felt that snowball brush my finger tips, as it began it’s ascent. That hint became a conviction: It’s going to hit her.

So we stood there, watching, as the snowball reached it’s zenith and accelerated downwards.  Almost in slow motion it seemed to fall. I seem to remember actually seeing a shadow cast on that little girls hat, a couple seconds before it landed, but  memory is a tricky, thing.

It fell from the sky almost directly on the top of her head, exploding like a star, and sending glittering flakes in every direction.  As certain as I had thought I felt, I was now incredulous that is had actually happened. Seconds went by.  Mike and I stared, mouths open.  An eerie silence fell upon us, and upon that girl. It was a silence that seemed to emphasize the gravity of the last sound made, a terribly loud thud.

I was honestly afraid at that moment.  Afraid I was going to get caught!  I didn’t really know it would hit her, but the fact I had declared my intentions so clearly right before throwing it, seemed to guarantee my guilt. I did throw it, after all.  I threw that snowball.  Oh boy, I was going to be in trouble.

I thought about running.  I was only a few minutes from home.  I could run, and maybe nobody else would ever know about it.  And then, the silence was broken.  She was staring right at us, and crying, snow covering her forehead.  It was, perhaps, something that should have only hastened my desire to run, but somehow a new feeling emerged that swallowed up the fear of being found out.

It occurred to me at that moment that she must have thought we were absolutely terrible.  She must have thought I was terrible.  Like I was some evil monster of kid, who had honed his snowball marksmanship skills for the sole purpose of making little girls cry. I did the only thing that I could do at that moment.  I ran.

But, I ran to her.  “I’m so sorry! I never meant for that snowball to hit you,” I assured her, brushing off snow from her reddened face.  I asked her if she was hurt.  I kept telling her it was a mistake.  She stopped crying almost immediately, and told me it was alright.  I think she could see I genuinely was horrified over what had happened.

I never thought about snowballs quite the same way after that.  I never thought about girls quite the same way, either.  It wasn’t until I had made one cry, that I realized how fragile they can be.  I never had a sister, and my only female friend was a tom boy.  I still think of that day sometimes.  It seems so silly that of all the things I could feel regret over, that is the one that jumps into my mind.

I still feel this…  debt.  I feel like I never truly made up for what I did to that girl.  I feel like I should have done more.  I was young, but I should have known better. What else I could have done for her, I just don’t know, but 17 years later I still feel guilty.

I never would have thought that something so transient as a snowball, could possibly remain with me all this time.  I doubt she even remembers it, and I can’t understand why I’m not able to forget.  It was just a snowball…

I was a bit of a trouble maker as a child.  But I always had some excuse for making trouble for whoever it was I made trouble for. And most of the time, I’d end up in trouble myself as a consequence.  Those times are easy to forget. That snowball just won’t melt.

Public Washrooms: More Than You Ever Wanted To Know

Public washrooms need a makeover. Badly. I can’t be the only one who thinks this! Yes, what follows is kind of a rant, but it’s one I think some people will understand.

Now, I can only speak of these from a male perspective, but it’s perhaps male bathrooms that provide the biggest endorsement for change. Society has changed. It’s bathrooms have not kept pace.

There’s some pretty obvious problems. We’re more modest, as a culture these days.

Do that many guys really want to stand next to one another and urinate onto a wall?

I gladly take the extra 30 seconds to urinate into a toilet, when it means I can avoid:

1. Weird guys sidling up to you with their equipment in-hand.
2. Having urine spray back or mist down on you or your shoes (and not necessarily your own urine, either).
3. People trying to make awkward smalltalk with you while you are nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with your pants undone.

Then there’s the other thing. I’m pretty sure not everyone is liking the current setup only because it’s a time saver. I think you know what I’m talking about here. And before anyone starts thinking I’m homophobic, I hasten to point out that the very reason washrooms were divided by gender in the first place, was in recognition that it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for (heterosexual) men and women to share a bathroom. This was at a time where “everyone” was (assumed to be) heterosexual. Well, we know that’s not the case anymore, and there’s nothing like a trip to the public restroom to remind you of it, in case you’ve forgotten.

And that leads me to my next issue. Apparently women need to defecate twice as often as men, because men’s washrooms have half the amount of toilets.  Despite what you might think, defecating into a urinal is generally not standard practice…  Of course, that’s an easy mistake to make judging by some of the things you’ll see in one.

More often than not, there will be just a single stall, or 2 in a smaller public restroom. Many times those stalls are not available and when they are there is homosexual graffiti all over the walls inside of them…

There is either a whole lot of homosexual male vandals out there or a small group of them who are so obsessively vulgar they bring a black marker with them every time they leave the house. Now, maybe that’s not fair…  Maybe these people aren’t homosexual…  But, if they were writing about how great Obama is, I’d assume they are Democrats.

This only reaffirms my discomfort with using a urinal. I have a problem with having someone’s sexuality thrust upon me in the most invasive and vulgar ways.  I wonder how many mothers would send their sons into the washroom unsupervised if they saw the type of messages and depictions they’d be subjected to, to say nothing of the pedophiles who see urinals as an invitation for a little show and tell.

I’ve asked a lot of women if there is crude references to homosexual sex and drawings of genitalia all over their washrooms, and strangely none of them have reported that is the case.

Sure, some facilities are better managed than others, but these aren’t isolated issues.

Women’s bathrooms have their problems, too, I am sure… But how many men do you know could get away with walking into one, just because they don’t feel like waiting?

Yes, apparently there are thousands of women out there who think it is perfectly acceptable to walk into a men’s washroom if they don’t have the patience to wait for other women to be finished in theirs.

It’s not less offensive or less inappropriate, in fact, it’s worse, because there is even less privacy. Somehow women have gotten the false impression that no guy would possibly complain about having a woman grace them with her presence while they are urinating. Get over yourselves. And fyi, the bathroom being empty at the time does not mean one of you can go in and then one of you can stand guard outside the door and obstruct people from entering.

My suggestion: Do away with the gender segregation altogether, especially since gender is so nebulous now that it’s become voluntary. Build one bathroom instead of two, and make the stalls within it more private. I think given all the extra “complications” we’re facing with gender and sexuality as a society, we can learn to get along and be mature sharing a washroom, if the stalls within it have a proper level of privacy. I also think rather than feeling less safe, a lot of people would probably be more comfortable, especially parents.

Does anyone have any public restroom horror stories to share, or their own suggestions on how things can be fixed?

Anyone out there who thinks things are fine as they are?

And, for the female readers, what are some of the issues you face?

Note: This is a repost of my article Public Washrooms: More Than You Ever Wanted To Know at Open Salon. You can check there for more comments.

The Thing Behind The Door

I awoke a little while ago from one of those dreams.   You know, the kind where you’re you’re not sure it is a dream, and once you finally awake still dazed wonder if maybe some elements to it are not real.  This entry isn’t about the dream, though.  I don’t blog about dreams on here. I have a whole separate blog I don’t update anymore for that!  This entry is about the truth behind the dream.

For the first time in my life I realized something: I am afraid of open doors.

Or more accurately (but less powerfully), I am unsettled by the darkness behind an open door at night, if trying to sleep. I’ve known for years, on some level, that I prefer to sleep with a closed door…  I’ve just never thought about it, or tried to understand it.

There’s something just…  unsettling.  I know there’s nothing there…  Well, no I don’t “know” that, but I imagine there isn’t.  It’s not about that, though…  It’s the perceptions one gets when one stares into blackness.   It’s almost like the eyes are trying to see something there, and threaten to invent form where there is none, for the sake of form itself.  It’s not the darkness, though…  I’m not afraid of the dark.   I’m afraid of what’s in the darkness… in the next room… on the other side of that dreadfully unprotective open door.

I was saying, “I can’t see it…  I can’t see it…”, laying in bed and looking into that void behind the open door.  Something started to take shape then… Something bright… something yellow…  Something just a bit too ethereal to grasp.  What could be grasped, though, was a feeling of fear, and denial, and a desire to be safe behind the closed door. And then…  I awoke, and looked in the same direction I was looking in my dream.  The door was closed. But the usual subtle sense of security I feel when seeing that closed door was gone, shattered by an unsettling reality. That feeling’s been replaced by an awareness…  Maybe an unwelcomed one.  That closed door now represents something else to me. It’s a mystery, it’s a puzzle…  It’s a disturbance. Being unsettled by an open door, and waking up with the words “I can’t see it”, are more disturbing to me, than the previous uneasiness ever could have been.

As I laid in bed, I recognized “I can’t see it” as a denyer, and realized that my entire life (as much as I remember), I have always slept with a closed door, and have never been comfortable leaving it open, even if (or perhaps especially if) nobody else was in the house.  For years, whenever I would be laying in bed and attempting to sleep with the door open, I’d find myself nervously glaring into that darkness.  “There’s nothing there”, I’d assure myself, recognizing that feeling of anxiety.  I’d find it an annoyance.  “There’s nothing there”, I’d repeat, but just not feel entirely safe closing my eyes, at the same time.  Within a few minutes, I’d drag myself out of bed and close that door, feeling annoyed at myself, or better, suddenly realize there was an urgent need for me to leave the room for one reason or another  When I’d get back a minute later, I’d remember to close the door on my way in.

The thing is, I’ve just dealt with that.  I’ve dealt with it, because that’s the rational thing to do, and the sane thing to do is just not to even acknowledge it while you’re dealing with it.  I knew, after all, that there really was “nothing there”. Why don’t I “know” that now?  Why do I feel so certain that there is something behind that door?

Amanda made an observation to me, several weeks ago.  I had taken to reacting panicked when awoken unexpectedly. It wasn’t always anything too dramatic.  I think most people would understand being a bit startled if jolted into a fuller consciousness from sleep.  But… Well, a few times it was more than just being a bit started…  She realized it was the sound of the door creaking open that would really get a reaction out of me.  Talking was fine…  As fine as being woken up could be (I’d be a little annoyed, but not startled), the TV being too loud, the misc. banging around pots and pans… That wasn’t a problem. The only thing that seemed to really put me into a panic for a second or two, was the sound of the door opening.

I really hadn’t given it much thought.  Sure, I thought it was odd…  But I also didn’t think much of it, at the same time.  Now, I find myself wondering about the thing behind the door…  The thing that creeps in on you, while your asleep, the creaking door, the movement in the blackness… Really, there’s nothing there.

What Does “Perfectly Flawed” Mean?

Alright, so some of you have been wondering what the phrase “perfectly flawed” means.  Well, I can tell you what it means to me, and give you some insight into why I thought it was a catchy phrase to title this blog.

I first came up with this term several years ago, and I used it as the title of a blog then, too… Unfortunately it’s a blog that is no longer around, and I didn’t keep up with it well, anyway. The idea behind it is fairly spiritual in nature. In doing a Google search, I notice a lot of other people are using the phrase, too. I don’t think I invented it or anything, but I can go into some detail about what it conveys to me. I’m sure different people might have different interpretations, if they have any at all.

To me, being “perfectly flawed” is a way to reconcile two seemingly contradictory notions, that of perfection and that of being flawed.  We can see examples of this in our everyday lives, but the one that jumps out at me is in art.  It’s certainly possible to create a work that is flawed, but flawed in a way that rather than acting as a weakness acts as a strength. Perhaps this truth applies to marketing, as well… Do you remember a commercial that you felt really irritated by? Maybe you were so annoyed with that commercial you talked about it with others.  Some might say, though the commercial was “flawed” by being annoying, it was at least flawed to the greatest level that something flawed can attain, since it accomplished it’s mission (to be memorable and to make an impact), better than most commercials do.

In dealing with the concept of “perfectly flawed”, one might argue that is something is perfectly flawed, it is not flawed at all, but rather perfect, and that the perceived flaw is only an aspect of it’s perfection.  That could very well be true… Perhaps that’s part of the beauty of the phrase.  It means different things to different people.  When it comes to humanity, I think perhaps the phrase becomes quite apt…  For surely, though we so often testify to the fact that “nobody is perfect”, we experience people we consider to be imperfect in ways that are endearing, and perhaps even ways we find virtuous.  And if we all must be flawed, I think, at least, we should be so to the credit of out nature, rather than it’s detriment.

If God is perfect, and man is flawed, then perhaps being “perfectly flawed” involves the recognition that the two concepts need not seem so separate. After all, if we (who are creatures and creators), are made in the image of God, as many of us accept, does it not seem strange to consider one’s reflection an opposite?

It’s something to think about.