Capitali$m: America's Need for Greed
Observer film review
Published October 15, 2009
Michael Moore is a man that many Americans love to hate these days, as he triggers their big red hot button of Denial with films such as “SiCKO” and “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
And we love him for it. After all, he inspired our “SiCKO in Sedona and All of America” story series, in which we asked citizens to step forward with their medical horror stories. More importantly, it urged our fellow media to exercise the moral responsibility of the Fourth Estate by publishing such stories in support of health care reform.
Now, after seeing his recent film, we salute him even more as “America’s Pied Piper of Rude Wake-Up Calls” with his new parody on that insidious epidemic invading the planet worse than any H1N1 virus: capitalism.
Love story or fatal attraction?
This time he pushes the hot button of Greed – a particularly ugly one that has seeped down from gluttonous CEOs at the top of the hierarchal pyramid to the minds and hearts of the common folk scrambling for their measly share of the economic pie.
And, he pushes those buttons so well – with effective and often hilarious scenes of citizen arrests at AIG corporate headquarters, demanding the return of stolen taxpayer dollars in a money bag and appropriately draping the New York Stock Exchange with yellow crime-scene tape.
Way to go, Mike!
Our only regret is that it isn’t being conducted by teeming masses of unemployed, foreclosed and undiagnosed vigilantes bounding and gagging CEOs with that yellow tape and stringing them up from the nearest lamppost.
Our hope is that this film will inspire America’s downtrodden middle class and working poor to take to the streets – preferably Wall Street – in similar protest. Why the American people haven’t thrown bricks through the corporate glass palaces of these Wall Street crooks still escapes us.
[After all, I seriously considered it as I stood in the same spot as Moore before gawking up at the AIG fortress on Broad Street last June while visiting my ailing mother in New York. Surely, I would end up booked at the First Precinct, scrawling my newspaper columns with a No. 2 pencil from a jail cell in “the Tombs” over on White Street, or join the 17,000 inmates over at Rikers Island. But my elderly mother’s needs won over my indignation at the perils of capitalism.]
The question then becomes: If Americans are so infuriated over the banks’ hold-up of our tax dollars, why are we so complacent? Why aren’t there marches on Washington or demonstrations outside the corporate offices of Citibank, Chase and Bank of America?
Perhaps it’s because those of us with jobs and cash flow are still driving our overpriced SUVs (that never touch dirt roads) to go recreational shopping at Wal-Mart and the mall for the next piece of techno-junk to fill our overpriced homes. Or perhaps it’s Americans’ obsession with cars, cell phones, iPods, DVD players and other toys of excess consumerism – the very byproduct of a capitalistic mentality of “more and bigger is better.”
That’s precisely why Moore calls it “a love story.” We think it’s more like a “fatal attraction.”
History’s rearview mirror
Another reason we love Moore’s film is because he integrates into his documentaries the same mirror of truth that we like to use in the Observer: the power of archival images to emphasize history repeating itself and remind us of our folly that we should have indeed figured this all out long ago. In this case, he compares the vice and fall of ancient Rome to the current crumbling of American society.
Insurance companies deny claims like emperors with a thumbs-down death sentence.
It’s reminiscent of our own literary devices in the article “From Hippocrates to Hypocrisy,” (The Sedona Observer, Oct. 24, 2007), complete with fiddling Neros, pompous aristocrats and struggling plebeians serving as allegories for insurance companies rejecting claims and issuing death sentences with a proverbial “thumbs down.”
Moore’s cinematic pivoting to the past to drive a point home also reminds us of a report in Time magazine titled “Is Capitalism Working?” that highlights a resulting minestrone of economic woes. It reads:
The litany of U.S. economic woes at times seems endless... Weekly real take-home pay has been declining for two years. That gauge of American economic health, the stock market, has been sharply depressed.
Amid all this, the administration has appeared paralyzed and unable to cope with problems that it does not fully understand.
However, the administration under attack in this article is not the current Obama one but Jimmy Carter’s since this cover story appeared on Time’s April 21, 1980, edition. Despite the obvious parallels between today’s economy and the one attributed to capitalism 30 years ago, none of America’s political leaders digested the message or made significant corrections.
Little has changed except that it’s only gotten worse while the Time magazine story reads like a present-day reality. Moore’s “Capitalism” echoes this very same point.
The “Dead Peasants Society”
One of the film’s most powerful scenes centers around unaware victims insured by their employers to earn money off their hides – a well-hidden corporate vice called “dead peasant insurance.” Even the most conservative viewers woven of steel must feel some sense of outrage and indignation at this cruel byproduct of a predatory capitalistic system based on pure greed.
Then we watch the police evicting families who have foreclosed on their homes and poignant footage of striking workers. If such scenes aren’t enough to move the most callous hearts, perhaps Moore’s powerful narration and quotes from some of capitalism’s unknowing victims will:
There’s a foreclosure filing every 7 seconds in the U.S.
There’s the people that’s got it all and the people who don’t have nothing.
Money is not the root of all evil. Moore states outright that “capitalism is evil” and brings in a host of testimonials to prove it. He blames it for the financial meltdown of society. And he makes no bones about the complexity of a financial system so baffling and obscure that even the experts fail to explain it for the general citizenry awaiting foreclosure and wondering how it all happened.
Capitalism, with its spiritual and moral bankruptcy, can be traced to the vast majority of societal ills: the health care debacle, war, unemployment, excess consumerism, foreclosures, poverty, bankruptcies, homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, drug abuse, violence against women, global warming and environmental havoc, and so on.
In the midst of such tragedy, “Capitalism” offers some comic relief, with Moore’s trademark wit and ability to help us laugh at ourselves and the folly of our institutions. But the joke is certainly on the American people and not on the robber barons like Bernard Madoff, as Moore makes clear.
Capitalism’s worst crimes against humanity: medicine and media
Moore criticizes the government bailout of financial institutions and private corporations whose CEOs and administrators should be tried like felons for destroying the lives and livelihoods of so many Americans. The entire theater cheers as he demands payback for “stolen taxpayer money” with moneybags at AIG headquarters and ties yellow crime-scene ribbons around Wall Street landmarks.
Moore also provides statistics suggesting that some more subtle bandits should be tried, along with their opportunistic pals at the nation’s Capitol – agencies such as the American Medical Association and Food and Drug Administration, all such cozy capitalistic bedfellows – for conspiring with Big Pharma and insurance companies to snatch the larger share of the pie away from the little guy.
Moore explains it this way:
Over 75 percent of Americans want universal health care yet the health care industry spends $1.5 million dollars per day lobbying against it.
This means that the drug lords, insurance executioners and medical bill henchmen all sending innocent Americans to the gallows and bankruptcy courts in droves should be tried for crimes against humanity and even genocide.
In a capitalistic society, everything is a commodity steeped in gluttony, especially paradigms such as education, health care and journalism. Yet medicine, like media, should not be a profit-obsessed business commodity based on greed. Rather, both should be principle-focused practices based on public service for the common good.
Capitalism = wage slavery
Then there’s an arm of capitalism that, according to a new study by the National Sleep Institute, enslaves most Americans for an average of 10.5 hours per day, not including commuting time: work.
Moore states in his film:
There’s no democracy in the workplace. You lose your rights when you go to work every morning or go to the bank to cash a check.
A new Harvard study proves that giving more time off to workers makes them more productive. Duh! This is obviously nothing new. What would be new is a report that companies are starting to “get” it.
That’s why the Observer has devoted entire “Labor and Workplace” pages to these issues, including one about Moore's support of the California nurses' union, where most mainstream media ignores or completely censors them. The media not only works in tandem with capitalistic big business; it IS capitalism in its very worst form, destroying any semblance of democracy and freedom of speech.
We blame it for the current disgraceful state of media and medicine alike. Health care needs healing and journalism needs to turn its own spyglass on itself. The watchdog now needs a watchdog.
Clamoring for “Moore”
We read with dismay many of our fellow media’s dismal reviews of the film and were disappointed to see that so many film critics fail to comprehend Moore’s message. Common complaints included words like “stale,” “old hat,” “redundant,” or “a repeat of his previous film themes,” and even that dreaded dirty word “Marxist.”
To these alleged journalists, experts and pundits, we say: Well, of course, what else would you expect when Americans still fail to comprehend how capitalism is robbing them of their health, their pay, their homes, their workplace dignity (if they’re lucky enough to have a job), their constitutional rights and even their democracy with the loss of investigative reporting and truth in media?
And, as for those horrifying concepts of Marxism and socialism, we think it’s the very thing preventing Americans from enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Despite the glut of derogatory and cynical reviews, we think Moore is a brilliant and ingenious filmmaker. We need more lively documentaries like “Capitalism,” captivating in its simple truths, instead of the dry, dreary and overly intellectual ones that lull the few Americans watching them to sleep.
Oh, and while you’re at it, Michael, please tack up some of that yellow crime scene tape around the nation’s colleges, hospitals, resorts and restaurants (in states where workers are paid a subminimum wage), TV stations and, especially, the majority of America’s newsrooms that are allowing advertising revenue to control editorial content and censor the truth.
Finally, we herald Moore’s blunt honesty, especially when asked what he does with his money:
I have no money in stocks.
I drive a five-year-old van.
I pay my employees a generous wage, with fully paid health care and no deductibles. There are no limits on paid sick days and personal time.
And obviously I don’t spend my money on clothes!
And then there’s our all-time favorite message in the movie, which sums up the bottom line about capitalism:
If Jesus was around today, he wouldn’t be investing in a Hedge fund or the stock market.
COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE
Posted October 18, 2009
I enjoyed reading this beautifully written and illustrated review! It was different than the typical boring media criticism and offers interesting perspectives and links. I thought the film was excellent but apparently most of the critics represent, as you so accurately point out, capitalistic media empires, including the so-called "alternative" presses that are now owned by monopolies. What else would we expect them to say?!
San Francisco, Calif.
Posted October 22, 2009
Well I am certainly amazed to learn after seeing the film and reading your review that there is actually a paper left in this country that reports on labor and workplace issues! The page is not only informative and unique but actually gorgeous. There used to be something like 85 labor beat reporters around the country in the 1950's and now I think we're down to 3 and you are one of them. I went to your WHEN page and read all about how you quit your job at another paper to launch this one with no advertising or funding so that you could report on health care and labor. You are to be commended for your courage as well as your vision! Thanks for the great articles and gumption to do what none of the other papers will.
Posted October 29, 2009
You and Michael Moore have got it all wrong. Capitalism is what makes this country great and it's ashame you have to position it this way. You need to go back and look at history again.
Posted November 7, 2009
Awesome film, cool review, great newspaper! Really enjoyed all the articles and videos on health care. It's great to see media that is a watchdog for all the other celebrity garbage out there that call themselves journalists. You offer the real thing and it's very interesting and refreshing.
Hawthorne, New Jersey
Read the Observer's full report HERE...
Health Care Reform Stories in The Sedona Observer
Launched in 2007, The Sedona Observer is a national nonprofit online newspaper dedicated to public service journalism. It shuns advertising to prevent censorship and preserve genuine freedom of the press. Produced in Sedona, Ariz., for a national audience of thousands of free subscribers, the Observer is the recipient of six First Place national press awards.
Read these investigative reports and view videos of people’s health care stories:
“From Hippocrates to Hypocrisy” - The medical debacle is alive and well on the local level
“SiCKO in Sedona” - Health care horror stories
"Nurses Rally for their Rights" - Michael Moore supports health care reform in California
“Condition: Critical” - Testimonials from medical professionals
“Prognosis: Disastrous” - Doctors speak out about a broken system
"Truth in Medicine" - What medicine and media don't want you to know about hormones
“A Mother’s Heartbreak” – Could proper medical intervention have saved her daughter's life?
“Soul-utions for Social Change” - When all else fails, there is something YOU can do!
“The Economics of Breast Cancer” What's really behind those innocent little pink ribbons?
“Flatlined – A Health Care State of Emergency”
Personal health care story submission form - We send these to Health Care for America Now and barackobama.com
WATCH THE LATEST HEALTH CARE HORROR STORY: DIMARCO VIDEO
by award-winning filmmaker Stephen DeVol
Sedona’s Health Care Emergency Siren Keeps Resounding − Two Years Later – as One Resident’s Cry for Help Remains Ignored by a Heartless Health Care System
Joe and Andrea Dimarco 2007 - LISTEN TO THE DIMARCOS ON VIDEO
Read the original Dimarco story - Sedona Observer, Oct. 21, 2007
Read the Dimarco 2008 story - Sedona Observer, Feb. 12, 2008
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