I’m picturing you in heaven amongst all the gods of art,
at a cafe, smoking a cigarette and drinking un express,
talking shit and discussing secrets all day,
pitying and loving
all of us poor beautiful cursed suckers still left below.
Lou Reed American Masters doc
Live from the Bottom Line NYC, 1977
New York, Full Album
Masterpiece. Plain and Simple.
“All through this, I’ve always thought that if you thought of all of it as a book then you have the Great American Novel, every record as a chapter. They’re all in chronological order. You take the whole thing, stack it and listen to it in order, there’s my Great American Novel.” ~ Lou Reed
Coincidentally, not long ago I posted a link to They Live on this site. Just scroll down or search to watch.
As usual, Reich’s analysis of our situation is sound, but because he is a liberal, he is loathe to question the core tenets of capitalism. The logic of capital is to concentrate wealth and power. It makes everything a “resource” to be exploited, from the natural world to human beings (also part of the natural world, but that is another -related- discussion). Capitalism works to commodify the entire world, i.e., put a price on everything and bring it into a market. You can see this happening to education now with horrific effects. It also demands ceaseless accumulation. An example of that logic is embodied in the creation of corporate business cycles where each one has to be more profitable than the next, forever – by any means necessary.
The idea that we can’t have total equality because everyone would sit around and feed at the trough of the state is joke. What do you do when you are relaxed and have time to yourself? What happens when you get together with other people with a common goal? What would happen if you had the opportunity to create something and pursue your interests? That we need fear or greed to motivate us is another sick myth perpetuated by capitalists because they don’t want us to have agency, control of our own lives. They don’t want us to realize we have the power to create a system without them – and they definitely don’t want us to be angry at them, much better to blame ourselves. We have been so propagandized, we have internalized our corporate master’s attitudes. Yes, you’re working two jobs and can’t make ends meet. Well, blame yourself. This is bullshit. One of the good things this film does is show how wrong that propaganda is, but Reich constantly falls down when he continues to put his faith in capitalism. Of course, I don’t expect him to do anything else. He is a liberal and the modern american liberal is afraid of radical change. He is an advocate of tweaking the system we have to make it more equal. Unfortunately – and we can look back over more than 100 years to show this conclusively – the system we have is capitalism and for the reasons stated above, its logic is faulty and it progressively makes things worse. The roller-coaster of change under capitalism can make it seem like some things are better, but the highs and lows get lower as time goes on and it is fueled literally and figuratively by exploitation. It constantly works toward inequality and concentration of wealth and power through exploitation. I won’t even begin a discussion of the psychological devastation it has caused because that would make this comment book-length.
Reich is correct, there is nothing wrong with globalization – but there is something wrong with corporate globalization. Creating NAFTA and bringing China into the WTO decimated our economy. Corporations (while they were making huge profits incidentally) wanted to rip our jobs from us (no, we didn’t “lose” them, we were bashed over the head and they were stolen) and exploit poor people in other countries, all just to make more, and more, and more…Neither Clinton nor Reich invented trade or trade organizations. Corporate interests got Clinton elected, wrote the legislation, and served on the boards that made it all happen. Yes, there are bad guys. Moyers has been good about naming them for years. They are members of ALEC, they are the walton family who almost single-handedly created the system for our goods to be made in China, they are the koch brothers, GE, coke, mcdonald’s, big oil, monsanto, bankers, apple (yes, apple), microsoft, and the gates foundation…the list is long.
I’m sure Reich wants to be diplomatic and keep his friends in high places, most likely so he can try to convince them to change, but it is also because he has been paid by the elite and/or their institutions his entire career: public service is never wholly public and rarely is it service. Also, elite schools have always been a part of the power structure and as far as I know, Reich has spent most of his time at those institutions since leaving “public” “service.” That being said, his heart is in the right place and his analysis of how we got here has a lot to recommend it. Some of his prescriptions aren’t bad and some are downright necessary; so, I will probably see his movie and continue to post info from his site – and I will continue to insist that capitalism is a doomed course. We need to organize to fundamentally change our system at the root.
The general analysis in this film is sound and it is well worth watching if you aren’t familiar with the facts they present. Unfortunately, at the very end, they quote a couple of natural law and precious metal bugs who could probably be classified as libertarian. That really only takes up a minute or so of the film, so it is by no means a deal-breaker. Other than that, plenty of common sense recommendations at the end: debt forgiveness, workers owning the means of production, redistributing wealth, etc…The biggest problem of course is that the filmmakers conclude we can have a kinder gentler capitalism. Not possible. The logic of capital is the commodification of all things, exploitation for profit at any cost, consolidation of wealth and power. We’d be much better off with a kinder gentler socialism, but that would be a false choice. We don’t have to choose between the two. Humans invented capitalism and socialism, we can invent other ways to organize society. In fact many think capitalism is essentially over. So what’s next? Unless (or possibly even if) people organize politically for radical change (i.e., structural change at the root), all the facts and trends point to those in power instituting a kind of neo-feudalism with a strong helping of techno-fascism. This is not hyperbole or sci-fi. We are well on our way. It seems most people have accepted it in one way or another. That may be the biggest problem of all.
Looks like a good movie. This interview is a good example of liberals coming to understand that charity does not work, that systemic problems need systemic answers, that seemingly individual problems have national and global consequences – and have political causes, i.e., people in power are causing problems like poverty. Unfortunately simply clicking on something is not going to change anything and even voting will have little systemic effect. The next step for liberals like this is to realize our entire political system is corrupt and needs radical change through collective action. Unfortunately, not going to happen anytime soon.
Click here to go to Davey D’s multimedia presentation. Must see discussion panel with Malcom X and civil rights leaders. Fascinating that with hindsight Malcom X ended up being the most wrong and the most right: wrong about racial separation and right about almost everything else, including the racism and hypocrisy of the establishment – and most americans.
Reich consistently has a solid analysis of economic problems. His only problem is that he is still a liberal democrat. Over the years he has been moving left, but he has to keep going. Left-leaning liberal democrats are in a bit of a catch-22. If they tell the whole truth and say we need some kind of socialism, they alienate huge swaths of people and endanger their careers. Of course, by definition they aren’t socialists, but if you listen, they always couch their arguments in safe terms: “we can be great again, etc…” If they toe the party line (though there is no such thing as a liberal democratic party), they are seen as essentially supporting the dominant power structure. The flaw in their thinking is underestimating the viciousness of our corporate masters and the institutions they control. In other words, everyone with a critique and voice should have the same sense of urgency as someone like Chris Hedges. There is a horrific new brand of neo-liberal (look it up) techno-fascism gripping all of our necks like a hungry vampire (and many fangs are well sunk and the blood is flowing). We should be afraid, then we should organize- and not just to vote. While voting for “the right” (correct) people is nice and we should do it when possible, we are far beyond that at this point. The system cannot simply be tweaked to set it (back?) on the right course. This is the biggest problem with liberal thought. Yes, organizing and actually putting forward candidates for office at every level is good too, but even that will not stop the vampires. To generalize in an extreme manner to make the point: about half the country thinks they’re doing fine – even if they happen to be a few paychecks from the street. The other half thinks they are fucked and nobody give a shit about them. And they seem to be almost totally correct. In the meantime the super rich continue to steal our wealth and figure out new ways to control every aspect of our lives. Well, as always, we’ve got a long way to go.