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Why I Loved “Capitalism: A Love Story”

October 4, 2009

capitalism_love_story[1]I went to see “Capitalism: A Love Story” last night and was absolutely delighted. In the past, I haven’t followed Michael Moore very closely. I did see – like everyone else – Bowling for Columbine, and was only somewhat impressed. It seemed at the time that Moore was all-too-willing to bend the facts when it suited his political aims.

Perhaps the new film bends some facts, I don’t know, but its overall picture of capitalism run amuck is spot-on. Morever, incendiary rhetoric is precisely what the Left needs right now. While Obama has been preaching bipartisanship and worrying about “bending the cost curve,” the Right has taken to the streets – think Tea Party protests and town hall meetings. So, without compromising a commitment to truth and fairness, what we need is more outrage – outrage at the banks, the drug companies, and at their allies in congress. Enter Michael Moore.

The other thing I loved about this film is that it shows us aspects of the country usually supressed in news coverage, films, and on television. Rarely does Hollywood or the mainstream media take us to poorer parts of the country. I can think of any number of films set in LA or New York City, but almost none in small-town Michigan or Cleveland. Or the South. Moore tells us the stories of a Michigan man evicted from his home of decades; an airline pilot $100,000 in student-loan debt trying to live on a salary of less than $20,000; and a Southerner whose wife’s death earned Walmart somewhere around $80,000 (I forget the exact figure). Even when Moore takes us to Chicago, he does not tell the story of the relatively affluent — a familiar bunch — but striking factory workers.

At this point, Moore shows us a Catholic priest giving communion to the workers – another thing we’re not supposed to see. Usually, Christianity gets represented as the handmaiden of Capitalism – for which the Right praises it and the Left condemns it. In “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Moore interviews priests who argue that Capitalism (at least in its current form) is incompatible with Christianity, and mocks right-wing arguments against helping the poor and sick by overdubbing such arguments on gospel passage spoken by a film depiction of Jesus. To paraphrase a notable overdub, Jesus says at one point “I’m sorry Lazarus, but leprosy is a pre-existing condition.” Moore’s was a Christianity intelligible to me, something that has become increasingly elusive in mainstream representations – weren’t the gospels supposed to be radical?

So there you have some initial impressions. Now go and see the film.

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