Friday, 27 August 2010

Yes We Can - Michael Moore's Roger & Me

I like documentaries. The older I get the harder it is to immerse myself in fiction and suspend disbelief. Yet despite enjoying the documentary genre, I've never really gone out of my way to watch them, except for maybe Michael Moore's work, and that was only after watching Bowling for Columbine. Before today,  I'd never seen Moore's first work 'Roger & Me'. I was aware of it and yet somehow I always assumed that because it was his earliest piece it would be less polished. Well that's wrong. It's right up there with the rest of them.

I've been working my way through recommended documentaries. If it wasn't for that cease & desist I recently received (complete with Microsoft identified malware attached to the word document) I'd probably be inclined to do a (hard) drive-by 'cloud' stick-up-job to secure them, but that's not sensible now so instead I've seen what's available for free online or else headed over to my 'Pirate' DVD dealer on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 5 open from 1am to 5am to purchase the 'Pirate brand' of merchandise. I assume that's an ironic wordplay joke by the entrepreneur in question, but you can check him out along with the other hundred or so late night media specialists that are quintessential Bangkok if the 'right to copy' has been infringed. 

Hell I can't tell. Who can?

Where was I? Oh yeah, Roger & Me. It's essential viewing. I think his talent lies in a sublime ability to make the most incendiary contrasts of video (house eviction over Christmas for a young family while GM CEO, Roger B. Smith quotes Dickens on festivities after laying off 30000 workers). Moore is consistently mild mannered in his requests to interview the well paid heads of corporations who were all gearing up in the late 80's to shift manufacturing abroad while essentially filleting the American way of life.

And it's the diminishing American way of life which is so resonant in this documentary. I know it's fashionable now for the art photography boho-set to relocate to ghost town Detroit and shoot long decayed hanging chandelier anterooms from ghostly and vacated semi decadent lower upper class mansions but it's all so vibrant now that Moore was shooting this pivotal change in the way that America structurally operated over 20 years ago. It's all there. Moore focuses on Flint but the Corporations' absence of sentiment is evident right from the git go.

The burning question for me as an Americanophile: one who grew up under the benevolent arm of Marshall-planned Wirtschaftwunder Deutschland is simply this: Does America (The U.S.) step on the back foot clumsily? 

The answer if Detroit or Flint Michigan is an indicator, must be yes. The sheer range of excessive and baseless optimism staring in the face of nation state downsizing was, in this documentary, the most disconcerting example of disconnect I've ever come across. I often wonder how the obese will manage if the food chain breaks down in the US when peak oil arbitrage suddenly excludes the citizens of a country that calls Iraq 'way out East Texas'. The answer to that one 'aint purdy' but who knows when that call gets made or who is pointing what tactical nuclear warheads at whom to squeeze one more fix out of the system.

I digress.

It's clear from this documentary that when hope becomes nothing but linguistic vapours (you can't eat hope after all) that the reality check for mindless consumption in the States will be an ugly affair. I don't mean that in a triumphal sense one bit, because for those of us looking closely at the Oriental Leviathan over here (China) it's clear they've bought into a discredited money model before it's had to time to conclude it's economic momentum. It's a bit of a shit sandwich all in all but I urge you to avoid taking a carbon footprint rich flight to Bangkok to buy this documentary at the kick ass price I did, and just download the mother off a disruptive peer to peer sharing network at a hard drive near you before the Feds get wind of it. We get very few chances in life to redistribute wealth from the the wealthy to the less wealthy and I have it on good authority that Michael Moore is cool with cutting out the middle man.

Lastly I couldn't help but noticing that the TV evangelist that Flint hired for 20 000 bucks in 1989 to cheer up the 'po' people, a Mr Robert H. Schuler, had an interesting programme title that I took a screen grab above. Someone once said that you can never go broke betting on the stupidity of the American people and I see now that it's irrelevantly true but equally when it comes to a venal and psychopathic corporate class, there is no smarter and more cunning beast than the American CEO.