Movie review: The Last Station (on Peoples World page)
Movie review: Goodbye Solo: A study in dialectics
Directed by Jason Reitman, Starting George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and an amazing array of actors playing corporate downsizing victims and the people who fire them.
Our lives are “up in the air.” We’re uncertain about clinging to our jobs, and over 17 million of us are already dangling outside the corporate windows. Not just our jobs but our relationships, too, are uncertain. Most relationships aren’t heading for marriage, and many, if not most, marriages are headed for divorce. Even those with stable marriages and jobs don’t have any idea what will happen next. We’re up in the air.
George Clooney’s character is up in the air, but by choice. He likes airline travel, and doesn’t particularly care for anybody in particular. He gives seminars on getting rid of relationship “baggage.” His main job is as a traveling hatchetman. He fires people for a living. He doesn’t think much about them, nor about much of anything except piling up a record number of American Airlines “Advantage Miles.”
American Airlines should have gotten credit as the third lead in the movie. Its logo appears at least fourteen times, while its corporate partners in the hotel and car rental industry get 3 or 4 product placements each. But product placement, too, is a sign of our alienated times.
We loved the movie and talked about it all the way home. We skinned back layer after layer of universal meaning and cogent commentary.
While the movie might be taken as light commentary, or more likely as extremely dark comedy, it’s actually a deep study of a very complicated 21st century kind of person. And about us, dangling, up in the air!
Political pundits and "Asia experts" are speculating on why the worldwide recession seems to have hit China much more softly than other economies. Typically, they counterpose China's "authoritarianism" with American "democracy" as if the answer would magically appear. They also say that the U.S. has moved toward government regulation and that the Chinese have moved away from it so that the two economies are roughly the same mix of capitalism and socialism. Still, they can find no answer to the original question.
Even if the assumptions above were correct, they still wouldn't be able to find an answer. Without a dialectical approach, all their statistics and analysis won't help them.
Once we see that economies, like everything else, are not static but are moving, then we can begin to understand the world. It may be true that the United States economy, after years of insane deregulation, is now moving toward a more regulated economy. It may also be true that the Chinese Economy was firmly regulated under Mao Tse-Tung and has since then gone through major deregulation in some areas. It obviously isn't true that the two economies have both arrived at the same place. But even if it were true, the only way to understand the difference is to realize that the two economies have been traveling in totally different directions!
Only by understanding their motion can we really see why the Chinese are doing better. They may be deregulating areas of their economy, but they do not have the entrenched capitalist class that is making progressive reform almost impossible in the U.S.
As soon as the U.S. government finished handing out $1 trillion in tax money to the greediest corporatations and financiers, they began their campaign to stop any government regulation. Even the crying need for a health care solution in the United States faces a mountain of money opposed to any reform! A solution to the jobs crisis is a crying need in the United States, but the capitalist class will oppose it with all their might.
To figure out why the Chinese are suffering this recession more easily than the United States, don't just look at where they are. Look at where they were, how they are changing, and which direction they are going!
By James Thompson
I remember reading about the people diving out of windows in New York after the stock market crash in 1929. The recent shootings at Fort Hood, Texas and Orlando, Florida suggest that people today may have a different response to economic collapse than what happened during the Great Depression.
It should be pointed out that the horrible events in Fort Hood and Orlando did not occur in a vacuum. They were not only acts of deranged individuals. They were the violent acts of people responding to an environment of violence.. This does not excuse the horrors of their deeds, but it is important to try to understand the process if we are to move forward.
It is no coincidence that economists announced 17.5% unemployment, just after the despicable acts of violence erupted. The unemployment rate is staggering, but that says nothing about the mounting terror of the populace who fear losing their jobs. As a practicing psychologist for over 28 years, I have never heard so many people voice their concerns about losing their livelihood as now.
Let’s look at the respective incidents. From the media reports, the killer at Fort Hood was a military psychiatrist who happened to be Muslim. He allegedly opened fire on people on the base, killing 13 and injuring 31. Reports also indicate he had been seeking to separate from the military and had even engaged an attorney to assist him in this effort. Apparently, he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was facing imminent deployment to Afghanistan. He alleged he had been harassed for being Muslim since 9/11.
Mental health professionals know that given enough stress, anyone can lose contact with reality and may behave in irrational ways. Does this make the person a “bad apple” as has already been asserted by the military and the media? Why was this person not granted his requested separation from the military?
In the case of the shootings in Orlando, the story is similar in terms of overwhelming stress leading to irrational behavior. The perpetrator in Orlando was apparently fired from his entry level job with an engineering company in 2007. He was financially destitute and was holding down a low level job. He killed six people at the site of his former employer. Why did this person not have better opportunities for employment? Why was he destitute? Could he have been rehabilitated and placed in an appropriate employment situation so that his basic needs were met?
Some scholars have pointed out that when a nation is violent in its dealings with other countries, it will be violent in its dealings with its own people. Endless war against other nations has resulted in pervasive violence at home. Of course, the wars are a result of continued class war and the violence at home stems from the class war here as well.
We are in a phase where the differences between working people and the owners of the means of production are in sharp contrast. This clash of interests is extremely stressful for working people at this time.
Remember the context. Recent U.S. history is filled with bloodshed including the Civil War, the annihilation of the indigenous peoples of North America, violence against trade unionists and minority groups, and innumerable wars against foreign countries such as Viet Nam, Korea, Panama, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan. This list does not include the 14 invasions of the newly formed Soviet Union, the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the firebombing of Dresden, the violence against Cuba and the continued economic violence, the coup in Chile and countless other acts which benefited only wealthy Americans and ignored the needs of working people around the world. Violence to support Capitalist exploitation of working people only begets further violence.
Violence has an effect on the psyche of the community and we see the results every day in our communities. Working people do not benefit from wars overseas or violence at home. It is time for us to unite and oppose further wars overseas and stand together against the economic and physical violence at home.
In normal times, desperate people begging on street corners are not seen as critical to the class struggle. Though they represent a heart-rending commentary on capitalism, they are usually almost impossible to organize and more likely to be hired by capitalists for the foulest deeds than to make a genuine contribution to the workers' struggle. Tacticians refer to them not as workers but as a separate class of "lumpen proletariat."
But these are not normal times.
In the present crisis (2007-?) long-term unemployment is reaching all-time highs, and home foreclosures have broken all records. American workers are living in shelters and seeking their subsistence on the streets. In a November 2 article in the Las Vegas Sun, "The New Faces of Day Labor. U.S. citizens are joining immigrants in store parking lots," reporter Timothy Pratt interviews a number of workers with solid employment backgrounds who now stand on sidewalks among the immigrant day laborers they may previously have scorned!
In several cities, street people are crudely organized around production and distribution of a "street newspaper." It is usually written by out-of-luck street people but edited and produced through charitable persons. Its main economic role, in normal times, is to provide first amendment protection for newspaper salespersons who might otherwise be arrested for panhandling. In this crisis, though, such publications are more important and need to be looked at with a tactical eye.
The Dallas "Street Zine," subtitled "Self-Help for People Living in Poverty" sells for $1 on downtown sidewalks. The vendors are carefully vetted and wear badges approved by city government. They pay $15 for a bundle of 60 papers, but may realize more than $60 from sympathetic buyers. Several businesses pay $25 to $400 to advertize in the paper. One ad asks for $15 contributions to help street people buy their first bundle. The November issue was apparently paid for by the journalism department of Southern Methodist University. A hard-hitting lead article by SMU student Jessica Huseman exposes the city's anti-panhandling law as a mean-hearted failure. Another article by Huseman explains the motivations of SMU graduate Reverend Dennis Strickland, who credits Professor Joerg Rieger for directing him into a ministry of helping "persons who had become disenfranchised." Rieger's name comes up often in North Texas labor union circles as he works for labor/church cooperation.
Students contributed other relevant articles, including several interviews with street people, but some of the articles and poems carry both a name by-line and the vendor number of a newspaper distributor. Aaron McCord (Vendor Z-1490) writes a summary of the American health care crisis that is as good as any published anywhere.
The physical center of organization for Dallas homeless is the Stewpot, where lunches are served from the basement of First Presbyterian Church. They ask for $15 newspaper contributions and other help to be sent to The Stewpot, 408 Park Av, Dallas 75201. It's worth looking into.
When a federal judge imposed harsh sentences on the people raising funds to help Palestinians, I wrote a PWW article.
The underlying questions concern democracy, civil rights, peace, and imperialism.
A serious look at events entails the need to understand civil rights in America, which is usually referred to in theoretical papers as the national question. CPUSA leader Jarvis Tyner wrote an excellent paper dated November 16-17, 2002. It was written during the post 9-11 Bush hysteria and during the same time that the Justice Department was raging against the Holy Land Foundation of Richardson, Texas. Tyner wrote, "Over a thousand Arabs and Arab Americans are in jail with no charges against them. People are being fired, beaten up and killed. [Attorney General] Ashcroft, whose racism is well known, is leading this anti-Arab racist offensive, in order to scare the American people into accepting their program of war, racism and repression. This is clearly a massive diversion from growing problems of poverty, homelessness, unemployment and hunger. This is very dangerous."
The persecution of this charitable organization, which had its actual beginnings with the 9-11 terrorist hysteria, is really only a small ugly tile in a mozaic of horror known to the world as the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The United States continues to back untold death and misery there since they took it over, along with most of the other leading world imperialist nations' activities, in the period after World War II. In general, England had taken advantage of world-wide revulsion against anti-semitism, continuing anti-semitism in the imperialist nations where many European Jews had hoped to settle, and its own need to establish a beachhead of power in the oil-rich Middle East to establish the theocratic state of Israel. The issues are not simple nor easily resolved, but a better understanding of imperialism, which is treated in our on-line school, helps.
The People's Weekly World blog has an article on the Dallas picket May 29, 2009, for the Employee Free Choice Act. It is part of a nationwide effort to target the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act.
Getting the Act passed is a major priority for progressive Americans. It would make union organizing much easier. Its detractors, unable or unwilling to declare simply that they oppose having workers organize, are basing their campaign on an outrageous lie.
Underlying the drive for Employee Free Choice Act are a number of very interesting theoretical questions.
Are unions more important than other progressive organizations? If so, why?
How does this national struggle relate to the class struggle in general?
How does this national struggle relate to the struggle for democracy?
A lot of different tactics are being applied on behalf of Employee Free Choice. Which ones are most appropriate?
The Little School has some relevant educational modules: