Suddenly I want to write a short story about zombie Adam Smith… No! No shorts! Must stay on track with Book 3. At 45,000 words now — still behind schedule, but finally starting to see good strong bones in this thing.
Anyway, as you can probably guess from the subject header, I did a movie double-header this past weekend, going to see Zombieland and Capitalism: A Love Story with my Altered Fluid peeps. Zombieland was the hands-down winner of this particular cage match — smartly-written, well-acted, clever and generally hilarious. Still not as good as Shaun of the Dead, which remains the king almighty of zombie flicks IMO, but really really close. Actually I’d like to go see it again, though I doubt I’ll have time before it leaves theaters.
Moore’s Capitalism pissed me off, and not in the way I think he intended. It basically made an incomplete argument. Now, I’m actually a fan of Moore’s films; I respect him for saying things other people won’t, and for making me think. Which was the problem with this film — he wasn’t saying anything new, and he offered no startling conclusions. No conclusions at all, in fact. Case in point: he mentioned the fact that Americans these days must pay more and more for basic necessities: housing, medical care, etc. But wages have been stagnant for the past 30 years; we’ve basically just gone into debt to afford it all. It would have been simple, the work of a moment, for Moore to draw the obvious conclusion and analyze it: that in essence, Americans have endured 30 years of steady pay cuts. Why do we tolerate it? Why do so many of us seem to believe we’re better off, or blame the wrong people when we realize we’re not? Why are so many of us happily making things worse by giving more power to the people orchestrating this theft? Moore neither asks nor answers these questions. He simply moves on to another anecdata tidbit. The result is lots of factoids in search of a unifying theorem.
So for anyone else who saw this film and felt the same frustration, here’s a few recommendations of books I’ve read that covered the same subject matter but did a better job of it:
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins. Perkins used to work for a Halliburton-like company back in the 70s and 80s, and in this chilling tell-all book he explains just how the American military-industrial complex destroys democracy and economies in other countries. Gets a little silly at some points; Perkins tries to style himself as a middle-aged corporate-drone James Bond in personality, and that goes over about as well as Michael Steele trying to be hip and “urban”. But aside from that, good stuff.
- Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, by Joe Bageant. Bageant, who runs rings around Michael Moore on a daily basis on his website, basically asks the question: why the heck do people in “middle America” keep voting against their own best interests? Since he’s originally from a small town in Virginia, he goes back home and does a thorough analysis of the problem’s roots by talking to the folks in question. Clear and hilarious, and best of all he actually answers the question.
- Probably my favorite of these is Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead, by Tamara Draut. Confession time: this book saved me from bankruptcy. A few years after I finished grad school I was struggling to get by, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I was doing wrong. I had a decent-paying professional job, though it had taken me several years to work up to the “decent-paying” part. I wasn’t living the high life; I kept a budget, rented a tiny attic apartment, drove an aging compact hooptie, even grew some of my own food in a garden plot. Then I read Draut’s book. She points out that America’s current economic system is essentially designed to rope young people into lifelong wage slavery through a three-way combo of student loans, credit cards, and the aforementioned 30-year-income stagnation. Basically Draut presents the same facts as Moore, but goes right to the devastating conclusion. After reading this book I decided not to declare bankruptcy, but instead made some painful choices like moving into a cheaper, less-safe neighborhood, and leaving a job I loved for one that paid better. (::puts on counselor hat:: Neither choice is something I recommend, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.) Because frankly, I’m one of the lucky ones who still had options. Not everyone does.
There are only three recs here, but as you might have guessed, I read a lot of stuff like this. Not because I enjoy it — I actually find this kind of thing depressing as hell — but because I feel a compulsion to understand how the world around me works, especially in terms of money and power. It helps my writing too, particularly in terms of worldbuilding. So if you’ve got additional recommendations for books of this nature, lay ’em on me. Baby’s got a trilogy to finish.