“Capitalism: A Love Story” (2009). Director: Michael Moore; Writer: Michael Moore. www.capitalismalovestory.com
It began innocently enough. A flirtatious smile, a knowing glance, a suggestive allusion to titillating thrills, all culminating in a provocative proposal. We gleefully grabbed our wallets, hoping they would become as swollen as our … expectations. But before anyone could say “penicillin shot,” many of us found ourselves in the throes of a distasteful predicament, taken in by the wiles of those vilest of all creatures, capitalists. So sums up the premise of the latest offering from director Michael Moore, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
Moore’s new documentary (a word I use a little hesitantly, given the film’s decidedly subjective viewpoint) explores the roots and ramifications of the current economic meltdown. As in most of his films, Moore makes his case by showing what happens on both the macro level (by addressing the big picture issues) and the micro level (by relating the personal anecdotes of those most impacted by said issues). And, as usual, he does so with his signature mixture of wit, pathos and personal showmanship. It’s a formula that has long served him well, and it does so again here.
In making his case, Moore dissects the financial debacle by tracing its timeline, showing how the systematic elimination of regulatory safeguards, coupled with the unbridled greed of corporations, the disdain of the moneyed elite and the ambitions of complicit politicians, combined to produce the mess we’re now in. He builds on this through the presentation of a series of damning statistics and interviews with experts in economics and government. And he punctuates his argument by chronicling the painful fallout experienced by those most affected by these egregious acts.
As convincing as most of his contentions are, however, I can’t say I agree with all of his conclusions. For example, he uses some rather broad brushstrokes to paint capitalism as an intrinsic “evil.” While this may be true of unregulated capitalism, which has clearly been allowed to run rampant, to say that all capitalism is evil would be like saying fire is inherently bad because it can be used as a tool of arson. I’m certainly not defending the actions of those who have unapologetically exploited the capitalist system to shamelessly line their pockets, but I also wouldn’t crucify the small business owner who has relied on free enterprise to make an honest living, either.
Moreover, little is said about the role the victims played in the unfolding of this scenario. Because we all participate in the practice of the law of attraction, we all take part in the materialization of events created through it, including negative manifestations like this, whether or not we’re comfortable admitting it. Those victimized by the schemes of financial hucksters ultimately made choices through their underlying beliefs and intents to draw such circumstances to themselves, enabling them to partake in these half-baked ploys. Homeowners, for example, didn’t have to exhaust the equity in their properties for reckless overspending on electronic gadgets and Vegas vacations; they could have chosen to exercise restraint rather than blindly buy in to the gravy train mentality. Stories such as this are noticeably absent from the film.
Consequently, in all fairness, victims must ask themselves why they participated in a co-created scenario like this in the first place. Was it to get a much-needed economics lesson? Was it to wake up their consciousness from a long-slumbering sleep? Or was it because they were quietly drawn to the allure of greed and power in the same way as those who perpetrated the scams upon them? If things are to be fixed going forward, the beliefs underlying the values that produced such damage must be addressed on both sides of the equation; those hurt by the system must acknowledge their role in its decay just as much as those who orchestrated its demise.
Thankfully, Moore makes up for these shortcomings by showing examples of steps that everyday folks have taken to rectify this situation and remedy their grievances. In some cases, he also showcases instances where people have found better ways of doing business, drawing upon answers that are based more on cooperation than competition. I applaud Moore’s decision to include such segments in this film (something he has done more of here than in his other pictures), for they present viable options and offer hope rather than simply voicing complaints. Venting is easy; providing solutions inspires.
“Capitalism: A Love Story” is by no means a perfect picture, but it offers much food for thought, not just about the economy but also about the values to which we aspire, for both those at the top and bottom of the financial ladder. So the next time you’re tempted to do something for the sheer love of money, think about everything you might be drawing to you in making that decision – especially if you want to avoid those penicillin shots.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics, free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.