'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Odds and Ends 

Midweek roundup of some commentary from other bloggers, in relation to subjects emphasized here at American Leftist.

Libertarians and V for Vendetta

Justin Raimondo, like most libertarians, it seems, gets it when it comes to V for Vendetta, a film that confronts the legitimacy of state violence, and contemplates the extent to which it will inevitably generate violence to resist it, as I discussed here last week. Raimondo makes the excellent point that patronizing cultural creations of such compelling aesthetic and political character is an essential aspect of the struggle to overcome neo-conservatism, and, indeed, the US global empire:

Go see V for Vendetta, and remember this: by supporting a work of art that embodies your political and philosophical values, you are helping to fight the cultural rot that the War Party feeds on. There is a scene in the movie when Natalie Portman is going about her job at the BTN [British Television Network] and passes a security guard watching some ridiculous "reality" show. She asks, "How can you watch that trash?" The contempt in her voice is clearly that of the authors of this script, who are acutely aware of the political consequences of entertainment as cultural "soma."

Alternately, a key moment as the anti-regime revolution gathers force is the rebellion of a BTN celebrity, who turns his show into a satire of the high chancellor (waspishly and brilliantly played by John Hurt). The catalytic revolutionary moment occurs when the public stops believing the lies of the regime – a moment V for Vendetta brings closer to realization in our own world. The value of the media as a political weapon is clearly understood by the makers of this movie, and they utilize it to make their effort a resounding success.

One aspect of my review justifies repetition: Critics have ignored the emotional impact of secondary characters, such as Gordon, a BTN talk show host, and Valerie, an actress who lived in London with her lesbian partner, who try, unsuccessfully, to live private, fulfilling lives, outside of the public constraints of the regime.

Valerie's recollection of her rejection by her family, her youthful independence, the joyful discovery of her partner, Patricia, and the subsequent destruction of their life together, is one of the most affecting film sequences in recent memory. Over at the Internet Movie Database, one person said that she cried throughout its entirety, and it is certainly an understandable response. As with the best of Hong Kong cinema, personal sentimentality is contrasted with public brutality, creating an intense 'alienation effect' that shatters the emotional defenses of an audience familiar with Hollywood convention. The experiences of Gordon, Valerie and Patricia, as portrayed by Stephen Fry, Natasha Wightman and Cosima Shaw, give a good film the emotional depth of greatness.

The New York Times Is Terrified By Venezuelan Foreign Aid

After the Times published a bizarre article yesterday about Hugo Chavez, and his financing of social welfare and economic projects throughout Africa and the Americas, Dave Lindorff nailed it:

What do you call a nation that provides medical aid to desperately poor people in Mexico, heating assistance to low-income families in the U.S., crucial project financing to some of the poorest countries in Africa, and aid to impoverished Caribbean island nations?

If you're the New York Times, you call it "provocative," and you call the leader of that country "the next Fidel Castro."

Of course, the real problem, as intimated by Lindorff, is Chavez's rejection of neoliberalism, with its pernicious structural adjustment plans, administered through the IMF and the World Bank, that require countries to dismantle or privatize their public services and assets:

Would that the U.S. would engage in more of this kind of "influence peddling," and less of the kind that involves arms sales, military bases and the training of secret police in the fine art of torture.

Imagine a Latin America where the U.S. and Venezuela vied in seeing who could provide more doctors for the peasants of Guatemala and Brazil, or who could provide lower-interest loans for water projects in Bolivia or Ecuador. Imagine, for that matter, a Philadelphia where poor people didn't have to depend upon handouts of cheap oil from Venezuela to keep their apartments warm through the winter because of federal cuts in heating oil assistance programs.

Certainly, a good idea, if a little utopian, but when the US, with strong bipartisan support, remains doggedly committed to globally imposing its economic system to the detriment of billions, arms sales, construction of permanent military bases (currently ongoing in Iraq) and the training of police forces and militias (again, as has been done in Iraq), becomes a rational, even necessary means of implementing the policy. In such a context, anyone, like Chavez, who retains control of his country's resources, like oil, and uses those resources to socially benefit people so that they do not have to follow the dictates of the US, can only be perceived by the Times as a menace.

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