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Friday, January 25, 2013

Michael Moore: A hypocrite? A debate

Some commentators argue that the American left corresponds to European right in the right-to-left political spectrum thereby implying that there is no meaningful or viable leftist alternative in American politics. The perception in US, particularly in the right, is just the opposite: US risks becoming a socialist country with Obama as president. 

Michael Moore needs no introduction as a filmmaker. His identity as a writer/columnist is, however, less known worldwide. He is very adept at making provocative films/documentaries and writing similar columns. One of his recent columns titled 'I do not support the troops' deals with the hypocrisy of many in US who pretend to support the troops and say so but do nothing to support them really. 

Coincidentally, a facebook group named Capitalism recently shared a sketch of Moore holding a camera, saying 'Capitalism is evil' with dollar bills sprouting from everywhere in his obese body. Surath Giri, a prominent writer in Kathmandu associated with Khabar South Asia shared the photo with 'Hypocrisy of the left at its height' as the description. Subsequently, a debate ensued between Giri and me as to whether Moore is a real hypocrite. Here I reproduce the debate for the wider readership: 

Jiwan Kshetry Surathji, he is too obese, agreed. I see no other virtue of hypocrisy. He makes enlightening movies.

Surath GiriJiwan Kshetry I have no problems with his obesity. If you noticed, the picture doesn't mention anything about his obesity. It is his personal choice. What, you probably missed is that part where it mentions that he is a multimillionaire who has accumulated so much wealth himself but says capitalism is evil.

Jiwan Kshetry: Surathji, well he says so but with some very solid arguments. Beside his movies, he frequently writes about politics and I have read him endorse Democrats and deplore Republicans at US. He is part of the core capitalist system of the world today and his movies earn him a lot. But he tells a breath-taking story of how capitalist system can screw ordinary people and propel them towards ill-health and death in his movie 'Sicko'. Even assuming capitalism is the best possible system in world today, is there any harm in pointing the inherent pitfalls and downsides? Moreover, Moore is one of the most prominent dissenting voice in US today (having considerable following and credibility). Is that not good for US democracy? On the issue of being a multimillionare, of course, he cannot help it as the movies are circulated in the capitalist market!

Surath Giri: Isn't that hypocrisy? I mean you make millions of dollars using that same apparatus of capitalist system and saying "it's evil" "I hate it"... He is making money out of Intellectual Property Rights which are at the extremes of property rights...and I hope you know that he claimed tax-payer funded subsidy (although he is multimillionaire) for his film and guess what...he had previously criticised the very subsidies earlier... that is pure hypocrisy and oppotunism in my standards...

FYI: I am an ardent supporter of free speech. I believe that dissenting voices and opinions should be allowed in any societies.

Jiwan Kshetry: Well, I neither want nor can object to your allegations of hypocrisy to Moore. You must have said it because you know the details of him claiming subsidy etc. Debate about the issue of hypocrisy is over. My personal temptation, however, is that he has some good virtues which have the capability of superseding that vice. His service to millions of people in US and outside are commendable because very few filmmakers do what he does. I doubt if we can even count how many movies have been made at Hollywood praising and glorifying the American war culture. But how many widely circulated documentaries or films have dealt with the human cost of those wars to the war-ravaged countries, as well as the relatively poorer Americans sending the recruits for those wars? That is where the role of an ingenious and knowledgeable hypocrite (ready to swim against the currents) like Moore comes. At least I would forgive his hypocrisy and opportunism!

Surath Giri: Jiwan Kshetry Would you believe me if I said, one of the greatest myths surrounding capitalism is that it promotes war. State Capitalism/Crony Capitalism , fascism, imperialism promotes war but not free market capitalism. As you must be aware, a powerful state is a prerequisite for war. US, USSR, UK, Spain, Japan, Germany and every other country that has promoted war had a powerful state that had all the power and resources at its disposal needed for a war.

Jiwan Kshetry: Hard to refute. The problem now is, I fear this world will never see true free market capitalism, at least in our lifetimes. My understanding is that if China is prototype of State Capitalism and Russia that of Crony Capitalism, today's US could best be characterized by its imperialist streaks (not quite in conventional sense but in all practical aspects of world today). As many thinkers including our own Pradip Giri have repeatedly argued, even USSR was never a truly communist state but only a version of State Capitalism. Still it is treated as equivalent and even prototype of communist state in the world, for all practical purposes, in history as well as in discourses. Today, US presents itself as the model capitalist state the way once USSR did as the model communist state. So, the statement that capitalism promotes war could be argued to be a myth at the intellectual level but that can hardly support the assertion that present version of capitalism in the world is pro-peace or anti-war. Not only the US but also the megalomaniacs at second power house of Capitalism (Europe), the French, are now itching for war at many fronts reviving the memories of outright colonial rule of the past. So at least for practical reasons, the present capitalist system in the world has two features 1) it has stood for continued military dominance of the west (however devastating wars that entails) and 2) war profiteering has become the norm of the day for advanced economies. At least for foreseeable future, I see the need of capable dissenters like Moore to expose the workings of the present day world and the intricacies of prevalent version of capitalism; regardless of the merits of an ideal free market capitalism that supposedly opts for peace and not war.

1 comment:

Bibhusit said...

1. "The problem now is, I fear
this world will never see true
free market capitalism, at
least in our lifetimes."
Free market capitalism once existed but due to its own laws, it transformed itself into monopoly capitalism, and then into imperialism, i.e. its highest stage where bank capital intermixes with industrial capital and takes the form of finance capital, which dominates over indigenous industrial capital of the oppressed countries and hence hinders its development. You are correct however that you won't see free market capitalism. Nobody in the future will, as it has already surpassed that stage.
2. USSR was not a socialist, but a degenerated workers' state under Stalin, who betrayed the revolution and led to a bureaucratic ruling clique under the banner of socialism. The bureaucracy later became state capitalist which lived off the surplus value of labour extracted from workers. Workers coming to power and nationalising means of production doesn't mean socialism has been achieved. According to Marxism, socialism is a socio-economic system which is higher form than that of capitalism and which can only be realised on an international scale. Stalin, after the death of Lenin, to counter Leon Trotsky, came up with this reactionary , anti-Marxist theory of "socialism in one country". The rest is history.

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जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

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