Sunday, January 22, 2012

Occupy Metropolis?

So, I took a film studies class this past semester. No particular reason why . . . except I needed to have an upper-level humanities course for my journalism degree, and one of my teachers said film classes are easy. It so happens that he was right . . . plus, I got to watch a bunch of movies for academic purposes—pretty nice, right?

Anyway, the theme of the class is portrayals of utopias and dystopias in film and literature. One of the films we watched was Fritz Lang’s 1927 expressionist film Metropolis. I had heard of the film for years, but the opportunity to view it had never arisen until then (the good news? It was the super-extended cut, chock-full of bizarre German stuff. The bad news? The screening was on Halloween night, which was a killjoy because there were a lot of things I would rather be doing on Halloween). I really enjoyed the movie, more than I expected to. It was visually striking, with visual effects that seemed out of place in such an old film, but what struck me most was the very clear social parallel of the film—a parallel which seems particularly relevant in this, our day of civil unrest and ham-fisted protestery (I may be an English aficionado, but I’m not above making my speech up as I go).

Probably the most intense sequence of the film is when the workers, led astray by the villainous robot who acts as the whore of Babylon, abandon the underground Workers’ City to run amok in the city above. Let’s compare this to the Occupy Wall Street movement (you knew it was coming).

First off, this bunch of iPhone-packing hipsters (a stereotype, I know, but there are still plenty of them to be found amongst the “Occupy” crowd) are not the world-weary workers of Metropolis, who slave away every day to survive. 99% of the “99%” aren’t even sure what they’re protesting, but youthful zeal along with the allure of ambiguously-defined social change are too sweet to resist, even if OWS’ brand of change is perilous at best. In this day and age, revolution and anarchy have become something the youth of our nation aspire to be a part of (I loves me some Alan Moore, but if I see another Guy Fawkes mask at an OWS protest, I may need to toss my copy of V for Vendetta . . . okay, so I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s still irritating), but what is so wrong with “The Establishment” that it needs to be overthrown? Reformed, yes, but not defenestrated entirely. I mean, I’m not exactly on the Ron Paul bandwagon (there’s just something about him I don’t like . . . can’t put my finger on it yet), but I will say this: I respect the man’s dedication to the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they put that together—it wasn’t a half-@$$ed job. Y’know, if we’d just go back to that nearly 250-year-old document and look at what it says and why, I daresay we’d be on the right track (I could say the same thing about the Bible, but that’s a different kettle of fish). The whole point of the American Revolution was to eschew big government and set up a system that was fair to the individual states but promoted an overall sense of order and good. Occupy Wall Street isn’t like the American Revolution . . . if anything, it’s like the Bolshevik revolt, a violent coup which led to the rise of faux-communism in Russia, and we all saw what happened to the Soviet Union. It’s also like the workers’ revolt in Metropolis, which nearly destroyed the entire city in a fit of commie rage. That crap don’t work, kids.

In Metropolis, Grot, the foreman of the Heart Machine, is flabbergasted when the marauding workers come to destroy it, and he makes a valid point: while they’re spreading chaos and destruction (“Occupying,” in layman’s terms), who’s watching the children? Granted, the children of the OWS demonstrators aren’t necessarily drowning . . . unless somebody left them in the bathtub . . . but you get the general idea. Why aren’t they putting all this energy into helping their own communities? Why not actually do something to help someone or make a difference instead of causing destruction and impeding people from doing their jobs?

Look, I get where they’re coming from, for the most part. I get that the system is stacked against the “have nots,” myself included. I get that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.  I get that the head and the hands remain, now as ever, in steadfast opposition to each other, because there is no heart to be found between either of them. And yet, what I don’t get is why they think wasting their time pitching tents on Wall Street, Main Street, Broadway or County Road 2900 will make a hill of beans’ difference in the big picture. It’s like I’ve said before, do they expect money to spill forth from the heavens? Do they want B-Rock Obama to proclaim that the status quo shall be turned upside-down or completely leveled, that the CEOs will be pushing brooms and the huddled masses occupying Wall Street will be the ones running things? What do they hope to accomplish? If anything, I fear that their actions will push tensions between the protestors and the police to a breaking point, and that will really help no one.

An even scarier consequence of the OWS movement is this: what if they really do get what they want? What results from Wall Street and the 1% being “held accountable?” The ultimate boogeyman: “Big Government.” We can barely afford to maintain the Welfare state we’ve got—how could we ever hope to start shoveling out money to everyone? Thinking like that has killed nations, and even though communism in its purest form is a good thing, neither it nor its slightly less pipe-dreamish cousin socialism can work in a large group, i.e. a nation. The bigger the group, the easier it is for corruption to sprout up, and socialism will only lead to faster corruption. Capitalism is the only system that keeps everyone on their toes, rewards hard work and individual initiative, and that allows all citizens the chance to succeed.  Capitalism is what made America the land of opportunity, and it is attempts to socialize America that is crippling our economy. I mean, we’ve had economic problems during my entire lifetime, but as I recall, Bill Clinton selling us out to China really didn’t help. America is a debtor nation, and the only hope we have of digging ourselves out of the hole we made for ourselves is by returning to our roots and by restoring our drive to succeed. American ingenuity is gone because it is no longer rewarded; this must be changed or we will not survive.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What change does Occupy Wall Street represent? Do you want the world to be made up of quitters, of people who either devalue hard work or just give up hope? Because Occupy Wall Street has no hope, no drive. OWS is made of broken values and bitterness. OWS is not change for the better.

Leading by example does not mean leading others to complain and be counterproductive. Leadership means inspiring others to work toward something good, something that will accomplish desirable ends for humankind. Instead of protesting, why not suggest something constructive? Instead of causing massive property damage, why not build something people can use and enjoy? Instead of raping and pillaging, why not volunteer to help the needy in your community, in whatever ways you can? Seriously, y’all . . . why can’t people do something good for themselves? The mediator between head and hands must be the heart, so follow your hearts, use your heads and then use your hands to be a positive change in the world.