Lights, Camera, Revolution!

I was listening to that incredibly talented entertainer Ricky “Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me” Roberts this morning  and got to hear one of  Bobbo “Its Common Sense Because I Say So” Basso’s Tom Paine takeoffs which inspires the following vignette:

INT STUDIO CHIEF’S OFFICE—DAY

THE SCENE: A standard Studio Mogul’s lair, self-aggrandizing celeb photos on the wall, lots of chrome and gleam and an acre-size executive desk.   The MOGUL, sits feet up behind the desk, requisite stogy clenched in teeth.  The WRITER stands before the desk, schoolboy at attention, making his pitch.

WRITER: I’m tellin’s ya, man, this story has it all.  It’s Mister Smith Goes to Washington meets BraveheartMeet John Doe meets Pulp Fiction….

MOGUL: (intrigued) Tell me more….

WRITER: Okay – Act One:  the handsome charismatic prince sweeps the country off its feet, wowing them with his repertoire of multi-syllabic sweet nothings…

MOGUL: Who you thinking’?  Pitt?  Clooney?

WRITER: No, no, here’s the twist.  The guy’s black .

MOGUL: Oh, Freeman.

WRITER: No, younger and hipper.  More a Don Cheadle or  a Denzel. So anyway, Act One he wins the country and sweeps into the White House

MOGUL: Black guy president?  So what, the world ends?  World always ends when a black guy’s president.

WRITER: No, no, that’s too cliche. I mean America as we know it almost ends.  But the American people come to their senses and save it.  So in Act Two  the country turns on him like a woman scorned!

MOGUL: Classic! Boy meets girl, loses girl.  So what brings him down?  Sex Scandal?  Corruption?  Corrupt sex scandal—I really like those? Bloody controversial war?

WRITER: No, bigger ‘n that.  The dude pushes through—are you ready for this—a healthcare reform.

MOGUL:  In America?  Get real.  Adolescent wizards and vampires are more believable.

WRITER: I didn’t  say comprehensive reform. Naw, just a little reform. You know, kinda a watered down Massachusetts thing that that guy with the really  good hair did before he ran for president.  Nothing as radical as that Nixon dude or Truman  talked about, for godsakes.  I’m not talkin’ fantasy here.   So, anyway, it gets it past and then all these mobs take to the streets screaming about how he’s a dictator bringin’ godless communism to America.

MOGUL: Serves the commie bastard right.  So in Act III he sees the error of his ways, begs America for forgiveness, repeals his ill fated reform and wins the girl—I mean the people—back!

WRITER: No, no.  Too obvious. The twist is in Act III the people, now driven  absolutely insane by this guy giving healthcare to millions of people rebel.  They take to the streets and storm the capitol.  When they’re done a new Republican congress populated by really good looking white people with really nice teeth (thanks to the dental plan their corporate employers provided them as top rank executives)  takes over.  They impeach the young, brash prince—and his trusty old F-bombing sidekick and make their handsome white Speaker with really good hair the new Prez.  Then the guy gets rid of the healthcare reform (and Medicare, social security, welfare, all environmental laws, meat inspection and the like). As the people rejoice in the streets (of course, a lot of them are living there by then) the music comes up – something really patriotic and uplifting…

MOGUL: How about Dixie?  That’s a catchy tune!

WRITER: Love it!  So the music comes up and we fade to black. Whadda ya think?

MOGUL: Love it, man, love it.  One thing—you think maybe you can tweak it so the healthcare reform turns out to have unleashed a virus or something that turns normal, rational people into invective-spitting deranged anti-government zombies?  Or even better, Libertarian Vampires ready to feed on the body politic? You know, Advise and Consent meets 27 Days Later.

WRITER: Don’t see why not.

MOGUL: Outstanding.  Only one problem though…

WRITER: What’s that boss?

MOGUL: We make fiction at this studio, not documentaries.  Whadda think we are—the History Channel?

FADE OUT

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Mr. Potter is Winning, Still.

(My perennial Christmas Missive, loyal reader.  And yes, the Potters of the world are still ahead in the game of life.  One year after the election of George Barack Obama Bailey, with healthcare  reform delayed,  Wall Street reform dismissed and Obama’s agenda being fought in a scorched earth Republican retreat right out of Tolstoy,  the Potters are still holding firm.  Perhaps by Obama Christmas II the tides may turn. For now, let us at least raise a voice of prayer and a glass of cheer to the fact the Potters aren’t adding as much to their winning totals as they used to. Oh, and a PS:  for those of you who do not like IAWL because, in the end, old man Potter gets away with the Bailey cash, you are missing a major point of the movie.  For George to get his own life back and, in the process, save a piece of the life of his town,  Bedford Falls, is about as fantastic a victory as one should hope for.  Even Capra couldn’t bring himself to so schmaltz up his already delightfully schmaltzy show by pretending that Potter would ever see the inside of a jail cell.  If your waiting for the Potters of the world to be brought to justice please remember it is the Potters of the world that usually determine what justice is and how it will be applied.   Getting to the point where the Bailey’s can at least coexist and prosper with the Potters is about as good as life can get, even in fantasy. )

I watched the perennial holiday chestnut, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the other day. There was George Bailey, as he is every year, struggling to keep the old Savings and Loan afloat. There was the malicious Mr. Potter, a truly covetous old sinner, trying to put Bailey out of business.  There was Clarence the angel showing, once again, that our world is a better place for the George Bailey’s amongst us.  It’s too bad that in today’s world the Potters are beating the Baileys, hands down.

Old man Potter dismissed the Bailey Savings and Loan as a kind of privatized social welfare program for dumb poor workers who couldn’t cut it on their own. “And what does that  get us,” he asked?  “A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class.  And all because a few starry eyed dreamers stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas? Don’t the  Rush Limbaughs or Tom Delays say the same thing today?  

Labor laws, social welfare, retirement benefits, guaranteed healthcare, workplace safety laws, consumer protection–all are dismissed by our modern Potters as so much misplaced sympathy offered to the undeserving by the foolishly starry eyed, thinking that is at best naïve and at worst dangerous.  Any mention of social welfare on AM radio is now associated with Bolshevik Socialism – want to give workers a guaranteed living wage or put any limits at all on the worst excesses of the market and you’re labeled as an advocate of Gulags and death camps.

George, of course, argued back.  “Just remember this, Mr. Potter,” he retorted, “that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.  Well is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”  Today he could add: is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die with decent healthcare, affordable housing, quality education for their kids and the sure knowledge that when old age comes, there will be some comforts to look forward to?

We don’t have that many George Bailey’s today. Few stand up to our Potters when they tell us workers can’t expect job security, no one is entitled to healthcare and decent pay is whatever the most desperate amongst us is willing to work for.  Even the Democrats, the party of dreams for the working stiff, have fallen in line with the rhetoric of balanced budgets and smaller government (except, of course, if deficits are required to provide tax cuts to the richest Americans) even if the cost are reduced programs to help the disadvantaged.

Can’t anyone makes the simple point George made that helping the least amongst us is not simple altruism, it is Capitalist self interest at it’s best? “Your all business men here,” he reminded the S&L board members thinking of supporting Potter, “don’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers?”  Heck, wasn’t it that old socialist Henry Ford’s idea to raise worker pay, not because it was the moral thing to do but because it made them better participants in the Capitalist market place?   Like Old Man Potter, much of American corporate business has become warped and frustrated by ruthless competition and now sees its workers only as cattle to be milked for as long as possible before being sent to the layoff slaughterhouse. 

Frank Capra understood that the Potters amongst us seldom lose, though the more public-minded like old George could, on occasion, battle them to a draw. Notice that, while George Bailey ultimately survived his battle with Potter, the old man survived unscathed too, his own crime of theft of the Bailey’s deposits unpunished. There have always been the Potters amongst us, those who pursue personal gain at any cost, be they a grasping banker like fictitious  Potter or the greedy executives of a massive corporations like Enron or WorldCom. What’s regrettable is that there are fewer and fewer George Bailey’s speaking up for the little guy.

In the real world the Bailey S&L would have been bought out by the 1980s by PotterCorp, a huge transnational Financial Services leviathan. A PotterCorp holding company would have bought out Bedford Fall’s chief industry, the plastic’s factory old Hee-Haw Sam Wainwright had built at George’s urging and shipped the jobs to Third World sweatshops. Downtown Bedford Falls would now be a ghost town with shops shuttered by a massive PotterMart selling cheap slave-labor produced products to the town’s poorly paid service employees.   Yes, least be there any doubt, in the world of today Mister Potter would have won.  And, least there be any doubt, Mr. Potter voted Republican.