Re­quiem for the Amer­i­can Dream

RE­QUIEM FOR THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Soft-voiced, sad, pa­tient, like a dis­ap­pointed par­ent, Noam Chom­sky talks us through an anal­y­sis of where, as a coun­try, we’ve gone wrong. And for the most part, he ap­pears to have it right.

This gen­tle but damn­ing jeremiad on in­come in­equal­ity comes at a time when the pres­i­den­tial race is heat­ing up and the sub­ject is front and cen­ter, at least on the Demo­cratic side of the coin. Over on the right, it hasn’t got­ten much trac­tion, but then those are not the ranks from which this movie will draw the bulk of its au­di­ence. The only way you can imag­ine the Koch brothers or Ted Cruz watch­ing this doc­u­men­tary is strapped to a chair with their eye­lids propped open, like Mal­colm McDow­ell in

A Clock­work Or­ange.

This coun­try has seen bad times be­fore, Chom­sky al­lows, but even in the depths of the Great De­pres­sion, when he was grow­ing up, there was a sense that things would get bet­ter. That hope, as he sees it, is now largely gone. The re­forms of the New Deal, which kept Amer­ica out of fi­nan­cial cri­sis and saw this coun­try reach its great­est decades of pros­per­ity, have been sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tled by an in­creas­ingly savvy plu­toc­racy and its min­ions in Congress and on the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the Rea­gan era, with the de­cline of unions and the rise of dereg­u­la­tion, fi­nan­cial crises have be­come as reg­u­lar as Me­ta­mu­cil and are now built into our fi­nan­cial plan­ning.

Chom­sky con­trasts the philoso­phies of two iconic cham­pi­ons of democ­racy, both of whom un­der­stood that true demo­cratic rule could re­sult in the plun­der­ing of the prop­erty of the few by the many. Aris­to­tle dealt with this by propos­ing a wel­fare sys­tem to re­duce in­equal­ity. James Madi­son pre­ferred a sys­tem that con­cen­trated power in the hands of those equipped by prop­erty and education to wield it re­spon­si­bly.

As he makes his way through 10 prin­ci­ples that have brought us to the dan­ger­ous pass at which we find our­selves to­day, he re­flects on the so­cial and eco­nomic move­ments of the past 50 years, point­ing out the things he saw com­ing and those that caught him off guard. “I did not,” he ad­mits, “an­tic­i­pate the strength of the back­lash to the egal­i­tar­ian move­ments of the ’60s.”

The film­mak­ers have put this doc­u­men­tary to­gether with vi­su­als that are es­sen­tially an af­ter­thought, there to give us some­thing to look at while the great left­ist ex­plains things. Much of it is fo­cused on Chom­sky’s re­signed face in what is an­nounced as his “fi­nal long-form in­ter­views.” His the­sis is for the most part log­i­cal and thor­ough, and while he in­jects a note of hope at the end, it’s not the most per­sua­sive part of the film. You’ll find a few points to dis­agree with — you may not share his utopian no­tion that tax day ought to be a day of re­joic­ing — but for the most part, Chom­sky pro­vides chap­ter and verse for your next ar­gu­ment with that un­cle who wants to make Amer­ica great again by vot­ing for Don­ald Trump. — Jonathan Richards

Far­sighted: Noam Chom­sky

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.