Film goers will be surprised at the Catholic element in Michael Moore’s just released film CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY. This will not come as a surprise to those of us who have followed Moore for 20 years since Roger and Me. Moore has always identified himself with the most progressive elements of the Catholic church. For simplicity’s sake he usually boils it down to what the nuns taught him in elementary school in hardscarbble Flint, Michigan: Justice and God’s preferntial option for the poor. What Christian can argue with this? What Catholic? Yet few have had the Moore’s courage in challenging the deep evil of the economic system he eviscerates in this engaging film.
As to the Catholic element he interviews four priests, one who married him and one who married his sister, both Vatican ll types, grizzled veterans who have no time for the turbocapitalism which respects neither people nor the earth. The present system is simply evil to them, hijacked by a corporate class consumed by greed and absolutely no repect for the common good. The closest analogue for Canadians would be the seven lean years of the Mike Harris nightmare which Ontarians endured before we awoke from our ethical slumber.
The great Detroit bishop Tom Gumbleton appears.” Jesus would not be part of this system” he says. The New Testament evangelists back this up in recording the basic orientation of Jesus. One of seven lines in Matthew, Mark and Luke are a warning against wealth and untrammeled greed.
A Polish-American bishop of the Evangelical Catholic Church, James Wilkowski appears (knew he could not be an RC) saying mass in solidarity with the workers of Chicago’s Republic Windows & Doors factory who staged a six-day sit-in that culminated in a layoff package of $1.35 million from Bank of America. The company had simply walked away from their financial obligations before the workers staged the nonviolent sit in.
As a kid in Flint, Moore attended Catholic schools and as a boy wanted to become a priest. He was inspired by the passion of priests and nuns for social justice; he saw the Berrigan brothers as heroic figures. They appear in a short clip. For Moore, Americans have been brainwashed to believe that capitalism is “compatible with God’s law,” Cue to Bush, Pat Robertson Swaggart and others who riipped the gospel in shreds in their blinkered defence of the free enterprise system and the warmaking of the Christian president, GW Bush. Moore runs black and white footage of hypnotists using twirling spirals to mesmerise their patients.
“I must have missed that part of the Bible when Jesus embraced capitalism,” says the filmmaker, followed by a sequence using scenes from Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” in which the Son of God’s lines are dubbed with him giving investment advice. Moore can never resist gags like this. But then like any teacher he morphs into harsh facts: before Reaganomics, the wealthiest Americans were taxed at 90 percent, people had four weeks’ vacation and their pensions were untouchable.You could raise a family on one salary. Cue to the simple-minded Reagan, a Republican whose deficit equalled all the other prewsidents combined and whose deregulation policies created the savings and Loans sacndal under Bush One. The B movie king then says “Well I can change that in a hurry,” and slaps a woman in the face.An apt symbol for all the poor whom he slapped in the face in his abysmal two terms.
This mockumentary is typical Moore. It will of course enrage the right-wing bloggers and many reviewers who have said next to nothing about the horrible abuses of capitalism, in particular the shocking abandonment of 47 million Americans without health care in the wealthiest country in the world. It will surely piss off the hordes of journalists and reviewers who said nothing as the US capitalist system played Russian roulette with global economics.
Michael Moore has consistently been on the mark here and that is why for years I have been calling him the “most effective Catholic in America.”
Nobody else even close.