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Re-learning democracy



The Nation's Naomi Klein spoke to filmmaker Michael Moore about his latest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. Excerpts:

Naomi Klein: I saw you on the Jay Leno Show, and I was struck that one of his first questions to you was this objection--that it's greed that's evil, not capitalism. And this is something that I hear a lot--this idea that greed or corruption is somehow an aberration from the logic of capitalism.

Michael Moore: Well, people want to believe that it's not the economic system that's at the core of all this. You know, it's just a few bad eggs. But the fact of the matter is that, as I said to Jay [Leno], capitalism is the legalisation of this greed.

We have a number of things in our species that you would call the dark side, and greed is one of them. If you don't put certain structures in place or restrictions on those parts of our being that come from that dark place, then it gets out of control. Capitalism does the opposite of that. It not only doesn't really put any structure or restriction on it.
It encourages it, it rewards it.

NK: The thing that I found most exciting in the film is that you make a very convincing pitch for democratically run workplaces as the alternative to this kind of loot-and-leave capitalism. So I'm just wondering, as you're traveling around, are you seeing any momentum out there for this idea?

MM: People love this part of the film. I've been kind of surprised because I thought people aren't maybe going to understand this or it seems too hippie-dippy--but it really has resonated in the audiences that I've seen it with.
But, of course, I've pitched it as a patriotic thing to do. So if you believe in democracy, democracy can't be being able to vote every two or four years. It has to be every part of every day of your life.

We've changed relationships and institutions around quite considerably because we've decided democracy is a better way to do it. Two hundred years ago you had to ask a woman's father for permission to marry her, and then once the marriage happened, the man was calling all the shots. And legally, women couldn't own property and things
like that.

Thanks to the women's movement of the '60s and '70s, this idea was introduced to that relationship--that both people are equal and both people should have a say. And I think we're better off as a result of introducing democracy into an institution like marriage.

But we spend eight to ten to twelve hours of our daily lives at work, where we have no say. I think when anthropologists dig us up 400 years from now--if we make it that far--they're going to say, "Look at these people back then. They thought they were free. They called themselves a democracy, but they spent ten hours of every day in a totalitarian situation and they allowed the richest 1 per cent to have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 per cent combined."

Truly they're going to laugh at us the way we laugh at people 150 years ago who put leeches on people's bodies to cure them.

NK: It is one of those ideas that keeps coming up, but hasn't worked out as people wanted. It is actually what people wanted in the former Soviet Union instead of the Wild West sort of mafia capitalism that they ended up with.
You had your US premiere at the AFL-CIO convention. How are you finding labour leadership in relation to this idea? Are they open to it, or are you hearing, "Well, this isn't really workable"?

MM: I sat there in the theatre the other night with about 1,500 delegates of the AFL-CIO convention, and I was a little nervous as we got near that part of the film, and I was worried that it was going to get a little quiet in there.

Just the opposite. They cheered it. A couple people shouted out, "Right on!" "Absolutely!" I think that unions at this point have been so beaten down, they're open to some new thinking and some new ideas. And I was very encouraged to see that.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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