Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"ETHOS": Woody Harrelson hosts a dystopian view of our media-polluted "democracy"

Woody Harrelson sounds earnest as he narrates the hour-plus documentary “ETHOS”, directed by Peter McGrain. Harrelson is sometimes joined by Noam Chomsky, Bill Hogan and Howard Zinn, and even Michael Moore. The film (2011) comes from Cinema Libre and Media for Action.

The film makes a familiar argument that the ideals of democracy and rule of the people are subverted by the moneyed classes, who want to control individuals.  The Federal Reserve is presented as having been set up by a cabal of secret bankers.  Woodrow Wilson is quoted as saying that debt to private interests will undermine democracy – but remember that Wilson was willing to jail people for sedition, especially opposing the draft.

The film hits hard the role and “abuse of the media”, which it sees as a puppet of the corporate state. It depicts Freudian science as antithetical to the self-expression of the individual and mentions Freud’s nephew, Binrays, as the father of modern “public relations”.

It shows a variety of images, including one of coal mining and mountaintop removal. 

The film discusses the concept of the national id chip, and warns that someday the government may mandate that we have chips implanted in our bodies so we can be tracked.  Some people actually want that.  The film also tracks back the ease with which the government has exploited public fear since 9/11.

Harrelson mentions climate change and particularly peak oil, which is supposed to climax in 2015.

But toward the end, Harrelson suggests that, in a market economy, the consumer still has the ultimate power, to refuse to spend money on the products of evil companies.  But this is isn’t possible, of course, with local monopolies, like power companies.

I think it would be interesting to make a documentary on a variation of this theme, specifically, the pressure on the individual “who is different” to conform to the goals of the family and surrounding majority in the community.  I can look at many episodes, conversations and incidents in my own life, particularly during my own “coming of age” and later after “retirement” (and especially relating to my late mother’s eldercare) and come up with some definite impressions.  The “different” individual is expected to learn to take care of himself (herself) and then provide for other people in a manner more or less commensurate with gender.  He (or she) is expected to understand and make differential “sacrifice” (an idea particularly prevalent with the Vatican).  He is supposed to make and maintain emotional attachments in a manner reflective of the needs of others.  In short, he (she) learns to express “complementarity”.  And he remains silent about his own views unless he has real responsibility for others.  The “moral majority” suggests that the stability and sustainability of civilization depends on reigning in on self-indulgence of individuals.  But, nevertheless, those in “power” seem to have achieved personal “complementarity” but turn around and become corrupt in their desire to stay in power.  It then seems that sustainability has something to do with the individual’s being able to go outside of “the box” and empathize with others whose circumstances are very different from those in his own family.

I am a media position in an unusual, perhaps precarious person.  I am curiously both powerful and powerless.  I was able to climb onto an unusual observational perch and communicate to the world and gain some recognition through user-generated content.  This is a development really not covered by the film. Because of my background, I became very preoccupied with my own stability, my own productivity as an individual contributor at work, and with exploring my own feelings in relationships.  After “retirement”, circumstances forced me to see how I had missed so much connectivity that others take for granted.

The film is available for streaming but not by DVD, on Netflix. 

The link for the film is here.

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