Mar 11, 2007

Maxed Out: Scariest Movie of the Year

It's not Zodiac or The Hills Have Eyes VII. It's a documentary called Maxed Out about the debt disaster in the US of A and it is one of the most frightening things I've seen in a long time.
It's also, as all good examples of the genre, very entertaining and effective in generating outrage, so I strongly, emphatically recommend it. Run to your nearest art cinema and check it out.
I have often wondered why I don't get that many invitations from credit card companies. I ignore the few I get, but I think the reason is that I always pay my bills in full and I'm never delinquent. So they are not interested in people like me. They are interested in leeching off the poor, the desperate, the already debt ridden, the people who cannot keep up with their payments. That's where most of their profits come from.
Now, when I arrived in this country almost 15 years ago, I was shocked by the fact that people here think that spending money they don't have is as natural as breathing. Not only that, but they do it with reckless abandon, with nary a thought for consequences or implications.
Me, I have a biological aversion to owing anything to anybody and my Flintstonian philosophy of finance boils down to the following tenet: I DON'T BUY WHAT I CAN'T AFFORD. If I don't have the money to pay for it myself, I just don't buy it.
Is this too complicated to understand?
You want the house with the yard and the white picket fence? You don't have the moolah? Then you don't get the house with the white picket fence. Simple.
But here everything is designed to make you spend, and to make you feel that you are somehow inferior if you don't have a house or a car or the latest Marc Jacobs retard bowling bag or whatever.
People here have not been educated to think that there's anything wrong with paying for things with other people's money. They are not educated to think about the consequences of borrowing, namely maleficent interest and other nightmares.
Meanwhile, I honestly fail to understand why I have to pay interest on anything. So I don't. Am I nuts?
Now, the banks in this country are absolutely predatory, immoral and irresponsible in their quest for and their creation of debtors. Their interest rates are criminal; it is in their best interest that people continue to be saddled by debt to the end of their days.
This is a capitalistic society, I know, but I guess I have been incredibly naive about the other part of America, the part that is supposed to temper the unbridled capitalist, predatory greed with notions of equality and justice for all and yadda yadda yadda. This has simply become a travesty. It is pure spin in this day and age. Nobody gives a rat's ass for nobody else's wellbeing, equality, or opportunity.
And in the Bush catastrophe, it is made worse by the nth degree.
As Maxed Out points out, for instance, the second biggest campaign contributor for Bush is MBNA. They were the ones that wrote the recent bankruptcy bill that now makes it even harder for people to get out of debt. Louis Freeh, remember him? Wasn't he some incompetent schmuck at the FBI or something? Well, now he works for MBNA. Better: Who did Bush appoint as his business ethics czar? A guy who used to work for Providian, an utterly fraudulent and corrupt credit card company. OK?
That's how it works, folks. This is not the rule of the people, but the rule of the companies. And the government works for the companies*.
When you look at things this way it is suddenly crystal clear why certain things happen the way they do: why we have no universal healthcare, why our soldiers are being mistreated and abused by their own employers, why this is the nastiest, most corrupt, most brutally callous administration in history. Because we have a president who likes to get fucked in the ass by business. High rent call boy.
*I know you knew that, but just in case you forgot, because the rhetoric to the contrary is so pervasive, you may end up believing it.

So this is why this movie is so scary:
1. There is nothing anybody can really do about it. Against the money and the lobbying force of major banks, forget it.
2. As you watch this film, and witness the terrifying, heartbreaking stories of people haunted, some literally murdered, by debt, you realize that at one point this charade of endless borrowing will collapse. And then what? Then, the calamitous fall of the American Empire. When it happens, which given Bush's track record, may be sooner than you think, it won't be pretty. It already isn't pretty.
There are scenes of Katrina in this film, and they are not only a perfect metaphor, but an alarming symptom, a sign, that the fall has begun to happen.
Katrina's true devastation was man made. FEMA approved. The hurricane in a way was circumstantial. It just laid bare what should be plain for us to see.
We are getting royally screwed and it's going to be way too late when we wake up.

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