Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pete McGrain's documentary ETHOS -- one more in the realm of the fix-the-world films

What do you think about this, the opening statement from the documen-tary ETHOS -- out this week on DVD: "Every day we turn on television to see more bad news: another environ-mental catastrophe, more starving refugees, and innocent victims in various war zones. Most of us are busy, just trying to make ends meet. We see these horrible images and feel helpless to do anything about them. The deep shame we feel about this is paralyzing -- one of the reasons we turn away." So far, so good, right?  This certainly rings a bell with me, at least. So let's continue: "The object of this documentary is to look at the flaws in our system that allow these things to happen -- and the mechanisms that actually work against us -- to show you a simple but powerful way we can change the world we live in." Wow. OK, we say: Show us!

Unfortunately, what we're shown in Ethos is pretty much what many of us who follow the progressive documentary have already seen, over and over again.  The writer/director/co-producer Pete McGrain (shown below) is a relative newcomer to film-making (if his IMDB profile is taken as gospel), and in the end credits, he gives thanks to a number of other documentaries, including Hijacking Catastrophe, The Corporation, Zeitgeist, and Why We Fight. Sure enough, if you've viewed these, most of what is contained in Ethos will seem pretty been-there-seen-that -- including the talking heads that range from Chomsky and Zinn to Michael Moore, Karen Kwiatkowsky and Cynthia McKinney. These people are game changers, for sure, but what they tell us here, they've told us before. And in better films.

If you are going to begin your movie with an array of lying politicians that include John McCain contradicting himself, then please don't use sleazebag McCain later on to underscore the veracity of an important point you want made. This only leaves your audience wondering, Is that man lying again? Or is the movie-maker doing it, too? Turns out the supposed "simple but powerful" means of changing the world we live in is simply putting your money where your mouth and heart are: only purchasing things made and/or sold by reliable people/companies. If only it were that easy. In these days of constant mergers, how do we keep up with who owns what? And green companies can have their own problems with pollution. In the background, as narrator Woody Harrelson (below) talks about the power of the purchase, we see a windmill signifying wind-power, as though that were a reliable alternative. Before you sign up, I suggest you see Laura Israel's new documentary Windfall.

Ethos does make a number of important points along the way -- particularly the information about the Federal Reserve Bank and the Bankers' cartel, along with the fact that all publicly-traded corporations have been instructed, via a series of legal decrees, to put the financial interest of their owners above all else -- including the public good.

Freud, Edward Bernays and consumerism make welcome appearances, too, but despite his not wanting to fall into "conspiracy theory" territory, Mr. McGrain allows the taint of that theory to hang over part of the proceedings. Paycheck-to-paycheck living is suggested to be the chosen lifestyle --  by the upper class for everyone who is not part of that class. (The current narrative movie In Time makes this point a lot better, stronger, more effectively and entertainingly).

If you are new to the progressive-documentary field, by all means take a look at Ethos. If not, you might want to move on. The film, 69 minutes, is distributed by Cinema Libre Studio, and makes its DVD and digital-platform debut on Tuesday, February 7 (rather than, as my original post stated, Monday, February 6).

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, Ethos is just all those other documentaries ripped off. This "director" and "writer" simply took pieces cut right from those other documentaries and someone (him?) re-did the voice over on most of the stolen Zeitgeist video. The only thing original seems to be Woody's stuff. Unless we find some other earlier work all of that came from too.

This is a hatchet job with a highly leftist spin on a lot of truths and a small but important percentage of leftist fairy-dust speak/thought. For instance, the attack on cars is essentially an attack on gasoline powered engines. Anyone with a brain knows that the efficiency of gasoline as a store of energy and the efficiency of gasoline powered engines (though they could always be better) cannot be beat by ANYTHING. If it could, we would be using THAT instead...and yes, the same moguls would and will control that energy and locomotive technology as well.

I have a suggestion and am puzzled. All the lefties and many centrists and even righties used to obsess over Who Killed The Electric Car. Well, there are pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric (not talking Prius, which does not plug-in at all) cars out there...why are these people not buying up the Volt and Tesla cars? Come on, lead by example and stop being hypocrites...the feds even subsidize the electric vehicles to make them more affordable...so go, show us your great electric cars!

Woody is likely a left libertarian, I could have comfortable discussions with him easily...as I am a libertarian too. But I wonder what Woody's real solutions would be...I wonder how much control and coercion of others he would advocate to battle his peak oil fears (now we will hit it in 2015, huh?) and other enumerated problems (most of which I agree with him on). If the answers are about decentralized power (regarding gov't, business, and church) then I am on-board. However, the left agenda...just like the right agenda...always seems to be about centralized control and forcing your views/solutions on others. Centralized power and corruption is the enemy, plain and simple. Regardless of whether it is painted red or blue or is disguised as populist (such as unions, aka thugs running a mob protection racket) or not.

James van Maanen said...

Good comment, Anonymous -- but shit, I am getting tired of practically everyone using the Anonymous name tag. Has the whole world lost its collective balls?

It's true, sort of, that if you go far enough left or right, you'll end up at the opposite pole. But, still, I do have a problem with you libertarians -- who claim the less gov't, the better. How would interstate highways get built, except for the federal gov't -- to name just one example of what a centralized gov't provides.

Your comments on the electric car, are worthwhile, too. Why aren't more people purchasing these, now that they ar finally here? Good point, and I don't have the answer -- except perhaps to suggest that some of the negative press (cars catching fire, etc.) may have put people off. Whether thus press is actually true, I don't know.

I do completely agree with your statement that corruption is the enemy. (You also add centralized power, which I beg to differ with.) But corruption seems to be epidemic to humanity, so how we gonna get' round THAT, buster? Corruption, yes, and hypocrisy, too -- you left that out. And denial.

The reason so many of us "liberals" tend to stay that way is that the left at least appears to have the larger populace (yeah, the 99%) in mind, whereas the right only cares for that 1%. The rest of us, and the environment (which includes EVERYBODY, but the right doesn't seem to understand this), can go to hell. The left makes better sense for the world at large. That's it in a nutshell, Anon.

Ken said...

I don't feel I need to link my real life to my online comments (I am the initial anon commenter). I see anonymity as a freedom of speech thing. I agree with you, as you agree with me except that centralized control (control in general really) is a problem. You bring up hypocrisy, and I agree. The real and ONLY ways to deal with these problems are either to get as many people involved in local communities and politics as possible and make local the way to go by making it more important than the far away Borg drone centralized governments and corporations that do not care what the scattered individual whining voices are saying...either that or we let big gov't and big corps continue to lobotomize and control us more and more via chemicals, genetics and media until we are mindless drones either incapable or too afraid to think and care for ourselves. You bring up the interstate roads. Come on, is there a federal department that maintains these now? No. The states maintain them now already, the only federal part of it is the blackmail the feds exercise over the states for funds to return to their state for paying for the maintenance. That is what the feds do, they gobble up as much taxes as possible making it impossible for states to tax appropriately to handle their financial and fiscal needs without begging to and becoming subdued by the feds dictates. If the fed level taxation of people was lower, the states could tax differently and self manage better than getting pennies back from the feds only if they comply with federal dictates. What does this accomplish in the end? The big corps that the lefties claim to despise get to focus on lobbying in D.C. to steer and shape this nation rather than having to deal with 50 states (plus territories) individually too much. The 99% vs the 1% is a falsified argument that is actually orchestrated by the 1% to control the mob. Just like this fiscal cliff garbage is manipulated theater to steer public opinion into accepting austerity. The left and the right at the high levels know exactly what they are doing, it is orchestrated to herd the cats in this country. We are useless eaters to them. Including to the loving liberals who ultimately want to continue a long-term depopulation agenda. The only real difference between left and right is the right has no problem using wars to kill masses of people and the left prefers to use social sciences and chemistry to accomplish it more slowly and less noticeable to the public who could be pushed into riots and revolutionary/civil war if pushed wrong.

Is this conspiracy theory? I think not, look around. How can people continue with the double-think? We have scientific studies and statistics both showing the detriment of ingesting the various fluoride chemical variants, the cancerous and auto-immune effects of GMO and pesticides in our food and water, we have prescription drugs in our city water whether accidental or intentional. People need to step back and really consider what is going on and what matters. That is the question of, do I own myself or am I owned by a union, governments, corporations, or other mob protection and manipulation rackets (such as _organized_ religion).

Now we are going to have a federal/world internet sales tax. Lovely.

I could go on...

Ken said...

By the way, you made a comment regarding libertarianism that many people do, out of ignorance. Libertarianism is NOT the far far right or far far left with these ends connecting the political spectrum ends together to make a circle. Please look into the Nolan Chart. One major problem we have is that people in this country believe all politics/issues fall upon a single dimensional political spectrum, only an X axis. The Nolan Chart will reveal to you that there is also a Y axis, with complete freedom (anarchy) on one extreme and complete control (totalitarianism/authoritarianism) on the other extreme.

So, as the mainstream of the left and right migrate more downward toward CONTROL, some of us (left, right or middle) recognize this and are moving upward toward freedom.

Another thing non-libertarians do not get, and some people who claim to be libertarian as well, is that different levels of government have (or are supposed to and should have) different goals and domains. If you think libertarians want no government, you are wrong...that is the extreme (anarchists). Also, if you think libertarians want no or smaller government, you are partially wrong and partially correct. Libertarians like me (Constitutional Republic respecting Libertarians) are saying the state and local governments need to step up and reject federal power grabs. The big problem libertarians have with government is the federal government ignoring its enumerated limits and shrugging its responsibilities (to include claiming the POTUS is our dear leader). I am sorry, but the Congress is the true leader of the federal government, the POTUS is the enforcer, and the judiciary is the referee. There are just a few principles, which should be properly discussed/taught in schools, that if people understood them...we would have a new found respect for a government of, by and for the people and not have people on the left stating they see the Constitution as an outdated, arcane and obstacle of a document and not have people on the right hypocritically speaking well of the Constitution but flagrantly subverting and ignoring it at their whim.

Now, there are other types of libertarians, such a globalist libertarians which say the Constitution should not bind any of us and there should be no nations or borders, etc. These are basically nearly or actually anarchists otherwise what they are wishing for is no government other than a single global police state of some kind, which would also be anti-libertarian...so they have to be anarchists.

Okay, I have to stop making this old blog entry of your a place to spew my info and thoughts. LOL

Have a good one and please really try to understand what real freedom and liberty is and that ensuring this was/is the intent of the Constitution and if the document is truly outdated or something, there is a mechanism to amend it. Follow the procedure and keep it up-to-date, subverting it will lead to a police state...well, actually, subverting it has lead to a police state...we are in it now and I could make a huge new reply listing all of the police state elements and news stories we are barely putting up with right now.

James van Maanen said...

Thank you, Ken -- I really learned something from your comments ( many things, actually). But my remark about the far left and far right being somehow connected had nothing to do with Libertarians -- just the extremes on either end of the political spectrum.

But the rest of your comments are well taken, and I will have to explore what the Fed gov't really has to do with our highways. Don't our federal tax dollars go back to that in some manner. Well, clearly, I have much to learn.

And also, I had no idea of the differences between libertarians -- and all those various philosophies. You guys must argue more than Democrats do. (Republicans seen to march in lock step these days. They would make excellent Nazis, I think.)

And thanks for taking the time to write and post all this.

James van Maanen said...

Hi, again, Ken--
Unfortunately, Google's Blogger shows only a portion of a comment -- until I hit "publish," and then I can read the whole thing. So I just now, after posting my earlier comment, read ALL of what you say, and yes, I see that taxes are involved. But can we trust individual states to tax fairly and/or use the taxes for necessary things like proper education. Clearly not.

Not to point fingers here but many of our southern states have shown themselves to be dreadful at providing what they should be providing for their citizens. Are libertarians more pro states' rights than those of the federal government? If so, then it certainly depends on WHICH states you are pro, doesn't it?

Anyway, I enjoy reading you. We certainly do seem to have similar ideas about power and control. Do you have a blog of your own? You probably should. Where are you from/do you currently live? Or if you don't want to go public with all this, email me at the address at the bottom of the paragraph under the TrustMovies heading atop the blog....

Ken said...

You said "But can we trust individual states to tax fairly and/or use the taxes for necessary things like proper education. Clearly not."

I say...Why not? I understand that if you look in the past you can point to all kinds of local abuses, that still happens. However, this still goes on and includes at the federal level. Surely there are other ways for our states to refine themselves than permanent ever-growing remote dictatorial control from afar. Why is it acceptable for people in an enclave on the east coast to dictate to people in, let's say, Oregon what to do and how to do it? In the end, this boils down to control. Do people have a right to be stupid? Do people have a right to be ignorant? Do people have any rights if they are not afforded the right to do dumb things? You may not see it but your ultimate foundation of CONTROL of others and DICTATING to them. There are many ways of evaluating this view of yours but I will focus on one. That of "lowest common denominator" or sometimes referred to as a "race to the bottom". Let's use the extreme left desire of total ban of private ownership and possession of firearms. What drives this way of thinking? Easy, and I think you'll agree, the fact that 1 person can shoot (and has shot) and harm or kill another in a manner that scares some people. On the left, the response to this...the solution is that is nobody can own a firearm then nobody will be shot by a gun. So, due to this way of thinking the ultimate goal of the mainstream far left is to gut my right as a free individual to be able to effectively provide for my own self defense because X number of people in the past have shot Y number of people in a way that scares some people. That is my life being directly impacted by a lowest common denominator approach to society and civil law. I could pick a different scenario that you would not be okay with (which reveals the hypocrisy of left and right totalitarians/authoritarians), such as criminalization of marijuana. The right has tended to want to keep it illegal out of irrational fear, while the left recognizes the irrationality of it being a lowest common denominator argument used to justify maintaining its illegality.

All I know is I want to be able to provide and care for myself without other people telling me what I can and can't do when they are referring to things that are none of their business...and I'd like the USA to become a major grower of Hemp products...as you and I both likely know that THC "problem" is not what actually got marijuana (and hemp) made illegal...it was the threat to the cotton textile industry (in other words corruption of our system).

I worry I am sounding discombobulated in my reply here...so, I'll get back to work now. :P

James van Maanen said...

Thanks, Ken, again -- for more of your elucidation. But I think one important part of your thinking/writing needs to be addressed here. You say the liberal's need for gun control laws is about "the fact that 1 person can shoot (and has shot) and harm or kill another in a manner that scares some people."

Not quite. Rather than the problem being that I can get a gun and kill you, or you can get a gun and kill me, isn't it more the fact that either of us (more likely someone else, I hope) can get a gun and go out and kill 20, 40, 80 people in one massacre. This is the problem with "guns" -- which encompass a hell of a lot more than just a small revolver. I could kill you with a knife or maybe some poison, -- but I don't see any huge movement toward "knife control" or "poison control." Gun control is about what benefits and/or protects society, which, at times and in some ways, is more important than certain individual rights. That's also why we have laws about speed limits for autos.

Also, "gun control" doesn't mean the complete stamping out of guns -- but doing a better job of controlling them. But instead, thanks to lobbyists and the NRA, that control is growing ever looser and worse. Again, money, power and control trump intelligence and safety.

Well, we're really just cannon fodder for whatever use the overlords want to put us to: whether it's in another war or simply as victims of another mass shooting -- which the media can then use to sell its wares for another big week or so.

Shit, don't you -- despite your fight for the rights of the individual -- kind of despair at times at the stupidity of the human race? Or maybe this is all about the Darwinian survival of the fittest (among which I am not and never was).

Xerographica said...

Personally, I enjoyed the movie because I really agree with its "simple and powerful" solution. The only drawback is that it didn't go all the way with its message of ethical consumerism.

It should have taken the additional step of advocating that taxpayers be allowed to put their taxes where their hearts are.

"There are multitudes with an interest in peace, but they have no lobby to match those of the 'special interests' that may on occasion have an interest in war." - Mancur Olson

James van Maanen said...

Ah, Xerographica--
If only we were allowed to pay taxes only on what we believed in. But of course, if we didn't happen to believe in education or road building, that might be a problem. But it is too true that war sure seems to make more money for people than does peace. (Although, when did we ever really give peace a chance?)

Xerographica said...

Enough taxpayers would have to "believe" in a public good in order for it to really be considered a public good. We would know whether they truly believed in a public good if they were willing to give it their own tax dollars. So what percentage of taxpayers would have to give their taxes to a public good in order for us to say that it was in the general, rather than special, interests of society?

James van Maanen said...

Good comment, Xero, with some far-reaching thoughts attached that sort of show us why governing can be so difficult. I guess if a majority was willing to pay taxes toward a certain thing -- roads, education, target practice, gun control, whatever -- then that would make those things more doable. But sometimes politicians must and do lead the way toward a better society: Johnson, with his war on poverty and Medicare (some would disagree, of course, but most Americans do not) and Roosevelt with his post-crash philosophy and government help via Social Security, fuller employment, etc.

In any case, one man/woman's public good is another's public evil. And right now we have a set of politicians, particularly Republicans, who refuse to work together with the majority. So little is getting done, exactly when we need help the most.

Xerographica said...

Right now I'm trying to "sell" you the idea of tax choice. Why? Because I think it's important for you to be able to consider my "product" and decide whether it's for you.

It's kind of funny isn't it? If you say, "no thanks, I'll pass"...you'd actually be revealing that you do value the freedom to choose which path you follow. But that's exactly what I'm "selling".

A politician could say, "war with Iran would lead to a better society"...and you would be able to reply, "no thanks, I'd prefer to spend my taxes on public healthcare instead".

James van Maanen said...

Gotcha. But I still don't believe this "choice" is workable. Our taxes are not like a charitable donation, to which we can then say, "I'd prefer to have you spend my money on this particular thing," as some charities allow. No: Our taxes are necessary to run our country. They are not voluntary, and the choice of how to spend our money is up to our government. Unfortunately, our government no longer even attempts to represent the wider electorate. Instead, whoever is elected represents the wealthy and corporate powers who have given the most money toward his campaign. Until we stop these "bought" elections, any choice we might appear to have is simply "fake."

Xerographica said...

Let's say that you were hungry... and since I was going to the store anyways...you gave me $7 to buy you a sandwich. But when I returned, rather than handing you a sandwich, I gave you a Barbara Streisand CD.

Your priority was a sandwich, you gave me money to buy you a sandwich...but instead of buying you a sandwich...I bought you a Barbara Streisand CD instead.

The conclusion did not follow. There was a disconnect between the premise (your preference) and the conclusion (what was supplied). Ring any bells? It's the definition of a non sequitur.

Right now half or our nation's revenue is spent in the public sector...which is a non sequitur economy. There's just no way that 500+ congresspeople can come evenly remotely close to knowing the true preferences/priorities of 300,000,000+ people. If they could...then we should allow them to spend all our money. Would they spend any of our money on Scroogenomics?

The fact of the matter is that even the most brilliant, wise, impartial and knowledgeable group of government planners could not represent the interests, priorities, preferences, concerns of the wider electorate more effectively than the wider electorate itself can.

So I have absolutely no problem with the idea that taxes are necessary to run the country...but if you truly believe that non sequitur economics makes sense...then reach deep into your pockets...disregard your priorities, preferences, information...and spend, spend, spend. But I know you won't do it. Why? Because you're not crazy.

James van Maanen said...

Xero, please!
No one is arguing with your idea per se. It's the fact that, under our present government, your idea is unworkable. That money that say is you want earmarked for... -- whatever! -- will only be stolen and used for something else under the guise that it is actually going where you wanted it to go. We cannot trust almost any of our politicians -- because they are bought by things/powers other than our own.

We must first change the way our government is elected (not by big money and big corporations) before we will ever get a government that actually does what the people want it to do.

If you do not understand what I am saying, watch The Best Government Money Can Buy? by Frances Megahy. You can stream it off Netflix, among other ways to see it, and it is one of the best documentaries about our "situation" here in the U.S. that I have ever seen.

Megahy shows that the one thing politicians -- nearly every one of them -- refuse to talk about, let alone DO anything about, is limiting political campaign funding. They won't get near it because it's all they know and it gets them reelected.

Anyway, enough about your idea. It's a good one -- but only for a time when it might actually be put to honest and viable use.

Xerographica said...

If tax choice was implemented...at anytime throughout the year you could go to the EPA website and make a tax payment directly to the EPA. The EPA would give you a receipt and you'd submit all your receipts to the IRS by April 15.

If the EPA gave its money to the DoD...then it would be giving you tanks when you clearly demonstrated a preference for environmental protection. It would be a non sequitur...which is why the next time you made a tax payment...it would be to some other government organization that actually matched your preferences.

Regarding buying the government...I understand exactly what you're saying. In fact, I created the Wikipedia entry for concentrated benefits and diffuse costs and was recently blocked for a week because I referred to the editors who redirected it to "tragedy of the commons" as incompetent value destroyers. But I also created the entry for legal plunder which is pretty much the same concept.

The thing is...how else can government planners grasp the weight we give to our priorities if we aren't given the opportunity to put our money where our mouths are? The only reason that what the government supplies is not a total non sequitur...is because wealthy people can and do "buy" the government.

So it's not a problem that they are buying the government...the problem is that we don't see the value in being allowed to do the same thing with our taxes.

Like I mentioned initially, once everybody can buy the government with their taxes...then we'll see if there are some public goods whose value is far too narrow for them to truly be considered "public" goods. In other words...it would be up to voters to decide what goes on the shelves...and up to taxpayers to decide which items they "purchase".

Check out this thread that I just created at a forum...Choices That Are Not Trade-offs. No replies! You should sign up to that forum and reply. You'll help provide valuable content for that forum and in return you'll be able to link to your blog when appropriate.

You can always stop posting if it's not generating sufficient traffic to your blog.

Matthew Phillips said...

The entire film was lol-worthy. What stood out as the most hilarious bit was the assertion that capitalism and democracy are not only mutually exclusive, but polar opposites. A fantastic comedy film! 4.5/5

James van Maanen said...

Whew: I guess Mr. Phillips is not a fan, either. Anyway, thanks for posting and making us chuckle -- though I am not sure whether your comments are meant to be taken ironically....

Anonymous said...

I think what people forget is that by supporting(working,paying taxes) anything that you are in agreement with,you are in a spiritual contract.That includes car tags,license,all of it,look and how they siphon our energy on a daily basis.If you know it's wrong and that people are dying why keep doing it? I say we all walk away from it all and do not give the vampires our energy.But how will we survive? money is just paper!!! it is a representation of our life force and energy.What we need to do is start communties to grow our own food and not be dependent on them anymore!!!simply quit giving energy to the very thing that is the problem.

James van Maanen said...

Well, Anon, folk have been doing just that -- walking away from things and starting their own communities -- down the decades now, and with some success. It's a hard road, but it can be done. Good luck!