The editorial below was written by an aspiring new activist in North Texas. He was four when "Roger and Me" first premiered, but was sufficiently impressed on his recent viewing of the DVD to put his emotions into a strong review.
Older activists will disagree with his conclusion that nothing has changed since Michael Moore made his powerful first documentary, but no one can deny that "Roger and Me" was far more prophetic than anyone could have wanted.
Roger and Me: 20 years later
This may show my age, but my wife and I watched “Roger and Me” for the first time last night -- twenty years after it was released. If you have not watched this debut film By Michael Moore then you need to.
This documentary centers around Flint, MI where General Motors started. In the 1980’s. GM closed down plants across the nation, including most in Flint. This was a major economic source in Flint. Because of this, the unemployment rate went to 33%, crime and evictions skyrocketed, and no one in GM would answer for it.
It is interesting watching this after GM went through the its bankruptcy this year, begging for money earlier, laying off union workers and blaming them for what had happened. And the similarities are so shocking, I swore to God that I actually had seen it all before. Thing was, I had.
Watching the news over the last year, I had seen nearly the same thing. GM hasn't changed. It didn't change after that happened in the 80’s, and it hasn't changed today. But the interesting parallels are not from GM 20 years ago and of today, but of the Corporate machine. Watching the film, you see the hopelessness of people as they are getting evicted; caring what few belongings they can and their children crying as they have to vacate their home. Those same people on the phone, trying to negotiate with their landlords. One mother called the landlord and told him about Moore’s camera crew and he stopped the eviction. She then tells us that she had to do repairs to the home that may well have cost more than her rent, just to stay dry.
You find out later she was evicted three days later. Watching, you cant help but think that maybe this is happening again today, but not only evictions, but foreclosures too. That what is happening in this film is really happening now; not just because of GM, but because of the banks, the health insurance industry, Wall Street. You sit there watching and wonder if the nation saw this twenty years ago, why is it happening again? And on a larger scale? Why the banks that came and begged for money- for TAX PAYER MONEY- are making record profits again and still giving out their contractually obligated bonuses.
Like Roger Smith did twenty years ago when he fired all those workers and moved the work to Mexico. Like the health insurance industry does when it denies care to a painting that could cost the company a bit of money.
What surprises me the most is that not only did this happen before, and everyone knew about it because it was on the nightly news, but it seems like a good chunk of the population refuses to acknowledge that it ever happened before, or why it happened before. Some of that group actually believe that it was the union that did it, but they are the ones who lost their jobs. These same people defend the helpless Executives because it is not their fault that they make so much money at the cost of other peoples jobs and well-being. They defend it, saying it is their right to make so much money and those workers don’t want to work anyway.
It is this kind of statement that makes me wonder what would happen if the workers took a day off. As a class, we all need to go on strike one day. Just one day. The Gay community did it, and it showed their impact on society. Why not the working class? Why not one third of the working class? Or a quarter? Seeing this made me mad as Hell that we are not fighting more for what we truly want and need. There are pockets here and there, but I have not seen anywhere near the protesting the populations in the UK, France, and Germany have done this year. That we, as a class, are just as apathetic as we were twenty years ago (the movie shows what was planned as a huge protest to the last plant closing where only four people showed up), makes me even madder. And sad.
What is stopping us from sitting outside The Hill and protesting? What about a civil demand for the floor on in Congress or the Senate? Why is no one mentioning Single Payer anymore when the “Public Option” is still feeding private insurance? What have we learned in the last twenty years? Has anything really changed?