Day 22 3 April 3, 2003
1. Names. Some journals to give back. Collect policy options sections, and whatever else people have to give me.
Coming events: Poster presentations next week: meet in the Kiva Tuesday and Thursday—groups B and C presenting Tuesday, A and D Thursday. I’ll have a sheet for those of you not presenting to offer some feedback on your peers. This is 10% of your grade, about 1/3 of that for the feedback, 2/3 for your poster and the brief conversation we’ll have. Again, see the instructions. http://www.bluffton.edu/~gundyj/ModAm/2003springmodamsyllabus.htm
The three final days: distribute and discuss sheet.
Some confusion about your last response? I meant for group D to respond to the film, but I didn’t actually say that, I realize, so I will cut you some slack, if you sent me some kind of response.
In the news: some commentary from Reliable Sources.
2. What about Roger and Me? Where on the political spectrum is Michael Moore? He’s, I’d say, an old-style, working-class, labor-union leftist. Not New Left or leftover sixties radical, hmm? Note the movie comes back over and over to the 1937 sit-down strike which forced GM to recognize the United Auto Workers as the legitimate representative of the workers.
What happened in
These days GM is still profitable, those who still have jobs are making good money, and the top executives are getting, well, filthy rich.
What about the characters in this movie? Moore himself? Roger Smith? Tom Kay the company p.r. person? Bob Eubanks, who keeps telling rude jokes? The rabbit woman? Fred Ross, deputy for evictions? Workers? Bob who cracks up? Anita Bryant, who says hang in there, be positive, today’s a new day, thank God for the sunshine? Pat Boone? It’s nobody’s fault, he says. In a free, capitalist society there are shifts . . . the key is attitude.
Two views: that the “shifts” are external, natural forces, painful but inevitable. Or, that specific human beings make particular decisions that have particular effects on others . . .
The Amway color woman. She just seems deluded, hmm?
The lady golfers: You can’t help them. They just don’t want to work. Some of them anyway.
Reagan: move to
Schuller: tough times don’t last, tough people do. Turn your hurt into a halo. He gets 20 grand to come to town.
The attempts at urban renewal: “Our spark will surprise you.” In some areas, money is still flowing; $11 mil. for Hyatt Regency, $100 mil for Autoworld. They both go broke. Puppet autoworker singing love song to robot that’s going to replace him on the line. “Me and My Buddy.”
Back to the rabbit lady: what about her? Why should she gross us out? Isn’t she doing what the Anita Bryants and Pat Boones recommend, making the best of things, setting up a business, keeping herself going?
Anybody see a parallel between the way she treats her rabbits and the way GM treats its workers?
She’s in the movie not as a symbol but as metonymy: a part
that stands for a larger whole. She is to her rabbits, more or less
exactly, as Roger Smith is to the workers of
Tom Kay: Why should GM be loyal to
Crime on the rise: the stolen Nightline truck, the new jail. Couples spending $100 to spend a night in it. Whoopee.
What lines or divides in our society does this movie show? Does it exaggerate the division between working and upper class? Or is it the way that it is? Do those above the line show much understanding of those below it? Solzhenitsyn: “A man who’s warm can’t understand a man who’s cold.”
The Roger Smith Christmas message, intercut with Deputy Fred evicting people on Christmas Eve: not too hard to get the message here, hmm?
What about this view of the country and the economic system? The film is hardly a “comedy” in the usual sense of that term, is it? It’s more in the tradition of black comedies like Mash or Catch-22, in which the laughter is the only remaining defense against the brutal violence of war. Here the brutality is economic, not military, and the casualties are merely thrown into the street, not killed outright; but otherwise it’s not much different.
Is he right or not? Or, does this point of view
matter? What makes this movie so surprising, I think, is that it treats
social realities that are generally avoided in the mainstream media, for all we
hear about how “liberal” they are. Small/midsize midwestern
cities are just about invisible; people who live in
Cf. Ragged Dick and the American Dream. There Mr. Whitney is the great benevolent father, helping out the plucky lad. Here Roger Smith is the Bad Father, the one who abandons his children and hires underlings who blame it all on impersonal market forces. The message isn’t “Work hard and you’ll get ahead,” but “Work as hard as you want, you may just get screwed anyway.” Hmm? Meanwhile the folks above the unemployment line are still repeating variations on the old line.
Also, cf. the recent shooting in Mount Morris: a 6-year old boy, his father in jail, his mother evicted from her house, using drugs and working “during the day and into the evening” according to a neighbor. He didn’t have a bed of his own. He was often in trouble, he had a social worker.
Now, what’s the deal here? Whose fault is this?
Is it the mother’s for being morally weak? The father’s for abandoning
the family, for getting himself locked up? Do the people who closed down
the plants in
3. What about unions in
Note also looking for stuff on various sides of issues, and recognizing bias. The AFL-CIO, the guy who spoke at Hillsdale, the government report.
What’s true? That unions are the last best hope for the American working person, that union members almost inevitably get higher wages and better working conditions than non-union members in similar jobs? Or that unions are bent on destroying our freedoms, ruining the corporations their money comes from, stifling free enterprise everywhere, and turning the country into a hapless socialist dystopia? Well, you decide.
It is true that union influence and membership have been steadily declining, along with manufacturing jobs that paid high wages for relatively unskilled work. . . .
On CEO compensation, here’s one overview: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/3936881.htm
http://workers.labor.net.au/86/c_historicalfeature_donations.html A report on the current situation regarding plant closings and the threat of closing/moving plants as a
deterrent to labor organizing.
“In the most comprehensive survey ever of U.S. union organizing campaigns, Bronfenbrenner found that "the majority of employers consistently, pervasively and extremely effectively tell workers either directly or indirectly that if they ask for too much, or don't give concessions, or try to organize, strike or fight for good jobs with good benefits, the company will close, move out of state or move across the border, just as so many other plants have done before."
In union organizing drives in the
But the situation is even worse than that figure suggests, because for some types employers it is difficult to make credible threats to move -hotels and hospitals, for example, are to a considerable extent tied to place.
In mobile industries -- manufacturing and other companies that can credibly threaten to shift production -- the plant closing threat rate was 68 percent. In all manufacturing, it was 71 percent. In food processing, it was 71 percent.”
What’s the legacy of nonviolent action mean for
Enron and Microsoft, cozy dealings between the richest men and the most powerful politicians; and Bill Gates setting up a multi-billion-dollar fund for world-wide public health improvements.
Who matters? Who do we care about, and whose problems slip below our radar? Are we all bound in an inescapable network of mutuality, as MLK claimed, or are some people really not our concern?
and Dimed was a really interesting book. I enjoyed the class
discussions we had on the book, because different points were raised and many
good questions were asked. I had never thought that
maybe to those who are poor, maybe that is happiness for them, because they
know no other way of living. I found myself really impressed with
the work that Ehrenreich did. I know that she
cheated in some ways, but the fact that she tried this and endured a lot of
trouble she didn’t have to, is so impressive. I probably wouldn’t have
the guts to do such a huge project. What she gathered and was able to
teach the readers is really valuable. We don’t see what life is like for
those so less fortunate than us, and we can’t forget them. They are so
much a part of the world and we don’t realize it. In the chapter
I found an
interesting article called “An Irish Play Seeks to Ease the Pain of Child Abuse
I found this article interesting because I am a social work major, and I
will be going on the cross-cultural trip to
This article was about a 3yr
old boy who was assualted and left to die outside of