Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Poor, Poor, Rich

I am writing this after I have watched a movie that, not too long ago, I would have thought of as sweet, at least in its attempt, coming of age movie. It was called Goats. Now, in my sour mood I found it saccharine and, beneath it, a clandestine effort to humanized the rich. This would not seem to be such a bad idea, after all, they are human. They have human faults and often dynamic and tragic existences. They struggle with the existential question, as we must all, in their own forms. However, in comparison to the portrayal of the not-rich-which is different than those in abject poverty but also includes them, is different.

In Goats the rich kid who lives in New Mexico with his hippy come new ager mother comes to adulthood. All the prerequisites of this, at least to hollywood, are there; the next door vixen, the surrogate father (who grows marijuana and carries a beard), the new-boyfriend, the absent but eventually, kind father. I was trying to look into this film but I could not get past the house, the car, the prep school, his fathers sweater, the pool, etc. The portrayal of this child coming of age was not much different but much more insidious, at least to me, of propaganda materials in Stalinist Russia. I wondered and wonder if the blatant aspect of the Stalinist propaganda, to my 21st century eyes, was as insidious and subtle to those in the culture of that time.

I find it odd how infatuated we have become with this storyline and methodology. The nuanced and dynamic rich who ‘hurt’ too in their familial relationships, their love, the right of passage. It is a powerful message but I am flummoxed as to why we do not want such a statement being made about the not rich? The Not Rich, Romney’s 47%’ers, are left to caricatures-to films that are not nuances, that are painted with big brush strokes-the gross poor shown in films of abject poverty-the streets of Calcutta or Chicago, crime riven, filled with emotionally or biologically starved people. Blank stares, want, etc. We also have the Roseanne effect of the ill mannered, burp and farting working poor. This is not to say that there are not aspects of this. There are. I have grown up in them. But when juxtaposed to films like Goats and The Way, Way Back with one of my favorite actors, Toni Collette, we see that the nuanced, humanizing attempt, is not even attempted in the films about not rich people. We see, to put into single definitions; starvation, penury driven criminal activity, and, well, grossness.

That on a per capita basis to be not-rich is also, to be, often, not white is telling to me too. To even take the ‘feel good’ movies of this population we see caricaturization rather than character development. Lets take for example, Finding Forrester, where there is a black child, a young Man, who is, it seems, inexplicably smart. The underlying message, to me anyways, was that it is amazing that a black man could be smart. One could say that this is the case in something like Good Will Hunting but, in fact, Matt Damon’s character is seen in Harvard just minus the accent. Rob Brown’s character is not. He is the anomaly more than just his smarts. Good Will Hunting is insinuating an economic discrepancy between the students and the janitor, in Finding Forrester there is an innate (as well as economic) divide. The entire movie focused on this inexplicability with, now that I think about it, the thrown in rapper hopeful actor-pushing his brother to be different than all of them.

It all seems to me purposeful. This effective drive to humanize the rich so that we are comfortable with the rich. That we think that being rich is in fact, normal. I watched a few episodes of Modern Family which was well written and funny. But it was wrong. There is not a single American in that show if America can be defined by the preponderance of the people in America. There is a level of wealth that the developers of this show were able to play off of and make seem normal. This darkly brilliant effort as laid the groundwork for us to identify with this group (“my family says that all the time!”). In this identification we find that our own lives are not the actual life. We find ourselves in disconnect with it because we are not what we see. Seeing is so powerful, it is the most evolved of our senses, and it crafts our worlds accordingly.

Everyone is like those on the television or the movies screens so every damn thing is alright. I will take my own failure to be so upon myself. I will hide my shame in debt to catch up to this ephemeral reality, I will sell my children’s future, and for what? So I can feel normal.

It isn’t alright. Our lives are important as well. Our lives are nuanced and beautiful, tragic, but beautiful. That we do not regard the majority of us as normal, that we do not depict it honestly and artistically, seems, to me, on purpose. This purpose, I believe now, is to keep us in want. In a place where we are always the stranger. Always in danger of being exposed as a sham, and in this fear we are vulnerable to being told what is normal, and we cannot craft our own reality if it is already forced upon us. Why? Perhaps it is because we are a frightened group of people. We are not afraid of work, perse, for I know no other people that work so hard at the mundane in life. A job, etc. This is not to say that mundane is not important, it is, but it is a secondary truth, a functional truth. Meaning is the lot of life and it cannot be found through the mundane lens. A pile of whatever is not satisfying to ultimate sense of Man-he becomes restless, dissatisfied, which, I think Schopenhauer points out, is symptomatic by the perpetual fidgetiness of the modern human. They are uncomfortable in their skin, so to say, because it does not stand up-the inherency usually attributed to the body-to the reasonable aspect of man. He sublimates it.

I think it is funny, that reason and logic are the means of our current manifestation and yet, we have given those up-they have lead us to this belief of meaninglessness. To separation. To fear. The fear to ever be able to attempt to climb that was our birthright in this form. We have given it over and used our Mind to subvert even our biological drives to life (environmental degradation, for example), let alone to strive for the transcendent drive to life. We are frightened of this Truth of purpose for what it demands is grueling but, in the end, ultimately rewarding. So, it is strange that we work so hard in the opposite direction for, ironically, we are afraid of the work..possibly. I can see that we may also be afraid of their not being a meaning. That the effort would be futile. That would frightening indeed for the savage we have become that is fascinated with such trinkets, to such a degree, that he has used them to measure his life. His whole life built up like some cheap monument.

yes, the rich are humans. But so are we. Our lives are important and nuanced and beautiful...too. That we feel that they are not because they do not fit some other’s nuanced life, one that is shoved down our throats as normal, does not make yours any less so. Measure a life by that which has been done to serve good, the best of the human nature, not by the frog skins and that which it buys.