Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some documentaries

Collapse 2009: An 82 minute monologue by Michael Ruppert, a former police officer and controversial writer, with an obsessive apocalyptic vision of the decay of industrial civilization in the very near future brought about by the exhaustion of oil resources.  The message is conveyed with great urgency, and the personal distress of Ruppert, as well as his array of data certainly makes an impression and makes you sit up, even though you may lack the know-how to evaluate the conclusion. This is going to happen by 2050, he says. He also claims to have foreseen the present worldwide recession. Even without becoming a prophet of doom, the problems, including militarisation and nuclear arsenals, are grave enough. As much as practical steps to stall these disasters, new ways of thinking, and a brand new set of values are the things that seem most urgently needed. As he says, " the love of money is the root of all evil."

Food Inc 2009.: Another startling film, about the food industry in the US which seems to have become increasingly a monopoly in the hands of a few giants. With the logic of mass production and profit maximization, the interests of the consumer or the condition of animals is relegated out of sight. The processes of food manufacture, specially meat, are particularly disgusting. Lakhs of animals are bred under hellish surroundings, destined to be slaughtered on highly mechanized assembly lines . Surely there is a difference between a pig and a cabbage. I am reminded of the Old Man and the Sea, where the old man apologizes to his brother, the fish, who he has just caught from the sea.

Conditions in a typical chicken farm are depicted. The birds are crowded to the extent that there is no room for movement and they never learn to walk . They are fed and bred to achieve the maximum weight, which on the average is twice what it used to be. And there is no light. The birds, lame and scared, cackle in fright, and you can imagine what this is like, since there are tens of thousands in a single barn. Just replace the birds with people in your mind, and you have a picture of concentration camps or worse. Do animals have rights?

And the kind of food people get from this system,  genetically engineered and processed in a mega industrial plant  that is more on the scale and sophistication of an automobile assembly unit, is hardly conducive to physical or spiritual well being. For example, the contents of a burger may contain a mixture of the flesh from literally thousands of animals, so if one is infected, the whole lot gets affected. It is development and progress going deeply askew.

The food industry certainly is unlikely to be the only one afflicted with this kind of business philosophy, where people, consumers and employees alike, are treated like things to be manipulated by the powerful. In India the health care system, for one, seems to be becoming increasingly a business like any other, with the cost of medical treatment soaring far beyond the means of average wage-earners.


Nathanael Hood said...

Food Inc was okay, but it broke one of my cardinal rules about documentaries: they should not implicitly tell you what to do or what to think. Great documentaries should be able to argue their case so successfully that they don't HAVE to hit you over the head with morals or instructions on how to live a better life.

It reminds me of "Super Size Me." Nowhere in the film does Spurlock tell the audience to stop eating fast food. The documentary is so powerful that you don't WANT to after watching it.

S. M. Rana said...

@Nathan: The foul meat taste of the movie lingers. I'm keen to watch Super Size Me.

Nathanael Hood said...

You definitely should. It is easily one of the most important American documentaries of the last decade.

No joke, but I know people who ten years later still refuse to eat fast food after seeing "Super Size Me."

S. M. Rana said...

And I know a coupla guys I'd love to have watching such a movie. I should be seeing it any time now.