Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Film Review: The Kingdom of Survival ...


Granted, this post may not do much for my book scan numbers, but at least it’s honest. Besides, if I was worried about cash, I’d’ve been a friggin’ hedge fund manager.

I’ve been wanting to review this for two weeks now. Finally, arm in sling as I type, I have the chance. Slowboat Films, The Kingdom of Survival.

The Kingdom of Survival explores modern skepticism in America, challenges the status quo and uncovers provocative links between survivalist philosophy, ecumenical spirituality, radical political theory, and outlaw culture. The audience is invited into a thoughtful conversation with the likes of Prof. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Mark Mirabello, Ramsey Kanaan, and the riveting final interview with beloved author, Joe Bageant. These unique thought leaders cast a rare shadow of doubt over our most blindly accepted American traditions.

There’s also anarchist book publisher Ramsey Kanaan (PM Press), egalitarian radio host Sasha Lilley and folk musician, Will Taylor. Recommended by fellow author Ben Whitmer, I wrote to M. A. Littler asking about the films he produces and how I could see them. He graciously sent along two copies (one, The Folk Singer, I’m having trouble playing on the equipment in our living room but will view upstairs and review at a later date), the other, The Kingdom of Survival, was a wonderful offering on several different alternatives to life the way it’s been brainwashed into our psyches from birth. In short, there are more ways than the one that’s been propagandized into our collective being.

I first read Noam Chomsky, one of the featured interviews in the film, way back in my political science days at Brooklyn College. I used several of his books for cites in a term paper for which I won a political science award. Back then I wanted to be a lawyer. I was fascinated with the law and socialism. I thought there had to be a more fair way for people to live than in a class structure rigged for those with power. I was enthusiastic and idealistic about it all until I sat through a malpractice case and watched the judicial process become an absolute joke as three doctors (for the insurance company) stated they found no visual impairment after examining my mother. She’s been blind in both eyes on the right since a stroke induced by an invasive medical procedure. The jury found the doctor guilty of the procedure that caused the stroke, but the stroke not the cause of her injury: thus, she received squat for the doctor’s malpractice. Nice system. Three doctors for a powerful insurance company lied through their teeth. My mother’s legal experts contradicted them, but her case was tried in a conservative borough (Queens) and that was more the determining factor than any of the facts in the case. As her lawyers said, after apologizing, “They didn’t want to give you any money.”

It was an eye opening experience for me. The deck was rigged and I was fed up with being idealistic. I wanted out.

A few years later, unsatisfied where I was in life working two and three legitimate jobs, I found the street was the place to make money. Why not, I thought. After all, wasn’t it Al Capone who stated: “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.”

Young and stupid and not very good at taking orders, I pursued a street life for 18 years and put on temporary hold pursuing my true dream--to write. Eventually, I saw the street for what it was (I make no altruistic claims, amici, I wasn’t a suddenly better human being; it was simply common sense. Nobody on the street could be trusted anymore than most people in an office environment seeking to protect their own interests--one is nothing more than a subculture of the other). I realized my dream (getting published) and walked away from the money.

And I’ve never been happier.

I stayed the loyal Democratic course until I was fed up with a party that never really did much in my interest (aside from making promises). Frustrated with the Dems, I voted for George W. Bush in 2000, then fell for the patriotic hype surrounding 9-11.  I voted for him again in 2004 (forgive me father, I knew NOT what the fock I was doing). Thankfully, my initial views of socialism in Holland from back in the day remained in my head. By 2006, I’d turned against both parties FOR LIFE. Holland’s brand of social-democracy (at least back in the 70’s) asked the following question: Why should people who have put so much into a society over the course of their lives be neglected in the elderly years (essentially, what happens under our pragmatic capitalist system)? A few years ago, I started to ask these questions: Why shouldn’t everyone chip in to pay for national health insurance and let those who can afford private doctors knock themselves out? Why not make sure public education is truly equitable across the board? Why should people "earn" money when they aren’t doing any work? Last year a hedge fund manager managed to “earn” $2.4 million an hour; Bill Gates earns roughly $650K an hour ... and those trying to raise families (those who can find work) average roughly $40K a year? Where’s the justice in that? Bill Gates is a very charitable fellow, but does he really deserve to earn $650K an hour? Does he really “work” that hard? Does he really “need” that much? What about the guys in his factories assembling the goods? Or the poor SOB’s driving the trucks that deliver them? Or the people who build the office and factory space where Microsoft operates?  Why should any of us (working class people) have to feel "lucky" to have a job (because the pursuit of corporate profit permits them to outsource our jobs)?

Either extreme or middle ground, communism, absolute anarchism or libertarian-socialism (Chomsky’s choice), the bottom line was people could and should be rewarded for their hard work, but not at the expense of the rest of society; the rest should not be delegated to being slaves to their wages. Equity has its place. The kind of inequity we’re experiencing today can only lead to violent revolution, something that will no doubt become more and more appealing as more and more of the middle class and poor are ignored by the greed of the ruling class. Simply put, a government of big business, by big business, for big business cannot endure.

Okay, no more speechifying from moi ... see the film. Like American History X (for social reasons), films like The Kingdom of Survival need to be viewed in high schools so that our kids and their kids can at least see the options available to their future, perhaps for the sake of its survival.  Adults should view it for obvious reasons.  Why not?

And on a similar political note, Dr. Cornel West (like him or not) spoke his piece in the New York Times the other day ... and made valid points across the board.

Dr. King Weeps From His Grave
By Cornel West, The New York Times
26 August 11

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was to be dedicated on the National Mall on Sunday - exactly 56 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and 48 years after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Because of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony has been postponed.)

These events constitute major milestones in the turbulent history of race and democracy in America, and the undeniable success of the civil rights movement - culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 - warrants our attention and elation. Yet the prophetic words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel still haunt us: "The whole future of America depends on the impact and influence of Dr. King."

Rabbi Heschel spoke those words during the last years of King's life, when 72 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks disapproved of King's opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to eradicate poverty in America. King's dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, "a nightmare," owing to the persistence of "racism, poverty, militarism and materialism." He called America a "sick society." On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, he was to have preached a sermon titled "Why America May Go to Hell."

King did not think that America ought to go to hell, but rather that it might go to hell owing to its economic injustice, cultural decay and political paralysis. He was not an American Gibbon, chronicling the decline and fall of the American empire, but a courageous and visionary Christian blues man, fighting with style and love in the face of the four catastrophes he identified.

Militarism is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country's priorities and stature (as with the immoral drones, dropping bombs on innocent civilians). Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.

Racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse. Arbitrary uses of the law - in the name of the "war" on drugs - have produced, in the legal scholar Michelle Alexander's apt phrase, a new Jim Crow of mass incarceration. And poverty is an economic catastrophe, inseparable from the power of greedy oligarchs and avaricious plutocrats indifferent to the misery of poor children, elderly citizens and working people.

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King's prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule.

The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts' stimulating growth. This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King's four catastrophes; its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans.

King weeps from his grave. He never confused substance with symbolism. He never conflated a flesh and blood sacrifice with a stone and mortar edifice. We rightly celebrate his substance and sacrifice because he loved us all so deeply. Let us not remain satisfied with symbolism because we too often fear the challenge he embraced. Our greatest writer, Herman Melville, who spent his life in love with America even as he was our most fierce critic of the myth of American exceptionalism, noted, "Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial."

King's response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.

In concrete terms, this means support for progressive politicians like Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor; extensive community and media organizing; civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.

TK’s view ... The working man in America has taken a beating since forever. In the last decade, as the banking industry ran wild with financing scams that bankrupted the country and the world, business in America was gifted a reprieve by the government it owns; a $700 billion bailout with NO STRINGS ATTACHED.

While lower and middle income folk lost their homes (some from their own greed (those who thought they could flip homes for the sake of profit, most others from jobs lost from a banking induced financial crisis), corporate bigwigs rewarded themselves with record bonuses and investors with record profits.

Business as usual, except this time, it’s somewhat more unusual. The propaganda machine that decries socialism in all its forms except corporate (there seems to be no end to the subsidies this government will provide corporations [and the Democratic Party has their hand in this process, make no mistake), has managed to go one further and vilify the poor SOB’s who paid for the bailout (the American worker). Union workers especially suffered as even the President of the United States, afraid of his poll numbers, ignored his campaign pledge to join a protest line wherever collective bargaining was threatened.

Union workers of America, thank you, Mr. President.

Between technological advances, an overtly corrupt government, out of control greed and the relentless propaganda machine that defends capitalism as the only economic system worthy of our hard work, the working man in America has been shafted like never before. Defenders of the system point to the poor and claim “they never had it so good.”

As if the conditions of poverty today relative to one hundred years ago makes it okay.

As if it’s their own fault for being poor.

As if all the poor in America have the same opportunity to earn $2.4 million an hour as the hedge fund manager who managed those numbers the same year the country’s economic system collapsed.


Alternatives, amici ... that’s all this is about. The two party system has been nothing but a bad joke played by big business on a population forever struggling to survive. Ignore the two party system, take the cannoli.

And see M. A. Littler’s film, the Kingdom of Survival. It can’t hurt ...

And since we’re talking revolution ... why not a aria from an opera of the same theme (Andrea Chenier--yeah, the one the movie Philadelphia made famous for using the Maria Callas aria, La Mamma Morte ... Jose Carreras sings Chenier ... and this line is more than appropriate “Confronted with such misery, what do the scions of nobility do?”