The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems.
- Mohandas K. Gandhi
I admit it: I am an unabashed Gandhi-phile. I love Mohandas K. Gandhi!
How could you not love a unassuming bespectacled man who stood 5'4" in a loincloth and went from being tongue-tied talking to a handful of people in a London parlor to speaking with enormous moral conviction to millions of Indians – and to the daunting might of the British Empire. This was a man who led his countrymen and women from the indignities of colonization to independence from the British – not with suicide bombs, vitriol or Facebook – but with nonviolence, love and an adherence to truth. And it worked – the British Empire left India.
An excellent introduction to the life of the Mahatma is Richard Attenborough's deservedly award-winning film, Gandhi. A labor of love, it is said that the director poured over every photograph and newsreel known to exist of Gandhi's life to recreate this biopic as accurately and movingly as possible. Check out the astonishing opening scene with a literal cast of thousands (actually it was over 300,000) – the largest number of extras ever used in the history of film – and of course this was all pre-computer animation or digital enhancement!
Finally if after watching the movie you, like me, catch the Gandhi bug, Gandhi's Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth has a surprisingly candid and intimate voice. I found it as much a good read as it is a window into one of the most compelling movements of the 20th century.
What was the prime cause of the Great Recession that we are still suffering from on Main Street:
A. High taxes?
B. Frivolous lawsuits?
D. Public employee pensions?
E. Big government deficits?
F. A corporate financial system where the inmates run the asylum thanks to “self-regulation” introduced in 1981 and expanded since then by massive lobbying and cronyism involving both major political parties?
G. Social Security?
If you answered anything but F, it might be helpful if you turn off Fox News, CNBC, or (while you're at it) Real Housewives, and instead check out these titles from the Library:
Narrated by actor Matt Damon, the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job makes a solid and entertaining case that the answer above is indeed item F, which coincidentally is also the grade earned by Washington politicians for promoting economic fairness since 1980.
Interesting tidbits from the movie:
• In the mid-1980’s, Alan Greenspan gave convicted Lincoln Savings and Loan cheat Charles Keating a green light to bilk investors after Keating paid him $40,000, shortly before Greenspan became Fed Chairman under Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush.
• In the late 1990’s, regulation of the $50 trillion derivatives market was stopped by Clinton and the Senate at the behest of investment banks and Alan Greenspan.
• Use of subprime mortgages skyrocketed not to help the poor afford their own homes but because investment banks liked these mortgages’ high returns on investment.
• Henry Paulson paid zero tax on profits from $485 million in Goldman Sachs stock that he had to sell when he left Goldman to become Treasury Secretary in 2006.
• Average annual compensation of a Goldman Sachs employee after the 2008 meltdown and taxpayer bailout: $600,000.
ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism (2010) by Yves Smith explains the current situation and its causes better and more entertainingly than any book that I have read, adding mostly right-wing economists to the usual perps (bankers and politicians) responsible for the financial crisis.
The economists are called out here because they gave a necessary, scholarly patina to the otherwise ignorant but heeded calls for dismantling the important New Deal-era restraints (read: regulations) that protected the U.S. economy from 1933 through the 1980's.
Smith also runs the Naked Capitalism blog on economic and financial news.
The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America — and Spawned a Global Crisis (2010) by Michael Hudson focuses blame for the collapse on the predatory lenders that Wall Street relied upon for a steady supply of loans that it could bundle into its toxic assets.
This is an easy-to-read, non-technical book that illustrates the predatory business model, free to operate without regulatory oversight, that helped cause the worldwide financial crisis that we are still suffering from.
This book puts the lie to the claim that these mortgage lenders were somehow unwillingly victimized by government programs aimed at helping poor people buy larger houses than they could afford.
Well, I for one will skip the traditional Christmas offerings that prevail at this time of year because, really, there's only so much of George Bailey and little Ralphie that I can take over the years, BUT, if you're into catching a tremendous 2009* film, then look no further than El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes). This legal noir thriller from Argentina is about a judicial investigator revisiting a legal acquaintance he's carried a severe flame for over the years and also revisiting an old criminal case that although essentially resolved, and even this provides some intriguing twists, he's never been fully able to forget the epic tragedies related to the incident. He decides to write a novel based on the case in his retirement, and this is where the episode leads to further developments in the surroundings of his life. Compelling storytelling combined with top-rate performances make this one of the most satisfying movies I've had the pleasure of watching in recent memory. With an estimated budget of around $2 million USD, (likely the catering budget of the latest Angelina Jolie release) this is film making worth talking about and puts the latest Hollywood releases to shame in this critics decidedly personal opinion. Check it out, viewer, you won't be disappointed.
This film is rated R and is for mature audiences.
*2010 Academy Award Winner Best Foreign-Language film
Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats is a great movie with English subtitles, about the underground music scene in Iran. The director Ghobadi, won the Un Certain Regard award and the Special Jury Prize when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. This film chronicles the hardships facing young Iranian musicians seeking to evade censorship.
You can also read a review from NPR about this movie.
We also have the following movies by the same award-winning director in our library system: